Hera Lindsay Bird, Poet

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet and all-around babe who comes to us by way of New Zealand. The cadence of her writing, her open and honest approach to her practice and her damn fine sense of humour make her one of our very favourites. We love hearing how she makes it all work. Thanks HLB!  

What do you do?

I write poetry! Most of my poetry is a mixture between comedic and autobiographical. My debut self-titled book “Hera Lindsay Bird” came out last year with Victoria University Press. I write a lot about love and sex, but also occasionally about celebrities like Bruce Willis and Sandra Bullock.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

I always liked Tove Jansson’s maxim which is just ‘Work & Love’ which sounds twee until you realize that the items in the maxim are in order of priority. I don’t really have a motto emblazoned on a gold crest or anything but I think honesty, humour and risk are the most important things to me in writing. Working hard is a given.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

I went and did my MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters (1) threw my first manuscript away (2) and then spent five years writing a new one. Do these things count as milestones? Not being afraid to throw everything away and start again was a revelation.  

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

My project is always the same project, which is just to continue to write poetry. I usually think of projects with a capital P as a distraction, because I don’t like to frame the work I make before I make it, because I think it limits how free I am able to be, and it makes my writing worse. To me there’s a huge freedom in just continuing to work on your craft, without trying to find an angle or thematic link to pre-describe it. There are some other mediums I would like to try writing in, but poetry will always come first.

Hera Lindsay Bird, image by Russel Kleyn

Hera Lindsay Bird, image by Russel Kleyn

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change? 

What I would like is to have more diverse & interesting poetry taught in schools because I think it’s a chicken/egg question – there is never going to be more funding or diversity or risk taking if nobody is interested in the first place.  

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Everyone asks me intelligent thoughtful questions all the time and nobody ever asks me anything banal like what my favourite type of cake is, or which of the Oasis brothers I like better (vanilla and neither).

Image by Russel Kleyn

Image by Russel Kleyn

What is your dream project?

Again, the same as above. I know it seems like a lazy answer, but I think working poem by poem is the only way I want to write. If I ever think about doing a project I immediately tell everyone and then never do it, because I’ve already had the satisfaction of being congratulated on it, and then smugly go about my business, having achieved nothing.

What places are important to you? 

My favourite place is my mother’s house in Whanganui, but is also the greatest pleasure of my life to stay in hotels and use all the miniature soaps and watch the bad true crime exposes on tv. I get lots of work done in hotels except when I’m hungover and watching documentaries about the Great Pyramids instead.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

The best piece of advice I know is an ancient piece of advice said by everyone, which is to embrace your strengths and don’t try and be teen Hemmingway if you like P. G Wodehouse better. I spent years trying to write very ornate, literary prose, and to keep the jokes at bay, but it wasn’t until I let all the jokes come flooding in that I managed to write anything that was meaningful to me.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Poetry is one of those rare disciplines where the women seem to outnumber the men, and the supportive female network in my field are the field. I’m lucky enough not to have to think about poetry in terms of gender, except occasionally when I get creepy erotic poetry sent to me by older men.

Words Hera Lindsay Bird, illustrations Tommy Parrish

Words Hera Lindsay Bird, illustrations Tommy Parrish

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

At the moment I am reading Tony Hoagland’s poetry, and watching a lot of Veep and Silicon Valley!

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

My greatest aspiration is to live on a constantly moving train.  

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining? 

I remember reading ‘Beauty Was the Case They Gave Me’ by Mark Leidner for the first time, and immediately feeling like I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It’s still my favourite book, and I reread it every few months.

How can we find our more about your work?

Twitter @heralindsaybird is the best way, although I have a sporadically updated website.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Chelsea Jade!