Image courtesy of the artist
When did you start writing poetry?
I guess I’ve always written poetry. The last few years have included a few strange instances of bumping into people from my past lives (including you!).. one of whom was someone I went through early high school with in Tasmania in the 90’s. She reminded me that I used to make poetry zines (that she has kept to embarrass me with) so I was definitely fully into poetry by the time I was 12 or 13 – but I couldn’t tell you how I got there. It just makes sense to me.
How do you go about writing? (Do you need five coffees, a new pencil and a quiet spot? Do you write in cafes or on a laptop? Do you carry around notebooks? Do you write in the morning or in the evening? etc.)
I am a super lazy writer – hence being an emerging one for so long I guess – and there’s a few reasons for that. Over the last 5 years I’ve worked heavily in the literature sector of the arts creating programs and building writing communities ... a bit like seeing how the sausage gets made before the sausage sizzle.. during this time I lost the urge to contribute creatively to the community I was developing. Since the end of last year, I’ve had much more space from all of that and am slowly rebuilding my writing practice.
Usually I am triggered by a theme that I write around until I’m bored with, or a project... I’m super outcome driven so will start a project with the end game – I want a suite of 52 poems on playing cards about transgender zombies – and I work backwards from there. I’ve never written 52 poems about transgender zombies with the view of making them into a deck of cards but now that I joke about it ... watch this space!
I spend a lot of time with poetry in my head, with images and lines – themes of home, being broken, things beginning and ending circling around – and I spend a lot of time in a poetry state of mind – but have a pretty relaxed pen to paper practice.
Do you write with an audience in mind?
I think more I recognise an appropriate audience after writing poems. Things that I have submitted to one magazine I would never send to another, reading at SpeedPoets I would read different things than an audience at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, or that fish and chip shop I read at in Nambour. I prefer to focus on the craft of investigating whatever it is that I am investigating and let the audience come later – often there is no audience for the work I write and that’s ok too.
Your first book was Rock 'n' roll tuxedo, can you describe the process of writing that collection?
The title came first.
Tuxedo is a perfect example of what not to do when you have written a bunch of poems and without being connected to a community or critique process decide to put a book out. So in my work with QWC it comes in handy as a show and tell of ‘what not to do’. The process for writing the book however was based around making albums, it’s really a few albums collected together – at the time I was listening to a lot of elvis, who heavily informs the work and was in love with deserts and suburban destitution, so I wrote about that. In hindsight, I should have released the greatest hits... my reading copy of the book has these poems ear marked.. it’s really a book of maybe 15 good pieces and 50 pages of outtakes and b-sides. One thing I remember about that collection is I wanted it to be heavy, thick to hold and look slick on a book table. It was important that the package and content to be complimentary like that. I have such a secret love affair with that silly book because it was the beginning of something and the end of something else – which I love!
Can you tell us about your latest book Home is where the heartache is?
Heartache was more process driven. Haibun is traditionally a form of travel journaling consisting of clipped turse prose, with little poetic trickery, interspersed with haiku. A lot of nature, seasonal, life cycle themes. Before I had read much Haibun I thought it was trite and simple, that it held little poetic value. My husband writes beautiful haibun and one day, just to mock him I said that I was going to write a small chapbook of haibun celebrating that human heartache lives at home with us along with human joy: domestic menace, kidnapping, rape, death, abuse, blood and fire etc. So I set about reading a few pieces and writing some pieces and something unlocked. Haibun is a complex and liberating form – it allows a poet to call things exactly what they are. Because poetic devices are so sparingly used, suddenly rape is just an action – it’s peared back to its most simple meaning.. which made the subject matter I was looking at more powerful I think. Some of the poems in the book are rough, but there is an honesty to all of them. I started with the title, then the cover – a tapestry design of the classic home is where the heart is style and worked my way back from there.
I’ve been writing some haibun recently – having a crack at tradition and writing about a recent trip to Vancouver and San Francisco ... and will be debuting these at QPF. It feels great to be back behind the keys.