Featured today is cool-cat Emma Haller and her poem, DRIFTING. Below we have a conversation about poetry and how sexuality inspires Haller’s poetry. Here at Metre Maids love having discussions surrounding poetry and where our poets feel their poetry comes from. We each have a different place that we pull stuff from, and it’s still important to talk about. Without further ado:



Strength holds me,
a coin among the cloud,
shoulders wide and engulfing.

Freckles she once hid,
shine bright,
the Sun and I kissing her elbows in cheeky glee.

Waves creep up,
flew back,
and distill.

I half smile,
feeling myself drifting, towards an unsullied place.

I clasp her hip,
hold my breath in the tenderness,
the opportunity of her world.

A sadness lingered,
I hope for clarity.
Phantom limbs,
scrambling together as one.


How did ‘Drifting’ come to be?
Moving from one relationship to another, it caused a re-evaluation of every facet of my life, and it was a significant and intense relationship so I wanted to capture a sense of that. I tried to convey that new relationships have a wonderful crisp edge to them, the butterflies and all those cliches are real.

How does your sexuality inform your poetic imagery?
I think sexuality is fluid and informs everything I do. My emotions, I’ve come to realise are important, and sometimes you need to let whatever feelings you’re having inform your day-to-day life. My sexuality is vital to who I am as a person and I try to channel feeling however I am able.

What poet do you most look up to and why, how do they speak to you?
Gwen Harwood is a main influence for me, I studied her a lot throughout school. Her poetry has a lovely naturalistic quality and has always been relaxing to read. Also a bit of Emily Dickinson as well, apparently she was obsessed with white clothing which is fun, Judith Wright’s poetry is also engaging.

What is your editing process like?
I read the poem out and try to gauge it’s sound and meaning for the reader/audience. I edit as I go, usually on a computer but I edit a lot in my journal. All my ideas are written down first, then I piece the stanzas together if I see some links or interesting connections.

What is the best tip you’ve received for dealing with critique?
Focus on what you are trying to convey. I’m learning strategies to be able to teach poetry, and putting myself in my student’s shoes is important every now and then. Critique is important and discussions around interpretations have always been enjoyable. I love teaching and writing, they are large parts of my life and wouldn’t have it any other way.


Emma Haller, a curious observer from childhood, grew up on the Mornington Peninsula where coastal living and traditional Aussie charm helped shape an evocative voice. Her poetry explores the manifold nature of human emotions and poems such as ‘Drifting’ seem to offer contemporary thoughts on relationships as being beautifully despondent experiences. There is an emotional truth that lingers throughout her poems, memorable for their honesty and stunningly constructed design. Currently, Emma is completing a double degree in Arts/Education (Secondary) at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) and writes poetry in her spare time.

vw84cover_largeQ: Voiceworks published your poem ‘Darlings’ in issue #84 PULP. How did you find the process?

I was so thrilled to see ‘Darling’ find its first home in ‘PULP’. That issue was published a little while before my 25th birthday, so I was almost but not quite too old to be sending poems to Voiceworks! As for the process, Voiceworks is very hands on, and I so admire the time and energy the editors put into their writers’ work, especially young and emerging writers. On the other hand, I’m inclined to feel that work should be accepted or not accept as is; that there’s something sort of tricky about accepting a piece of writing conditionally, with suggested edits, especially where such edits are extensive or significant. I suppose this depends on the writer and their experiences, and whether they’re looking for feedback, or to workshop what they’ve written. And honestly, who doesn’t love a reader—someone who will read your work closely and offer a detailed response of some sort? That Voiceworks also offers feedback to both successful and unsuccessful contributors is something else I really appreciate. Read more…

Australia / New Zeland

SUSIE: Hi Stacey! For people who don’t know you at all, can you start by introducing yourself?

STACEY: Hello Susie + reader, I am 23 and I live inAuckland, NZ. I work with animals, write poetry and make zines. How would you currently describe your own creative output?

SUSIE: Creative output is a big sort of term … I guess I kinda write poetry from time to time, I really like baking and crafts though. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a housewife in terms of my hobbies but writing-wise, I made some zines about crushes a few years ago … and this year I’m trying to make enough poems/stories for a chapbook. What were your zines about? How did you transition from working with animals to writing poetry?

STACEY: The zines I write are mostly ‘personal zines’, and they help me to catalogue my life in a way. For example, I am doing a zine for every season, and in those zines I put bits of writing and poetry, drawings, etc that are loosely related to the season and/or that three-month period. The fact that I work with animals and write poetry have little to do with each other, although I suppose I have referenced animals a bit in my poems, so it’s not like the two things are mutually exclusive. They are two things I love, but I see working with animals more as a career and writing poetry more as a hobby. Do you think you could ever make writing into a career of sorts? What do you want to do as a career?

SUSIE: Hm, that’s interesting, I never would have thought of zines as not being personal. For me, at least, being personal is what makes a zine good. It’s just interesting to see the different sort of lifestyles that poets have and whether this is reflected in their poems or whatever. As for me/my career, I dunno. I really like doing communications (marketing/promo/social media) for arts things, whether that be festivals, galleries, websites or whatever. I like connecting people with creative stuff. Is that a career? Sometimes, I think it would be good to write a novel but I know I am a loooong way off ever doing that. What about you? You have been published on a whole bunch of websites, would you ever think seriously about trying to do the same in print?

STACEY: Well, I mean ‘personal zines’ are just one type of zine, there are a tonne of other types of zines to do with politics, feminism, music, art, etc. I see what you mean about poet lifestyle, for e.g. people who have actually studied English and want to be a writer or people like me who have completely unrelated aspirations. I don’t think I could make writing into a career because I enjoy not having to be pressured to write. Writing is a function of my body, it’s like an exhale of breath. If I had to write about specific things, deal with deadlines, etc, it would seem less natural to me.

