Daniel Young interviewed our poetry editor Stuart Barnes for Issue Sixteen of the journal to celebrate the release of his debut poetry collection Glasshouses.
DY: Thanks for being a part of out interview series, and congratulations on the recent publication of your debut collection, Glasshouses. Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you started writing poetry?
SB: Thanks very much, Daniel. Chuffed to be here, chuffed that Glasshouses is out in the world.
I was born and grew up in Hobart, where as a kid I met poet and librettist Gwen Harwood, who encouraged me to read and to write poetry. In 1996 I moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University (I majored in Literature). Towards the end of 2005, severe anxiety and mild manic depression peaked; my boyfriend at the time gave me several notebooks in which, at his suggestion, I wrote everything that dropped into my head—none of it poetry. I started to write poetry seriously, i.e., confidently, ambitiously in 2009. I moved to Rockhampton in 2013, which is when I became Tincture’s poetry editor (thanks!), with three close friends who grew up here. In 2015 my manuscript The Staysails won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, resulting in the publication of Glasshouses (UQP, 2016).
DY: Can you remember when and where your first poem was published? What was it about?
SB: 2009, in MCV (Melbourne Community Voice), in Letters to the Editor. It was a criticism of a very short-lived club that drew, in my opinion, a very pretentious gay crowd; somehow the men who established it monopolised Melbourne’s best house DJs! In 2007 the very long-running, diverse and inclusive Q&A (Queer & Alternative) closed and, much to my horror, Melbourne’s queer scene’s golden age disintegrated. In 2000, a kind of poem (three lines, not a haiku) accompanied my then-boyfriend’s RMIT assignment. In between this and 2009, I penned lyrics for an electronic ballad written by a friend of that boyfriend and me.