September 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
Interview with Tracy Ryan by Aaron Tilson-Brown
Tracy’s shared blog.
1. In a personal perspective on the subject, what does poetry mean to you?
For me, poetry is a way of making sense of the world, and of language. That’s both for reading and for writing it. Life would seem very much the poorer to me without it.
2. When did you first realise that poetry was the path you wanted to pursue?
I loved reading poetry from early childhood, but it wasn’t until about age 16 that it “clicked” for me as what I wanted to do. My school literature teacher took our class to see a “moved reading” of the poems that were set for the exam syllabus, both Australian and British poems. This was done by professional actors in a theatre in the city. I was so overwhelmed by the power of the performance of these texts that I thought: there could be nothing better to want to do than write poems.
3. What kind of message are you trying to convey to your readers through your poetry?
There’s not always a message intended on my part, though at the most basic level it’s often the sharing of an experience, a way of saying: look at this, hear this! The message aspect depends on the particular work: it varies from poem to poem, book to book. I’ve no doubt the compulsion behind the poems is to value the world and experience because of the pressure of mortality, so perhaps that’s the nearest I get to message.
4. Do you have any particular quirks or rituals which aid you in writing your poetry?
Yes. I can’t write with other people around; I have to be alone. At a pinch, I can write “alone” in an anonymous crowd, say, on a train or in a café. But not in a room with people I know. So, ideal for me is a small, silent room with no neighbours. This can be hard to achieve! No other quirks or rituals, though.
5. Do you have a preferred style to write in or do you prefer to write in a variety of styles?
I don’t have a preferred style — it is decided by the nature of the material that suggests itself. I write in both so-called free verse and in metrical verse. Sometimes prose-poems too.
6. What do you derive your inspiration from in order to write your poetry?
Anything at all. But typically, it might be an oddity of language, or an image. My poems draw a lot on personal experience (though not usually “confessional”; I think that is a misused term) and on memory; sometimes on other people’s experience, within limits. Sometimes the stories that go with a particular place will provoke a poem about it, though I am not a poet of place. Sometimes it’s from reading, or from a work of art (rarely), or especially from listening to a favourite musician/songwriter. Occasionally from news stories or observing people’s behaviour. I imagine these sources are much the same as for other poets, though some are more strongly inspired by one thing than another.
7. What other poet or even any other figure throughout time has been the most inspirational to you?
This is too hard to limit to one: there are so many. Poets: Shakespeare, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath. But also in addition to poets: Mary Wollstonecraft, Stendhal, the Brontës generally, and the short-story writer Katherine Mansfield. This is only a small sample, but certainly what I would always return to, again and again.
8. Aside from poetry, do you pursue any other creative paths or avenues?
Yes, I have also published novels. I used to play musical instruments when I was young but that has lapsed completely — a musical background does affect the approach to poetry, though.
9.) If you could, what change would you want to see in the world made through your poetry?
I am sceptical that my poetry could make a change in the world! But I do believe poetry can have an effect on individuals (and in some contexts, on a larger scale). I would like it to give some kind of enrichment to someone somewhere.
10. What advice would you give to any aspiring poet to achieve success from your own experiences?
Don’t “aspire” — just write. That’s all you need to do. That, and have a thick skin and a stubborn faith in your own capacities, so that you don’t give up just because of rejection.