In this interview, editor and poet, Rhiannon Hall talks with West Australian poet, Maree Dawes about her writing and its influences and about her verse novel, brb: be right back.
When did you develop an interest in poetry?
I used to write poetry as a child, continued through high school and early days of uni with a small group of friends – most of it very heartfelt and horrible. I did some poetry workshops, mentorships, residencies and uni studies in the nineties and had my first collection published in 2008.
Are you a communal writer? Is it important to you to workshop your writing with other poets?
I have been involved in a number of communal writing projects. one of my favourite projects was one where an artist Beth Kirkland and I had discussions about themes and topics and then did cafe performances where I wrote a page of stream of consciousness writing. Beth used a pencil to strike through most of my words leaving only a few words which she then highlighted with watercolour. Sounds complicated but the result was two stories, hers and mine.
I really value getting feedback about my work regarding what is or isn’t working, and I get this from the writing group I belong to. A workshopping process where more of the content comes from others is not something I’ve done, I guess unless it’s a shared project I like what appears in the final copy to be my own work.
Who are some of your favourite poets and what is it that has drawn you to their work?
Dorothy Hewett’s poetry – her work was so experimental and feminist – and her poems about the wheat–belt are special to me because we inhabited the same landscape in different generations.
Dorothy Porter – I have to make myself read her work slowly, especially the verse novels. I just want to gobble up those seductive words … but slow reading illustrates again and again how a few words can push out the sky and make whole worlds of experience appear. Robert Grey makes everything come alive, with his perfect word choices and his balance of natural and made environments. Jordie Albiston, because I can only watch in awe at what she does with form – and while I’m watching the form she trips up my heart. Barbara Temperton for her imagery, getting to the emotional centre of things and the perfect length of line. Alvin Pang, to remind me that the city is also a landscape and Caroline Caddy who reminds me that sight is not the only sense.
What an unfair question … this answer could go on all night. I’ve also enjoyed national collections like Australian Love Poems and The Best Australian Poems.