It seems like nowadays the only time I submit to anything is if I am personally asked to, so I mean I don’t feel overly concerned about being published in print. I feel more interested in self-publishing my own chapbooks sometime in the future. Do you think there is more value in a poem being published online or in print?

Cordite Online

SUSIE: That’s a real good question and it’s something that I sort of wanted to get at with the thesis I wrote last year. But I think the key word there is ‘value’. I mean there are so many types of poetry that appeal to people for varying reasons, so somebody might find that the type of poetry they like online, so for them a poem found online would be more valuable. But for others the same could be said of print. I think the ways that poetry is finding a home online, through online archives and websites like the poetry foundation, and then start up journals like All Write Then, Let People Poems, funded journals like Cordite Poetry Review, or other poetry projects that can only be done online (likestarlings, internet poetry, or RMIT poetry).

These, for me, are valuable, because they unite poetry with a new demographic/audience, unlimited by geography. Also, they provide relative anonymity and diminish a literary hierarchy that sometimes dominates print poetry. But having said that, I really like print objects and that was one of the reasons I thought it would be cool if we made Hands Like Mirrors. And also, I think online poetry influences print communities. But that is a bit of a different story. Can you explain your idea of the philosophy behind HLM? What did you like most about making it?


STACEY: For me, it seemed like there were no publications that featured predominantly young NZ writers, or at least, there were no publications that featured the kind of poetry and short fiction that I personally wanted to read. You felt the same to some extent, thus we decided to make a print publication featuring young NZ and Australian writers. The most exciting thing for me was looking for people to contribute to it. I did a call out for submissions but I also did a lot of research, talking to everyone I could and asking if they knew anyone who wrote, asking friends and friends of friends. We ended up with some really good content. How did you feel about the end product of HLM? What do you think could be done differently for the next issue?

SUSIE: I loved it. It was a really rewarding thing to do and is something I’m really proud of. Next time I’d like to make it bigger and try to get more artists involved so we can get more visuals in it. I also want to work harder on stocking it places so we can share the lovely words people wrote with more peeps. I’d also like to have a launch inMelbournenext time. It’s a lot to take on but I think doing the first one was a really good learning experience, so I’m looking forward to doing it again.


There are a limited number of the first Hands Like Mirrors journal still available. See handslikemirrors.tumblr.com for details and stay tuned for news about HLM 2012!


Stacey Teague & Susie Anderson

Susie Anderson and Stacey Teague met about 6 years ago on Livejournal. Since then, they have shared a love of poetry, giggling, cats and general merriment. They keep a blog of poetry and general life things together where they make poetry podcasts. Last year they collaboratively edited the journal Hands Like Mirrors, which features writers fromAustralia andNew Zealand. The pair blog at vehementoolbox.blogspot.com, where you can find links to poems, stories and other things they’ve written.


Amber Beilharz: What was your reason for founding Couplet Books, and what sets it apart?
Owen Davidson: Couplet Books is really the result of an aggregation of various previous commissioned poetry projects, such as We Eat Poets! (a series of fine food and poetry fusion events), and Give a Poem (a personal commissioned poetry service), among others.
The first of our publishing lines is the Poetry Companion Series, which will act as a celebration of different local areas, and a kind of alternative visitors guide. The aim is to build up a collectible series of books and pamphlets for various spots in London and the rest of the UK.
But where I think we differ from other poetry publishers is that, while we are producing titles which are designed to be commercially successful in their own right (which is not unique, but neither is it the norm), we are also working with businesses to develop poetry projects relevant to their needs and the experiences of their customers.
All of the founders of Couplet Books, Jon Stone, Kirsten Irving and I, believe that, in spite of its popularity, poetry is still seen as a marginal activity. That is what we want to challenge, and the way we will try to do it is to show that we can use poetry to respond to the world around us and produce work which is both striking and accessible. At Couplet Books, we think that there are lots of ways to make poetry more accessible, and that there should be more consumable poetry.
At the same time we are acutely aware that to achieve this, it is important to ensure that quality is at the forefront of what we do. To that end, we concentrate a lot of effort on selecting the right poets, and ensuring that they are really engaged with the commissioned work we ask them to undertake. With the HAMPSTEAD POETRY COMPANION, the first in that series, we are asking three poets to write four poems each about different places in the locality, and all of them have demonstrated strong associations with the subject matter of their commissions.
I sometimes paraphrase Steve Jobs when I am explaining what we are trying to do, by saying that often people don’t know what they like until you show it to them. That is the aspiration of Couplet Books, to present people with a poetic perspective on the things around them. People’s eyes light up when we say that we are sending a bunch of poets to various spots in their area to find inspiration there, and write poems about them, and the resulting material is very well received. It’s a popular thing, and that is as it should be.
AB: Can you tell us more about the Daily Couplet? Why the focus on couplets?
OD: Every day we publish a different couplet on our website, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter.
Our motivation for this is really two-fold (no pun intended!). For the first part, we wanted to create something fun for poets to interact with, and this was a very simple idea which ties in with our name. We are developing some other interactive, playful features at the moment, and they will hopefully begin to appear on the site in the next couple of months.
The other consideration was to provide a platform for poets so that they can reach a wider audience. The idea is that if there is a particularly catchy, clever, quirky, or interesting couplet somewhere in a poet’s back catalogue, or if they want to write something new, they can submit it, and hopefully some people who aren’t aware of them can read it, and investigate a little further if they like what they see.
From next week we will start to publish the submissions we have been stockpiling.
Couplet Books, forthcoming.

