Seven days to go until the launch of Brisbane New Voices IV (buy tickets here), so let’s catch up with the second featured poet, Trudie Murrell as she talks about life, future projects and Women and Cars.
I have been writing for performance since 1988 so I know the satisfaction of hearing a live audience respond to my work. I’m sure it was around the same time I began to fantasize about my work being published. I use the word fantasise because it seemed, for a long time, to be something so unachievable and mysterious that I didn’t take any steps towards making it happen. That kind of thing (publication) happened somewhere else, to other people. I simply couldn’t conceive that a young regional writer’s work, my work, could be published. Who would be interested? I thought I’d have to finish a degree, move to a capital city adopt a strong political voice and write about controversial topics to be published. Besides, I never felt that my work was polished enough, finished enough for publication. This kind of limiting thinking stayed with me well into my thirties. I gathered other reasons for why I could never be published along the way – I was older, I had children, I didn’t have enough time to devote myself to being a disciplined writer who sought out publication opportunities. I still wrote, whenever I could, I was filling quite a few desk draws with my work, I still fantasised about being published one day, but I didn’t do anything about it.
In 2006 I moved to Brisbane and met you, Graham, at a Queensland Writers Centre poetry workshop you were conducting. Afterwards, I remember you extended an invitation for us to submit to the SpeedPoets zine. I decided to do something about it. Two of my poems were accepted. This seemed to blow all my theories about publication out of the water. I was so rattled, I didn’t submit anything else for consideration anywhere until 2010. The Queensland Writer’s Centre continued to let me know about publishing opportunities and competitions through emails and their magazine. Each poetry workshop or event I attended you, along with others from the Brisbane poetry community continued to ask ‘Where are you submitting?’ Not only that, people were providing me with information about how to go about submitting to publications. The first time a poem of mine was published in an anthology I was terrified about having to work with an editor. I decided to be honest about my inexperience and asked for her advice and guidance. Even when I held a copy of the book in my hand I didn’t feel like I was serious about being published – I’d just lucked out.
I guess I became serious about publishing my work when you asked me to be part of Brisbane New Voices IV. Anyone involved in the Brisbane poetry community knows how supportive and encouraging you are towards fellow poets just as they know your drive, attention to detail and consistency as an independent publisher to produce quality publications. You set the bar high, so I had to step up.
Women and Cars seems deeply personal. What are the events/happenings/aspects of your life that have made you the poet you are?
Aren’t you supposed to write what you know? This is what I know, so of course it’s personal, but I come from a long line of story tellers – yarners and bullshit artists so not all of it is completely true, some of it is poetic license. Women and Cars is my way of weaving a path back to where I began. It’s a poetry map of how and where I was born, recording how I got to who and where I am now. I miss North Queensland and these poems help me reconnect with it. It’s also a tool to help me remember I was not always a wife and mother. It’s parts of my story but not the full story. I listened to Peter Bakowski speak at Avid Reader last year. He talked about telling his story in the particular, the importance of writing specifically, not universally, his desire to write authentically about his own experiences and observations so that it might resonate with others. Everything that has happened and continues to happen in my life makes me the poet I am. It’s a vulnerable way to write and daunting, but it’s something I tried to achieve with these poems. I guess it has to be deeply personal to make the reader want to get into the car a take a ride with me. I am surprised and pleased that the poem Women and Cars, in particular, continues to resonate with others.
Who are the poets that you return to; the one’s that continue to have a profound influence on you and your work?
I return often to poetry, all kinds of poetry, it has been a part of my life from the earliest time. My mother loves poetry and would read it with me when I was a child. I was reading predominantly Australian poets from the age of 11, Judith Wright and Oodgeroo Noonuccal in particular. Through my high school years I was reading Shakespeare, the Romantics, the Victorian poets, early twentieth century war poets and (of course, surreptitiously) Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickenson, Ted Hughes and e.e.cummings. Bruce Dawe, Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Hewett and Rosemary Dobson became firm favourites in my late teens and the 20th century Australian female free verse poets have become my go to poets for inspiration. A couple of months ago, I was reading Banjo Patterson’s The Man from Snowy River aloud to my 8 year old daughter when we were both overcome with tears at the description of the mountain pony’s decent. I love any and all poetry that moves me but I love Australian poetry best.
What do you hope readers will take away from Women and Cars?
A few wry smiles and a small windswept hole in the heart that can only be filled with wanderlust and the dusty Queensland coast road.
And looking to the future… what’s next for Trudie Murrell?
I am trying to figure that out. My husband has requested more poems that don’t involve women and cars. More discipline in my practice is something I need to achieve. I am interested in learning more about recording and sequencing and how to overlay that with performing poetry live. Submitting more poems, starting a blog and finally collaborating with a good friend to bring a musical element to my work are on my to do list as well. If I achieve any of these things this year I’ll be pleased.
Raised in the tropical North, Trudie Murrell has been writing since 1988. She has spent most of her life in transit along the eastern seaboard of Queensland. At the moment she lives in Brisbane with her husband and three small hitchhikers. In the past few years she’s come to the realisation that everything she writes, really wants to be a poem. She’s decided not to fight it … Her poems have been published in The Green Fuse, Macmillan English 9 for the Australian Curriculum, Cordite and on Graham Nunn’s blog Another Lost Shark. She performs her work regularly at various spoken word events throughout Brisbane.