Join award-winning poet Felicity Plunkett at Castle Hill Library on Wednesday, November 28 at 6.30pm as part of the Hills Shire Library Service’s A Touch of Poetry series.
Felicity spoke to FOCUS ahead of her FREE poetry reading and discussion, about her writing process, what inspires her and how she has succeeded in pursuing a career in poetry.
This is what she had to say:
Focus: Describe your style of poetry.
Felicity: I find it an interesting challenge to get outside my work to respond to this kind of question, but I can say that in my reading I love to be surprised and moved, and I aim for something along those lines — poetry as a way to refresh, recharge and delight.
I am inspired by Czesław Miłosz when he writes in his poem ‘Ars Poetica’:
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.
I love to be surprised as I write, by the direction a poem takes, and what reveals itself as it goes along.
Focus: What sparked your love of poetry?
Felicity: I have read poetry from as early as I can remember. As a child I loved Dr Suess, with its beautiful, playful sonic patterns, and that led to a love of song lyrics — especially Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. Later at school I studied Latin and French poetry, until at the end of high school I encountered T.S. Eliot, Robert Browning, Denise Levertov and Sylvia Plath. I have always loved poetry’s capacity to make imaginative leaps, to re-invent language and to capture the most exquisite angles and observations, as well as its music and capacity to hold intensity and joy. Poetry for me is an antidote to dullness and a source of energy and delight.
Focus: What poets have inspired you and where do you draw your inspiration for your work from?
Felicity: The poets I’ve returned to most in my reading life include Romanian-born poet Paul Celan, Sylvia Plath, whose work I studied as part of my PhD, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jane Hirshfield and Tracy K. Smith. At school, the first exciting poetry I encountered was in Latin, by poets including Catullus and Virgil. I have always read a lot of poetry, and recent highlights have included work by Ranjit Hoskote, Yannis Ritsos, Judith Bishop, Robin Robertson and Tracy K. Smith’s dazzling new collection Wade in the Water.
But there can be a spark in all sorts of things — as well as the work of other poets, including the students I mentor, a phrase I overhear, music, the odd and unaccountable and things that feel new and vivifying.
Focus: You’ve written a number of poetry collections and won prizes for your work in an industry that is quite difficult to excel in. What do you attribute your success to?
Felicity: A love of poetry, mostly! I love to read and write, and I think that love for poetry, along with perseverance — with a poem as it finds its shape, with an image that wants to become a poem, with some kind of experience that stretches towards a new way of expression, as well as with preparing work, sending it out, re-working, re-sending and continuing for as long as it takes — is crucial. The sublime (the whole large and beautiful idea of inspiration) and grit (and this pairing is the focus of Wednesday’s talk). In this sense, it’s like many other things — playing an instrument, practising yoga, getting the laundry done, love.
Focus: What’s next?
Felicity: I’m working on a suite about people who come back to singing/playing music after a pause, and another built around lines from Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. My new book, A Kinder Sea, will be my next publication. I’m excited what comes next as a reader, writer and human being.
See Felicity this Wednesday for FREE. Bookings are essential and can be made online: www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/Upcoming-Events-Activities/A-Touch-of-Poetry-with-Felicity-Plunkett.