AB: What is responsive poetry? What does it mean to you?
OD: Responsive poetry, as far as we are concerned, is poetry which responds to a certain place, thing, or idea. In the case of the Poetry Companion Series, this means writing poems that respond to particular places in a specific area; such as the local cinema, coffee-shop, or park; or the ‘idea’ of the place as interpreted by local poets.
For our forthcoming HAMPSTEAD COMPANION, we are commissioning 12 poems about specific places we think ought to be included, and we have an open submissions process for anyone who has something to say about the area. Here it is on the map. The deadline for entries is the 27th of April, and so far we have been impressed with the range and quality of responses which have come in. Clearly, people have a lot of affection for the places in which they live.
In a wider, and, I suppose, more pragmatic context, responsive poetry is a concept we are trying to explore with various businesses as a way to reimagine their brands. We have on the horizon a couple of residencies whereby poets will be tasked with responding to a specific brief which aims to put in to words, or rather, to put in to poetry, the experiences people have when they interact with a place. Hopefully this will stimulate a bit of engagement with the customers of that business, and again provide a platform for the poets involved, and poetry in general.

AB: What catches your eye in the submission pile? Is there anything specific you’re currently looking for?
OD: As we are based in London, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by a great deal of exciting poets, and poetry organisations. Consequently, retaining a consistent focus on what we are doing is tough, because there are so many interesting projects going on. That said, we are always attracted by those poets who are willing to be playful, keen to try new things, and comfortable writing to commission. Two initiatives which recently came to my attention, and perhaps exemplify what I mean, are Poetry Digest, run by Chrissy Williams and Swithum Cooper, which is an edible magazine – a previous edition featured a number of guest poets printing short edible poems on to cupcakes; and Penning Perfumes, run by Claire Trevien, whereby poets are asked to smell a perfume, and use the ensuing sensual experience as the starting point for a poem. Fuselit, run by our own Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving, is another hotbed of interesting projects.
AB: What else are you working on at the moment? Any secret projects you can clue us in on?
OD: Some of our previous endeavours are undergoing a refurb, and will be informing various projects soon. One example being the We Eat Poets! series of events we ran in London last year.
Something very similar will be rolled out again later this year, with each event timed to coincide with the launch of a different Poetry Companion.
The premise behind this series of events was born out of the feeling a few of us had that while it is (in London, at any rate) pretty easy to find good poets standing up and reading or performing good poetry, it is really hard to find a reading which is a good event in itself.
So we got together with a fine foods company and a really quirky restaurant in central London, and put on a 4-course meal loosely related to a specific theme. Then we asked 3 poets to respond to the theme, the menu and the venue, and come along to the event to sit incognito on the tables with the other paying customers. As people entered, they were serenaded by Spanish guitar, and when everyone was seated, enjoying their first course, the first poet stood up unannounced (much to the amazement of the other diners on his table), and began his set. Each break between courses was punctuated by a different poet, culminating, at the end of the event, with the performance of a poem written on the night, incorporating specific details particular to the happenings that evening, and including words suggested by the audience at various points throughout proceedings.
More of those will be happening in London soon, and hopefully further afield a little later on.
AB:  What was the first poem you ever fell in love with?
OD: I think ‘love’ would be going a bit far, but the first poem I remember, is “Cargoes” by John Masefield. I was either 7 or 8, and our teacher sprung this on us and made us all memorise it.
Looking back, I think what captivated me was that it was the first time I really got an inkling that there were layers to this thing which seemed at first sight to be so insubstantial; the words somehow had more to them than usual, the sounds were evocative, and I noticed a rhythm to it. I don’t think these were new feelings, per se, just that it was the first time I noticed being affected by them all at once, and in response to something so short and simple.

Random House, 2004.

AB: What’re you reading now? What do you think we should be reading?
OD: At the moment I am reading 52 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A POEM by Ruth Padel, which is thoroughly excellent, and is highly recommended to anyone, poet or not. I think it is incredibly important to question how you interpret things (not just poems), and in this book it is done in a very intelligent, accessible way. On the poetry side, I am sifting through lots of work by people who have submitted couplets for the Daily Couplet to try to get a better understanding of who we will be featuring.

AB:  What aspect of the outside world inspires you the most?
OD: A large portion of my time is given to thinking about how we can use poetry to reimagine things around us, and I am constantly both amazed and daunted by the range of possibilities out there; it is true that we live in a world not of poetry, but of poetries.
I was chatting recently with a poet about taking decisions on what to write about, and how often the problem is not really finding the ‘what’, but rather understanding the ‘why’. The key for us is tp match the interests of the poets to the commissions – we are working with an artisan butcher shop right now, and will be sending a poet to one of their tastings in the next couple of weeks; we happen to know a poet who is absolutely crazy about this sort of thing, so that one was very easy to reconcile. When we get it right, the poet’s imagination can really run wild, and the result is generally some really authentic material which is well received by the audience. This is the premise on which most of our work is based, and it is what really inspires me to keep doing what we do.

AB: Why poetry?
OD: I am not all that well informed about the contemporary situation in the US, but in Britain, poetry seems to occupy a dichotomous place in the public consiousness. On the one hand, the poetry scene is thriving; it is fabulously rich and exciting, with all sorts of talented people producing amazing work; poets popping up at festivals and teaching in schools all over the place; and lots of coverage on radio and in newspapers. Yet in spite of this apparent popularity, poetry is still seen as a marginal activity, and that is what we are keen to address through the things that we publish. I guess that is what keeps me involved, and retains my interest.

