Steven Herrick, Australian poet and author, gave a presentation on poetry for the students of the ISG on May 22. After the presentation, we had a chance to interview him.
You use a lot of humour in your poems, would you say that humour is very important, perhaps the most important emotion in poetry?
I think it’s one of the most important emotions and I think it’s important particularly when you read poetry live, because humour relaxes an audience and I think that we have a view that if it’s humorous, it’s not serious; it’s not about things that are relevant in our lives. And yet, that’s not the case: humour can both be relevant and serious but also humorous.
In the poems you showed us, you rarely touch upon what people would consider serious topics. Do you think poetry is important as a distraction and entertainment against serious matters of the world?
I think it can be both. I think the great thing about poetry is it can be humorous, it can be light, it can be about the little things in our life. I’m not sure that doesn’t mean it’s not serious, it just means it’s about the little things in our life and those little things are what makes up our life: going to school, our relationships with our girlfriends, boyfriends, our family, all those things are really what happens in our lives. So I think it’s personally very serious.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to pursue a creative career?
I would give the advice that if you want to become a writer, it’s an easy thing to say, but read lots. Read widely, understand how the writer is achieving what he or she is achieving and try and write like that. Don’t imitate, but just do try to understand how they create that feeling or emotion and try and achieve it yourself. And use your own language, the way I was doing earlier.
When starting a creative career, is it difficult to be discovered as an artist and make your living off it?
It is quite difficult, but I think nowadays is not as bad as you think, in there are things like YouTube, there are ways to get your work out there and I think that’s really important. I think that poets should not just sit and write, a poet should get out and do things: stand in front of an audience, stand in front of a camera, go on a radio show. Try and become a writer for all mediums, rather than just thinking ‘I’ve gotta just sit and [do nothing].’
Interview by Tomaz van der Merwe DP1