Our poetry editor Stuart Barnes interviewed Matt Hetherington for Issue Nine of Tincture Journal. Matt’s poems “Basket Case”, “Any Inconvenience Caused” and “Pack of Lies” can be found in the journal.
SB: For how long have you been writing poetry, and what or who inspired you to begin?
MH: I’ve been writing poetry or song lyrics (with no music!) since I was eight though truly seriously from twenty on… Bowie and The Beatles, Michael Dransfield’s Drug Poems, and Sylvia Plath were probably my first major influences. I think when I started writing, it was, like Walt Whitman, to celebrate myself. As simple and joyous as that… and maybe it’s all I’m still doing now anyway.
SB: When and where was your first poem published, and what was it about?
MH: Quadrant (of all places! I didn’t know much about Les Murray, or the politics of the thing…), in 1993. It was called “Sketch”, and was about my father, seen as a surrealist monster.
SB: How and where do your poems take shape?
MH: I write anywhere I can, and my practices vary a great deal… I find “the process” of my own and others’ writing the least interesting aspect of the whole deal of being a writer. I prefer not to talk about that stuff much, just walk the talk. And walk and talk. Walking is good for writing, isn’t it?
SB: In an interview with Sydney Time Out in June 2008, Dorothy Porter revealed “Music has been the key for me since I was a teenager … I wanted to tap into that dark potency of rock‘n’roll, and I still write to music every day.”
What music influences your poetry? Can/do you write to music?
MH: Music is what saves me from insanity, gets me going and keeps me there, and makes me feel like a soul with a body attached. I agree with Walter Pater when he said: “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” Though I don’t write an enormous amount to music at the moment, the most direct influences would be the great lyricists: Dylan, Cohen, and Jacques Brel. Though I love a great deal of music (other than most “classical” and all Irish jigs and country and western), the music I’m loving most recently is Miles Davis (’68-’75, as always), Jurassic 5, Rachid Taha, Wings, and The Dust Brothers’ Fight Club soundtrack. Plus a Clan Analogue compilation called Recognition. And…
SB: Tell me about “Basket Case”, “Pack of Lies” and “An Inconvenience Caused”, the poems of yours that are in Issue Nine of Tincture Journal.
MH: They’re Melbourne poems. I particularly like “Basket Case”, which really achieved what I set out to do.
SB: How has your poetry been influenced by others’? By translating others’? By relocating to, and living in, a less frosty city?
MH: Melbourne’s not very frosty, actually. I’m a lot happier living somewhere sunnier, though, that’s for sure. Brisbane is cool, in a warm kinda way. As for others, well, I just try to read those folk who inspire me to write, really. Or make me think new emotions or feel new thoughts. Translating others is madness, hard work, fun, masochism, and usually rewarding if you actually finish the piece. One day I’ll go and live in Paris and get them to translate ME!
MH: From what I can see, the QPF is really the best poetry festival in the land, so it’s good to help them out and promote them more, which is mostly what I’ve been doing there. I think it’s amazing that Melbourne is an official “City of Literature” but doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a poetry festival (especially now that the Overload Poetry Festival is no longer going…). With HaikuOz I do pretty much the same thing I do at the QPF, only a fair bit less, as there’re others who do more of it, and better than me. It’s the first place to go to really have a sense of what’s going on with haiku in Australia, I think, and it’s strange and quite nice to have been involved in something like that for so long… I’m still very fond of haiku…
SB: What are your thoughts on print vs. digital poetry publication?
MH: Hey, whatever floats your goat, but personally I can’t read longer poems on the net, and can only do two or three hours of staring at screens before I get a bit over it, though I do spend a fair bit of time on various poetry sites. I don’t do kindle or e-books myself, and I love poetry collections with good quality paper and tasty fonts, like all precious poncy poet-types. I actually buy poetry books. Ol-skool, huh?
SB: What poets are you reading, what’s your favourite poem at the moment?
MH: Recently, I’ve been reading Justin Clemens’ The Mundiad, Ko Un’s Ten Thousand Lives, and Cameron Lowe’s Circle Work. Also re-reading Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Needs Improvement and Sawako Nakayasu’s Texture Notes (both of whom I discovered through the Queensland Poetry Festival). Favourite poem? Sheesh, today I’ll say Giuseppe Ungaretti’s “Reawakenings” (trans. Kevin Hart).
Matt Hetherington is a writer, music-maker, gourmet Indian chef, soccer nut, bludger, and lover based in Brisbane. His first collection of all-Japanese-related forms (and fourth poetry collection) is For Instance, published by Mulla Mulla Press. Some current inspirations are: Timbaland, Frisky Dingo, Jess, Luce, and northern sunshine. Matt’s latest published poetry can be found in a three-way collaboration with poets Ryan Van Winkle and David Stavanger here: http://ryanvanwinkle.com/projects/commiserate-2015/.