Owen Davidson.

Owen Davidson grew up in the North East of Scotland, before spending much of his early adult life working, travelling, and studying in France, Spain, Germany, Russia, and the USA. For the last 5 years has been living in London, working on a number of different commissioned poetry projects, such as We Eat Poets!, the critically acclaimed series of fine food and poetry fusion events. In 2012 he founded Couplet Books, a poetry publisher specialising in responsive poetry. Its first project is the Poetry Companion Series, a range of pamphlets and books which act both as celebrations of local areas, and alternative visitors guides.

1. Your webpage describes you as a stand-up poet. How do comedy and poetry interact in your work? When you’re writing, which do you think about first?

I think good stand-ups and good poets have a dovetailing goal, which is to say the most interesting thing in the smallest number of words. A decent gag can always be made better by cutting the number of words it takes to get to the punch. You also have to think about syntax – the ‘plot’ of a sentence, what gets disclosed where. I mean, look at some Emo Philips or Mitch Hedberg jokes. Obviously they’re sold by a strong character delivering them, but they’re beautifully constructed pieces, too.

On the other hand, oftentimes you have to unpack a joke slightly for the audience to get it, or you can tag it and riff on a theme. That’s the same as developing a poetic conceit.Basically, there’s loads of overlap. Stand-ups and performance poets both live or die on their skill with language. For me, it’s not easy to say where one begins and one ends and say ‘oh this bit is poetry, and this bit is just comedy’, but I guess I usually start off thinking about the poetry first – the premise of a piece, the narrative behind it – then I hunt for the funny bits as I go. But sometimes, a story or poem isn’t funny, it’s interesting, or sad. The best are all three, obviously. Also, if a poem isn’t particularly funny, I’ll often think about my lead-in to it. I spend more time on stage talking around the poems than I do performing the actual pieces, so all that stuff is really important to me too – and that’s often where I’ll try to crowbar in a few more laughs.<

2. What are you working on at the moment? Does it involve poetry? If not, why not?

Two projects – one is a novel, and no, it doesn’t involve poetry, which is why it’s a total ball-ache to work on. Prose is hellish and neverending and then you have to find someone who’s prepared to invest in you before you can make actual money out of it. It’s a story about a girl who likes shooting things and then suddenly gets the opportunity to shoot a lot of things. It’s not poetry because I’m a masochistic idiot.

The other is my first poetry collection, which does contain poetry, obvs. It’s as yet untitled – ‘Pub Stuntman’ is one possible title. It’s the best work I’ve produced so far – it looks like there’ll be a book and a CD with performances, because really some stuff was written to be heard and so that seemed like the most sensible way of delivering it.

3. Your Poetry Takeaway project brings poetry to the masses in the best kind of way. How did this idea come about, and how on earth did you get it off the ground?

The idea came about as a solution to a problem – necessity being the mother of invention and all that. I wanted to get poets performing on the Royal Mile at the Edinburgh Fringe, but they only have a few crappy stages, without amps, and they’re controlled by the Fringe Society. I wanted a more sustained presence, to flier people and engage them, but there was no scope for that. If you wanted to sell stuff, you needed to pay for a trader’s licence. But then I saw this little footnote at the bottom of all their regs which made provision for ‘small, mobile stalls’ for people doing free facepainting and stuff like that. So I kind of adapted the format of the street caricaturist for poetry, you know, you sit down, ‘so what do you like, football? Dancing?’ then they knock out this hacky pic of your face with you kicking a ball. I set up a camping table with a homemade sign in front of it, and punters came.

After Edinburgh, I worked with Tom Searle of Show + Tell. We got some funding from IdeasTap and some crowdfunding from a bunch of really generous friends and strangers, bought a takeaway van off eBay then had it refurbed as a mobile poetry emporium. It now travels the country offering free, bespoke poems in around 10 minutes. I’ve written hundreds of poems for people. It’s a massive money sink, a hassle, and one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. I love speaking to new people. They’re so friendly and interesting and great. I’ve heard so many amazing stories.

4. Which do you feel more comfortable with: poetry in performance or poetry on the page?

In performance. You’ve got a tighter relationship with your audience which hopefully forces you to produce a higher standard of work. Poetry on the page suffers from an asymmetry between consumers and producers. Everyone’s writing it, a vanishingly small percentage simply read it. Too many page poets ensconce their work within this bulwark of recondite justifications and glib relativism, disenfranchising the reader in an attempt to shield themselves from criticism. I find I can’t get away with that on the stage – not if I want to reach a wide enough audience to make a living out of it, anyway.

Actually, on reflection that’s not very fair. There are plenty of people performing rather cheap, manipulative chunks of juvenile agitprop or manipulative, superficial identity politics pieces and finding an audience in the performance poetry scene, especially within slam. It’s neither easier nor harder to be a pretentious idiot on stage than it is on the page. I guess…I suppose I just personally find it harder to get away with cheapness on stage than I do on the page, because I have to look actual people in their actual eyes. But there are plenty of narcissistic sociopaths out there who can do that with aplomb.

5. What are you reading/hearing/experiencing that’s influencing your poems right now?

There tends to be quite a long time lag between my reading something or seeing something and it actually turning up in a poem. If I’m honest, I’ve been listening to loads of golden age hip-hop in the last few years, and that’s been reflected in my increasingly less ironic and more earnest rap ‘parodies’.

 6. Why poetry?

It takes less time than prose. You can have an idea, rattle it out in a night’s feverish key-tapping, then try it out on stage the following evening. That’s the entire artistic circuit complete. Prose, by comparison, involves years of your life and the consent and cooperation of a whole chain of people before it reaches its finished state. And even then, it might be crap. If a poem’s crap, you find out early and you ditch it, and you’ve lost, what? A couple of days at most.

