(An International Journal of Poetry)
ISSN 2249 –2178
Volume-3 June -2013 Number-1
An E-Interview with Rose Lucas
(Interviewed by Pradeep Chaswal)
(Rose Lucas is a poet, critic and freelance academic from Melbourne, Australia. She taught in the English Department at Monash University from 1988-2009, and currently teaches poetry at Victoria University, Melbourne. She is co-author with Lyn Mcredden of Bridgings: Readings in Australian Women’s Poetry (Oxford, 1996), and is widely published in the areas of women’s poetry, literature and psychoanalysis and cinema studies. Her poetry has appeared in a range of journals, such as Australian Book Review, Meanjin, Heat, Best Australian Poems, Aroostook Review. She is a regular reviewer of poetry, fiction and film. She is also Chair of the West Australian Premier’s Book Awards judging panel. Rose lives in Melbourne with her partner, two teenage daughters and three cats. Her blog address is: http//roselucaspoetry.wordpress.com)
Chief Editor: How you started wring poetry? Will you share the experience of writing your first poem?
Rose Lucas: I have always been interested in language and its rhythm and images, and this first manifested in writing poetry as a young person. I was never as interested, or as skilled, in creating the linearity of narrative; what interested me more was the short and intense moment of looking, and of seeing something different or new in that process. I remember someone telling me as a young person that if I wanted to write, I should write and write and write... That was great advice. I might also add, it's necessary to live and live and live...
Chief Editor: Would you please throw light on your latest collection of poetry entitled “EVEN IN THE DARK”?
Rose Lucas: Even in the Dark is a compilation of poems written over several years. I taught literature at Monash University for 20 years, and poetry analysis and criticism had always been one of my key research and teaching areas. However, I did find it difficult to find the head space to write poetry in the context of academic life; I know some can combine these activities, but for me, it has taken the time and opportunity provided by not being involved in teaching and research that has allowed me to become immersed in the writing of poetry. I also had two important periods where I was attached to Marlboro College, Vermont, USA, as a visiting scholar; these times were crucial for me in terms of finding new life rhythms and a concentration on poetry writing as a craft. I think that standing outside the sphere of one's familiar or habitual life, can sometimes offer great possibilities for creativity and new perceptions. Even the differences of landscape can operate as triggers for heightened ways of seeing. I think that seeing 'place' differently is also a way of seeing 'self' differently, and thus shaking up and reconceptualising the vital inter-relationship between the two. Even in the Dark contains poems from this North American experience, as well as poems very specifically centred on Australian landscape and experience, as well as a suite of poems which are more concerned with enlivening moments within the intimate and the domestic.
One of the things that has come to me over a long association with poetry writing and writing about poetry, is that creativity, or a sense of the luminous, often arises out of the experience of the everyday. Moments of the extraordinary can be found within the ordinary; a heightened awareness can both unravel skeins of possibility from within the quotidian, and, paradoxically, teach us that living is not just about the ‘highs’ of the extraordinary but about being ‘present’ within the fabric of our daily lives. The business of ordinary living- working, the domestic, children, routines – has become an important source for the writing of my poetry.
Chief Editor: What is your experience of “art and life”?
Rose Lucas: In my experience, art and life are inextricably interconnected. Especially with a genre such as poetry, which works so closely with the personal, I find that the experience of the intimate and the everyday will always closely inform the poetry. It is out of the business of living - of feeling, connecting, risking, sustaining - that the insights or germs of potential poems arise. The poem comes out of the wash of life experience as well as the subliminal, dream-level of response which is always seeking to decode and reframe the componentry of those experiences. Having said that, I am also acutely aware of the labour which is required to transition the experience or the perception into the 'organic mechanism' of the poem, if I can describe it like that. The poem is, above all, a communicative device, not just a method of the externalization of the private, and if it is to function adequately as communication, then there is also a very conscious task involved in shaping those responses - images, emotions, even the visceral patterns of blood and breath - into the living form of the poem. I would describe the living poem as one in which individual experience is translated into a form which can evoke similar experiences in a reader - or perhaps at least some embodied experience, given that who really knows the precise contours of another's response!
