Marisa Allen (Bremen Town Musician) is feature musician and poet and the next SpeedPoets event (2pm Sunday, June 7 @ The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St. New Farm) as well as one of the features at the final Riverbend Books, Poetry on the Deck event on Tuesday June 23 (click here for details).
We caught up recently and hade a quick chat…
What initially drew you to poetry?
I read constantly and writing was something that I had always done and I think the first thing I wrote was a poem when I was in year six and it just followed on from that. Later on I really started writing poetry as a means to explore song writing. I began writing poems as a stepping stone to that and just filtered out which ones were better as poems and which ones were better as songs. Poetry allows me to make sense of the world around me and to express myself.
When is a poem ready to be published/performed?
I don’t have a strict sense of readiness for a piece of writing, instinctively I know when a poem works or not. It’s ready when it’s ready and I don’t labour too much on it. Usually there is a strong voice or atmosphere to the words that let me know if a piece is suitable to be published or performed, but it’s such an unknown based on how I feel subjectively about a piece. I always say I have no ugly children, meaning I love them all equally and most I would like to put out into the public sphere. Obviously there are better poems than others, but I just write them, I don’t judge them! Although I do like to let them sit for a while and go back to them after maybe a year and make small changes to phrases and really make sure what I’m wanting to express is clear.
Has publication changed the way you approach your writing?
Yes. In a way it makes me a little more self conscious but it also emboldens me to push a little harder. Poems that are published are usually chosen because they are ready to be published but once that happens you let them go, they no longer are yours and sometimes I find going back to them to be tiresome, as it’s like yes this was good then when it was written but how can I better it now, how can I move from it to something that is relevant to the experiences I am having now.
Why perform/read your poetry?
I have no idea! I think this is a complex question… I am acutely aware of poetry that works out loud or as a spoken performance piece and poetry that is meant to be read in silence in your mind. I’m really interested in this contrast. At this point I read my poetry because there is a voice in it that I can hear; it brings it to life and adds dimension to the words. But there are certainly poems that I don’t feel have the immediacy to be read out loud, that maybe are very complex in imagery and need a different approach, such as the quiet of reading alone, reading a phrase over and over to grasp the meaning.
What is the greatest challenge faced by poets/poetry today?
Well I think there is always a food shortage just round the corner in any poets life! I think it is the same for any artist, getting their work heard, published, viewed, getting feedback, support in the process which is the most murky area because usually a poet or artist is constantly in a creative process. Also creating opportunities for poets to have some value in society outside the creative and subjective world of their own writing. I think this is immensely important, that an artist should be able to connect with the world that doesn’t always support their own vision but still values the poet anyway by creating opportunities to use their skills outside of purely creative pursuits. I think the competitiveness and nepotism of any creative area can be very off putting and it’s a challenge that is unnecessary for a creative person to have to face. I think we need a completely new approach to how selection and standardization across the arts is decided, judged on artistic sensibility and merit as opposed to bureaucratic or financial standards, unfortunately it does take time for people to take your work seriously and that in itself is a challenge on a day to day basis.