7. Last November, you wrote 101 Poems In A Day. How do you feel about them now? Do you ever look at NaPoWriMo and think, ‘that’s cute’?

Some I quite like – they feel like mini comic strips. It certainly makes me write in a different voice than usual. The endings are usually the biggest casualties – there’s a sense of me abandoning each piece rather than concluding it. Certainly I really like the sense of fun in the pieces – perhaps the kindest thing you can say about them is I’m clearly not overly preoccupied with building a reputation as a literary genius.I did the project the two years before that, so that’s 302 in 3 days. NoPoWriMo poets are total babies. People say ‘quality not quantity’, but you can brute force quality by producing a huge body of work then returning to it and culling the bad stuff. I’d say, in my 101 poems, I get about a 3% hit rate – i.e. poems that, with editing, could be worth keeping. That’s still 3-4 new poems in a single day. So I guess my message is: poets – write more bad poetry!

Tim Clare.

Tim Clare is a poet, author and musician. He was born in 1981, and grew up in Portishead, in South-West England.

In 2005 he presented the Channel 4 series How To Get A Book Deal. His first book, WE CAN’T ALL BE ASTRONAUTS, a memoir about jealousy and having one last shot at achieving your dreams, won Best Biography/Memoir at the East Anglian Book Awards. He has appeared on BBC 2, Radio 1, 2, 4 and 6, and has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Big Issue and Writing magazine, amongst others.

As a stand-up poet, he performs all over the UK, both as a solo act and as a member of acclaimed poetry collective Aisle16. He has shared a stage with the likes of Vic Reeves, John Cooper Clarke and Tim Key. His debut solo show, Death Drive, appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010, where Whats On Stage gave it 5 stars. His follow-up show, How To Be A Leader, appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and won a Brighton Fringe Best Show award.

Tim Clare is the creator of the Poetry Takeaway, the world’s first mobile poetry emporium. For the last 3 years, he has also undertaken his 101 Poems In A Day project, writing 101 poems in a day and posting each online as he writes it, based on title suggestions from the public.

1. You’re the current Australian Poetry Slam Champion. How does that affect your work? Do you ever get sick of hearing it?

I don’t think I’ll ever let a title like that affect my work…but it is affecting how many people are watching me and expecting me to be good enough to back it up. So I’m respecting my own processes and getting ready to make my next album knowing that the title comes with a responsibility to represent for the poets back home and bring awareness to issues I believe in. I’m about halfway through the year of being the Aust champ…and no, I’m not sick of it yet. :)

2. What are you working on at the moment? Does it involve poetry? If not, why not?

At the moment I am working on videos for the “Please Resist Me” album singles. I think it is important to make my work as accessible as possible so I’m excited to put out videos for not only my songs but also my poetry. I’m also enjoying being involved in the process of making something visual rather than lyrical. It gives me a break from constantly writing but still lets me be involved with creatively producing more work.

3. Hip-hop is central to your identity as a performer. How did hip-hop influence your poetic development, and vice versa?

I don’t see a difference between rap and poetry. I started writing raps and then discovered def jam poetry on Youtube and took it from there…but I never really thought I was then becoming a ‘poet’. I was just doing the same as I always had, just without the beats. I love the freedom of performing without music, and the immediacy and rawness of it all. I think the biggest issue in the separation of poetry and hip-hop is that people don’t recognise rappers as exceptional poets…some of the best lines that I know are from rappers not poets. People aren’t seeing the artist behind the face or name or fashion and judging rappers before they listen to their work…and the same goes for hip-hop fans not listening or going to poetry shows because they’re not ‘cool enough’…both are missing out on the absolute skill and artistry of both genres…for me, at their essence, they are the same thing.

4. Your new album, Please Resist Me, includes a number of pieces which I have heard you perform solo set to music. Why the change? How do you think it influences the poems?

I decided to put some of the poems to music to make sure the album could sit as both a hip-hop album and poetry CD seamlessly. Also, as a listener myself, do not necessarily enjoy listening to poem after poem with no other element on the album. I get bored I think because I started making music before writing poetry, so I decided to mix it up. I think it gives the poems a extra something, I really enjoy all the intsrumentation on all of these…The piano on ‘May Your Pen Grace the Page’ is a great start to the album and lead in to the next track ‘Desire’ which is piano heavy, the guitar on ‘The Confluence’ is actually played by my brother Elias back in Brisbane, so that is special to me. And the Oud on ‘Athena’ is culturally appropriate for the piece and gives it more depth and atmosphere that can’t be created with just a flat a-cappella track.

5. Tell us a little about the Centre for Poetics and Justice. What’s going there that isn’t going on anywhere else?

As far as I’m concerned The Centre for Poetics and Justice is the best thing to happen to the poetry scene in Australia for a long time. I haven’t been around the scene forever but I know in Melbourne that we are leading the charge towards creating a community of writers and performers who are conscious about the way their words can be used to positively affect the society within which we live. We are sincere about our assisting people of all races, ages and creeds to find their truth and help them write work that is transformative not only for the community but also for themselves. I believe this is a rare thing for an organisation to engage with on a public level and our grounded way of working is gaining support and momentum exponentially at the moment.

6. What are you reading/hearing/experiencing that’s influencing your poems right now?

I’m not writing poetry at the moment, I’m still on tour until the end of May…I’m taking care of all the things that come with being on tour and an independent artist away from home base at the moment. But I know all the slams I have been attending throughout the USA and all the amazing things I saw in China while I was there will influence the next piece I write, if not thematically then at least aesthetically.

