Ahead of Vancouver Writers Fest, SAD chatted with four shining stars taking part in the festival to get the DL on books they're loving, the inside scoop on their works, and to learn about what the future holds! Meet Hera Lindsay Bird, the last of our four interviewees.
SAD Mag: Where are you right now? What are you looking at?
Hera Lindsay Bird: Right now I’m in an empty beach hostel in Newcastle Australia painted a horrendous pale yellow and blue, like a Sims nursery, and the guy who runs the hostel keeps coming in to change only one set of bed sheets at a time. There are eight beds total & I feel like I’m about to get murdered.
SM: What are you most excited about, in this moment?
HLB: Going home and watching the new episode of Survivor, the greatest game of all time, but also the four hour train ride I must happily undertake tomorrow.
SM: In your poem, Write a Book, you write, “to write a book is not a right-sized reaction/to put all your bad thoughts on paper/and make someone else pay for them.” Is this a sentiment you believe in? Is writing a book bad? If so, why?
HLB: Well I obviously didn’t believe it enough not to write a book. I mean, writing a book is a stupid thing to do, but so is just about everything else in the world. Writing books is no less insane than, for instance, owning a reptile zoo or doing communications for a hardware store or investment banking.
SM: Your work has been celebrated for its energy and force, and at times its imperfections (for lack of a better term). Some poems have a hurried, rushed quality, which I really love. Have you always been interested in imperfect poems or has this developed over time?
HLB: Some of the rushed quality in the work actually takes a long time to get right! It’s hard work to sound as stupid as I do. I’ve always liked imperfect poems, or poems that are intentionally inelegant and awkward in rhythm, because to me that’s more exciting than a beautiful thought succinctly expressed. If you refine something too much, I think it loses some of its naked horse death energy, which is what I love poetry for. That’s one of the reasons Emily Dickinson is so great, because there’s something uniquely off about her work. I also am interested in unfunny jokes that go on for too long, which is something I stole from Stewart Lee.
SM: Self-titling a book is more of a trope in pop music or other pop culture, where the audience is equally as interested in the person as in their work. Your poems seem, as well, often to come from a place of persona.
I've also noticed the trend of poets being heavily performative on the internet, using twitter, in your case, and instagram to promote their selves as much as their poetry.
What role does the performative self play in your artistic creation?
HLB: I don’t really know how to separate persona from personality, which is perhaps the only answer to this question you need, ha! I always wasted extensive amounts of time on the internet before I ever wrote a book, so it’s not that my online presence is a cynical marketing exercise, it’s just a form of procrastination, which often happens to include banal updates on my writing projects.
I did self-title my book as a nod to the pop stars of the 90’s who all had self-titled first albums, but also invoked my own name because I wanted to give people permission to read my book as personal, and not have to dance around the inevitable questions about how much of my private life was in the text, and how much was fiction.
I love persona in poetry, because persona to me (in a writing context) is about voice, and all my favourite writers like Chelsey Minnis, John Berryman, Kimmy Walters, Dorothea Lasky, Hilton Als, P. G. Wodehouse, George Saunders, Mark Leidner and Lorrie Moore are unmistakable, and I read them for their specific linguistic idiosyncrasies. Most of my inability to separate my writing from my life, is that it just doesn’t feel real to me, my writing and my life are the same thing, I’ve poured too much of my personality into my work and someone’s going to have to stab my laptop with a basilisk fang in order to free me.
SM: What’s next for you?
HLB: I have a chapbook coming out with the Poetry Business next February, as part of the Laureate’s choice series, and beyond that I don’t know. I feel like it’s bad luck to talk about works in progress, because then you get the sense of satisfaction that comes from being publicly congratulated about something you haven’t done yet, and then you never bother to do it. The real answer is probably just more of the same. Creatively speaking, I’m a one trick pony, carrying children around on my back for a modest fee, and letting them pull my hair.
Hear Hera speak about her poetry and crack jokes #irl during Vancouver Writers Fest (October 16-22 on Granville Island). Tickets are $20 or $15 if you’re under 30 years old. You can check out all of Hera’s events, and purchase your tickets, here.
Hera Lindsay Bird has an MA in poetry and is one of the most acclaimed young poets to emerge from New Zealand. Her poetry reflects her wicked sense of humour and has been described by Sunday Magazine as “fearless.” Bird’s self-titled debut was the fastest selling book of poetry published by Victoria University Press and has “themes as varied as snow and tears.” She continues to work in a bookstore in Wellington while writing a children’s detective novel.