Chief Editor: Your views on women poetry and feminism at the present time?
Rose Lucas: I think that articulating the voice of a specific female experience still has an important creative and political function within contemporary culture. Given that there are many more instances of 'women writing women' now, than there were say, 50 years ago, at least within western culture, this is perhaps not crucial in the same radical, ground-breaking way. However, there will always be elements of human experience which are particular to women, and which therefore need to take their place within complex web of culture and art - specific experiences of child-bearing and mothering, intimacy, the myriad of relationships between women as well as between women and men, etc. Feminism, in all its varieties and manifestations, still needs to raise the standard for the validity and importance of the full spectrum of women's lived experience.
Chief Editor: What are your views on present day poetry from Australian?
Rose Lucas: Poetry in Australia is in a healthy and dynamic state. Each year brings a rich range of poetic publications, both in hard copy and in a range of electronic sites and journals. There are even a number of publishing houses who see poetry as an important part of their repertoire! Of course poetry is always risky business to some extent in the commercial world, but it's heartening to me to see its ongoing place within art and culture.
Chief Editor: Your attachment with Nature is explicit in your latest collection “EVEN IN THE DARK” . At present Man is going to conquer the Nature by leaps and bounds. Will it not affect the real charm and magic of poetry?
Rose Lucas: The natural world is the fundamental basis of human experience. I think this is true even for those of us who live in urban environments. We are still grounded within the sphere of seasons, daylight and darkness, and the world of growing things feeds us in terms of spirit as well as body. To lose track of the natural environment in the course of one's life, is to lose a vital element of human experience. In this sense, I see poetry's relationship with the natural world as operating in two ways: first, the natural world is a source of great connection and inspiration. What else do we write about, on one level, except the place in which we find ourselves and our experience of our selves within that specificity? Second, the act of poetry is a way of encouraging and communicating the focused looking which allows us to recognize not just a backdrop to a narcissistic self, but rather a gateway into alterity.
I think there is often a sense that poetry that takes the natural world as one of its primary subject matters is merely trivial, a decorative art that deflects any real understanding of human interiority and interconnection. I suppose some poetry may be like this, but I have always felt that the opportunity to bring one's attention to the dynamism of the natural world is to find a still point of reflection that will ultimately tell us as much about ourselves as about the specificity of the world.
Chief Editor: Any special experience or incident that you would like to share with the poetry lovers?
Rose Lucas: As I've said above, if anyone feels they have an inclination to write, then they should find every opportunity to do so - from diaries and blogs, to letters (what an old-fashioned idea!), poetry, fiction, essays, commentary to the newspaper etc. In such repeated acts of writing, you will not only hone the craft of writing across various genres, but you will come to understand yourself better and set out upon the path to the development of your own voice.
When we write, we also grapple with various psychological effects: the desire to communicate, the desire to succeed (however defined), the desire to be thought well of, the desire to be seen as 'a writer.' These are all very reasonable motivations, but I think it's also important that as writers we come to some understanding of those desires and what they say about our sense of self. To fail to come to grips with the complexity of our internal motivations is to run the risk of paralysis, of seeking to write only to impress for instance, and therefore coming to a grinding halt. It’s the hard work which will form the basis of a sustainable emotional life as well as the possibilities of the production of art.
For people coming to write poetry, of whatever age, practice your craft, but also understand and respect the position from which you write. Develop and value the specificity of your own voice, and use it to explore the issues and things which matter to you, not becoming drowned out by others’ voices or by anxieties of performance; as Virginia Woolf said in A Room of One's Own, don't waste your energy and your vision listening to nay-saying voices either inside your own head or outside.
On a practical level, keep on sending poems out to journals and publishers - each poem that comes back rejected, should be recycled immediately to the next port of call. Writing poetry will inevitably involve a lot of rejection; find an organisational system and a support network which will allow you to keep bouncing back until your little fingerling of possibility finds a home, and starts to grow.