7. Why poetry?

This makes me smile. To tell the truth I don’t like ‘poetry’ and I never did growing up. I just seem to have a knack for words, and I enjoy making beautiful things. I also love photography, painting, colour, music, dance, nature, sounds, culture and languages. And the ocean, especially the ocean. But poetry is a place where I can engage with all of these things, we can write about anything. So I hope to sustain a life where I can disseminate knowledge without being affiliated with a university or government structure, and provide inspiration about any topic I choose to uncover for myself, or I feel must be uncovered for society.

Luka Lesson.

Luka Lesson is the current Australian Poetry Slam Champion and Co-director of The Centre for Poetics and Justice based in Melbourne.

Luka has been active in utilising hip-hop and poetry as a form of self-determination and raising awareness for marginalised young people through community development projects for many years.

He has also taught Indigenous Studies at Monash University for the past two years and holds a first class honours degree in the same field.

Luka has performed his work beside the likes of Shane Koyczan (Canada), Amir Sulaiman (USA),  Lowkey (UK) and Lemon Anderson (USA), and was invited to perform a full feature at the famous Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in New York City in 2011.

Still only only at the beginning of his career, Luka’s roof raising performances and expert writing has built him a reputation that already spans the globe with UK performance poet Charlie Dark once describing him as “a young Saul Williams”.

His first full length Book and Album ‘Please Resist Me’ will be available  through Australian Scholarly Publishing in 2012.

1. Which writer pulls you out of your personal coma?
Diana Wynne Jones is always my go-to writer. DWJ writes plots that are compelling but intricate, in a style that is flawless yet invisible. You get dragged through effortlessly and you don’t feel cheap at the end because putting all the plot’s pieces together is usually quite difficult. She writes a sci-fi fantasy crossover, marketed at children and suitable for any age, and I wish I had written every one of her books. When I’m feeling comatose I read Fire and Hemlock or Howl’s Moving Castle, and remind myself I’m not as good as Diana Wynne Jones yet.

2. Who were you reading when you first started writing?
Who are you reading now?
When I first started writing it was Richard Adams’ Watership Down, which still makes me cry. My first “novel” was a heavily influenced cat version, six strays journeying to the big city. By the time I was 12, my favourite book was Fleabag and the Ring Fire (another cat) though when I attended a creative course at 13 it took me some time to realise that the teacher was Fleabag’s author, Beth Webb. These days I still read kid’s books, but I’m also pretty savvy on British classics, and I enjoy Meg Rosoff, Angela Carter, Iain Banks, Terry Pratchett and anyone who knows how to balance the serious with the absurd.

3. If your poems could come from a piece of anatomy, which part and how would they get out?
I think in my finger and toenails. I’d have 20 on the go at the same time, some of them growing quickly, some slow and very brief. 10 would be out in the open collecting life experiences (opening things, plucking things, scratching things), the other 10 would be very private and eccentric. When they grew long enough, I would chop each nail off and that would be a poem. If they grew too long they would break themselves off in protest.

4. If I came to visit you in the UK, for a week, where would you take me?  What would we do?
I’d probably try to dazzle you with History. Stone Henge, the Uffington White Horse, which is a chalk horse in a hillside beside a 3000-year old castle mound, and Wayland’s Smithy, a 5000 year old long barrow dedicated to the ancient smith god. We could go into Oxford to view students in silly gowns, see shrunken heads in the Pitt Rivers museum, and eat incredible scrambled eggs at Combibos coffee shop. And we’d have to have a proper afternoon cream tea, possibly in a Berkeley teashop after a tour of the castle and butterfly gardens.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits? What was your first publishing experience like?
 My first poem ‘I’m trying to get to sleep’ was published when I was 9, in an anthology of poetry by Gloucestershire kids to celebrate the millennium. They sent me a proof, and they’d got a comma wrong, and I sent it back corrected in bold black pen. I’m still proud of that poem; my sense of metre was impeccable.

More recently I’ve been published in Polluto, the Poetry Society Online, etcetera, and Gloom Cupboard.  My flashfic ‘Rob Meets Pterodactyl’ is included in the Divertir anthology Under The Stairs.

6. What lit magazine do you most want to see yourself in?  And what lit mags do you always admire from afar?
I would love to see myself in Poetry, the Poetry Foundation’s magazine. Perhaps that’s aiming rather high? Magma and Granta are also on the hit list.

Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings

7.  Tell us more about your teaching and creative writing courses?|
This weekend Lucinda Murray and I taught a course about twisted fairy tale poetry to 8-11 year-olds. This involved taking nine little girls to a witch’s cottage, introducing them to a jet black wolf in the woods, and indoctrinating them in the basics of feminism. It’s amazing their parents let them come. I do this sort of thing every couple of months, often at Kilve Court. Teenaged victims have been forced to ritually sacrifice flower pots to Sappho, write poems using fragments of poisonous lead slag, and listen to me bang on about Anglo-Saxon etymology for hours.

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only poetry can save us. But how?
Few people know that Sylvia Plath was from outer space, or that her thematic imagery is in fact an intricate code. She came to earth to warn us, but was forced to self-destruct when her human husband discovered her cosmic origin and threatened to out her. When the aliens of Sylvia’s home-world finally reach earth, two children studying Plath for some boring exams realise that the alien’s spaceships and messages have bizarre parallels in Plath’s poetry. The answer is there in verse, if only they have time to decode it….

9. What do you have planned for next few months? Publications, projects?
One big publication! DOG AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a collection of middle-grade to teen poems published by March Hamilton later this year. I’m posting sneaky previews on my own blog. And one big project! The Writing Circus is a roving creative writing course for kids and teens travelling between libraries and community centres and lead by myself and Beth Webb and it’s going to be super.

10. What is your favourite monument and why?
The Vimy Monument in France. I’m pretty sure it makes me a terrible person, but I like all the tragic, long-haired, naked men.

1. Who is your go-to writer when you’re feeling sort of bleh about writing?
It varies, dependent mostly on what state or phase I’m going through (you never ‘grow out’ of phases like they tell you in kid-hood). At the moment, the writer that has had a longstanding position in this phase has been Sonya Hartnett. If you’ve ever read OF A BOY you may understand why her work echoes so much my personal self and my creative self and I guess, has that same ‘appeal’ in the way I want to tell.  Poetry has always been mostly Australian poets and strangely, all women: Robyn Rowland, MTC Cronin, Dorothy Porter and Sylvia Plath. On the masculine spectrum, I admire so much Phillip Levine, William Butler Yeats, Phillip Larkin, David Sedaris and the likes of the Beats. But as with writing, reading is such a fluid thing and I think this is also the reason behind why I could never get a tattoo.

2. Who were you reading when you started writing? Who are you reading now?
Well, this is highly embarrassing and I’ll preface it by saying that I wasn’t a feminist at the age of 8. I loved Enid Blyton, I wrote numerous stories involving squirrels that joined the carnival, fairies and girls that ran away from home with an essential backpack of peanut butter, a pen and a sleeping bag. There was something essential in her work that conjured up anything-possible story lines, bizarre characters with human instincts. I wrote ice cream stories that may have been left out of the freezer too long. I am now reading the likes of Chuck Palahniuk (what a departure), writing that still has a magic realism bent but is about the ordinary.

3. What TV show most inspires your writing?
I think no one TV show inspires me, but perhaps it’s more about the way that television ‘shows’ and translates moments of clarity, climax, tragedy via cinema, there’s always poetry in that for me. For example, The Walking Dead is one of my favourite shows because of the way it’s told and shown. It’s like watching small installments of a high budget film, but it has humanity to it.

Flinder St. Station.

4. If I came to visit you in Melbourne for a week, where would you take me?  What would we do?
We’d definitely be going to a session at The Wheeler Centre, build onto the back of the State Library of Victoria, this houses most literary publications, presses and organisations but also hosts a range of engaging, thought provoking events. Melbourne’s literary heritage is internationally recognised as the world’s 2nd UNESCO City of Literature. The first city is Edinburgh, Melbourne town, Iowa, Dublin, Iceland. Anyway, enough city wankery. It’s also home to Voiceworks Magazine. I would take you to Abbotsford Convent that is now open to the public; it even has a Steiner school in it. But I’d take you there for Lentils Anything (make a donation to eat) and to sit on the lawns eating. I’d take you on a tram around Melbourne, because I love tram-travel. I’d take you back to my hometown, Warrandyte to sit by the river and eat freshly baked goods from ‘The Bakery’. It’s easy to fall in love here. It’s not even my birth place but it’s easy to want to stay forever and do so.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits. Take us through them all!
My first ever paid publication (AUD $15) was a flash fiction piece featured online at www.onefifty.com.au. It was one of the worst pieces I’ve ever written, albeit I was 17 and I was still writing amateur based things. From there, published a couple of times in the community college journal, Avant New Writing. Then began the publication journey via  Verandah Literary & Art Journal, Voiceworks Magazine, dotdotdash magazine,  Hands Like Mirrors, Soundzine, ReadThis and Hunger Mountain.

6. What lit magazine do you most want to see yourself in?  And what lit mag do you always buy even when you’re pinching pennies?
Going Down Swinging, Cordite and Meanjin. I subscribe to dotdotdash and I always get a Voiceworks Magazine, when I can I buy GDS and Meanjin, so I’m not very frugal with my pennies. Also, I’m very Australian-based!

7. If you were an all-powerful inventor of things, what would you invent to help yourself and other writers with the creative process?
I would bottle Muses. I mean, you might have to make a huge sacrifice to get hold of the bottle of goodness, but you’d have it right? This would probably backfire on me, and we’d all have great passions for things OTHER than writing.

Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings.

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only your poetry can save us. But how?
You know how Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite? Do you see where I’m going with this? The Aliens I envision aren’t geared towards having the sort of capability of language and expression. This is how we will destroy them. Honestly, isn’t that the best idea? More exposure for poetry and saving the world one stanza at a time.

9. What do you have planned for next few months? Publications, projects?
There are always those looming creative deadlines to figure out what poems or prose pieces need to go where and of course, here at Metre Maids! It also looks like I’ll be structurally editing a couple of novels and also editing some poetry, you know… superhero stuff.

10. What’s your favorite dinosaur?  Or, if you dislike dinosaurs, what’s your favorite cryptid?
Oh, I think I am obsessed with the notion and possibility that there could be ghosts. Even if they don’t exist, the way that they pervade cultures and the stories that evolve around them are awe-inspiring. I love scaring myself to death with stories, supposed sightings, researching, etc!

We thought we’d kick off Metre Maids in the most exciting and self-involved way possible: Interviewing each other!  Today we have Sarah Stanton interviewing E. Kristin Anderson. Stay tuned for interviews with the rest of the Metre Maids!

1. Name a writer, a poet and a book of poetry that excite you. In that way.
Oh my gosh.  Okay.  This is hard.  The writer who excites me (and I presume you mean writer of non-poetry) is Francesca Lia Block.  And I think she would approve of being the writer who excites me in that way since her work has a touch of the erotic.  Her YA novels are so inspiring – her prose is so lyric and fluid.  She’s also a poet, but it’s her novels that inspire me most.  Whenever I’m having a literary dry spell I read her.  A poet that gets me going is Louise Glück.  Her narrative verse is so evocative and yummy.  Plus, she loves making classical literature and mythology references, and that hits me in that spot every time.  Book of poetry?  I know this is a total tsk tsk by most modern poets’ standards, but Emily Dickinson’s COMPLETE POEMS is always like, wowzers.  I open it to any page and I get tingles up my spine.

2. Who were you reading when you started writing? Who are you reading now?
When I started writing, like started started? Like as a little girl? I read a lot of Cricket Magazine, and Louis Sachar and, um, Emily Dickinson.  When I started being “serious” in college it was mostly what was assigned – my poetry professor introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop, William Matthews, Galway Kinnell, Philip Larkin, William Carlos Williams.  My classics professor re-introduced me to Catullus and Virgil.  Now I mostly read poetry that I find in lit mags, and poetry by YA authors like Francesca Lia Block and Naomi Shihab Nye.  And Emily Dickinson.  And Louise Glück.

3. Where do you get your ideas from? Yes, I’m asking this out of malice.

You’re evil.  But actually, right now, I get like 90% of my ideas from watching TV.  I know, a proper writer doesn’t even have cable.  But I love reruns of The X Files.  I love bizarro Discovery Channel documentaries about Bigfoot and sharks and people who believe they’re vampires.  I love writing down lines of dialogue from episodes of Law & Order and using them as the centerpiece for a poem.  The other 10% of my ideas come to me in the shower and I usually forget them while I’m drying my hair anyway.

E. & her friend Patrick laying on the concrete for no reason except to giggle and listen to "I'm On A Boat" over and over.

4. What sort of naughty things do you get up to when you’re not writing?
I like going to roller derby bouts in the summer and shouting cheers for my favorite roller girls.  I enjoy cooking bratwurst sausages on a stick at this park called Arkansas Bend right outside of Austin on Lake Somethingorother (we have too many man made lakes in Central Texas).  I like eating at food trucks and going to the mall.  I like going to my friends’ book signings and various writing/reading/library conferences.  I like grocery shopping.  And I like cake balls.  Also, television.  My favorite thing is just doing silly stuff with friends.  Being outside, laughing, feeling the love.  Also, reading.

5. Take us through a few of your publication credits. Take us through them all!
The first magazine that ever published me was Mimesis, edited by James Midgley.  Sadly it’s now gone under.  I’ve since had work in Controlled Burn, Etchings, Pinyon Poetry, Poetry New Zealand, Fuselit (Fox and Aquarium), Red Wheelbarrow (US), Verandah, The Wolf, Illumen, Plain Spoke, The Cimmarron Review, Hunger Mountain (before I was editing), Pearl, Illya’s Honey, RE:AL, Fourteen Hills, Umbrella, Soundzine, Pomegranate, Quay, Iota, The Roanoke Review, and Orbis Quarterly.  I think that covers it.  All of them.

6. Name your favourite lit magazines, both for reading and appearing in.
Fuselit.  Hands down.  I love them so much!  I’ve also been trying for years to get into Barrelhouse, because I think they’re brilliant.  Willow Springs, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Rattle.

7. What do you do when the block hits? What would you recommend I do?
If I’m writing a novel, I try to just skip the scene I’m working on and find the next scene where I know what happens and write that.  With poetry, it’s a little different.  I usually will watch TV or read or sit in a café and write down things I see and hear, write down phrases that sound cool, and freewrite on them.  I think journalling and freewriting is a great way to beat the block.  Pen, paper, go!

8. Aliens are invading Earth and only your poetry can save us. But how?
My poetry would be a secret code.  The aliens would totally ignore poetry since their brains are wired for math and hard science and they have evolved beyond needing art.  But we lowly humans, we still love art.  We see the value in poetry.  And it’s through these poems that we’re able to communicate.  It’s with poems that we build a giant stinkbomb, overwhelm the aliens, and send them packing.  Thank God for poems.


9. What do you have planned for the next few months? Publications, projects?
Oh good lord it feels like I’m always knee deep in projects.  I’m working right now on finishing up bits and bobs for DEAR TEEN ME, the anthology I edited with Miranda Kenneally.  The book comes out this fall from Zest Books and features letters from over 70 young adult authors to their teen selves.  It’s epic, in all the best possible ways.  I’m working on a first draft for a novella called GRUNGE which is about two teens dealing with the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994.  And I am scribbling away at poems that I’d like to include in a chapbook full of cryptids, UFOs, ghosties, and other unexplained phenomena.  I have no idea who will publish it, but I’m enjoying the process.  Oh!  And the COIN OPERA II anthology comes out this year, I believe, from Sidekick Books. It’s about video games. I have two poems in it.  They make me giggle.


Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings.

10. What’s your favourite dinosaur or other prehistoric geek chic beast?
This is hard for me considering that I love sharks and I love crypozoology.  And of course I want to be like OMG VELOCIRAPTOR because, holy crap, right?  In the end though, it’s between Megolodon and Plesiosaur.  And I don’t think you can make me choose.  On the one hand, Megolodon is a giant, badass shark.  GIANT. BADASS. SHARK.  And Plesiosaur might still live in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain and various other lakes who claim to have lake monsters.  (I could go on.  I’ll spare you.  But if you’re curious I have plenty of literature to recommend.)  So there you have it.  Megalodon or Plesousaur.  We’d have to have a cage match.