Maria Haskins has been supporting poets and their writing for some time. When I saw she had a collection I bought and reviewed it. Her words are as amazing as she is, which is really saying something, because she rocks. It is my pleasure to interview her on my blog today.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a writer, I’m a translator translating between Swedish and English, I’m married, and I have two kids. My writing coach is a big black dog named Jake who makes me go for walks every day and mull over my writing ideas. I grew up in Sweden, and moved to Canada in the early 1990s. Since then, I’ve lived in the Vancouver area on the west coast. My first books were written in Swedish and published in Sweden, sometime in the far dinosaur age of old-school publishing. Through the years I’ve written poetry, short stories, and various kinds of prose. For a few years I suffered from terrible writer’s block and felt unable to write, a crippling experience. It’s only recently that I’ve felt able to write fiction and poetry again. I self-published a collection of science fiction short stories in March, 2015, and recently self-published a collection of poetry.
When did you start writing poetry?
I wrote stories from when I was just a kid, and started writing poetry when I was in my early teens, maybe even earlier. It was pretty awful stuff in the beginning: I know, because I still have an old notebook left as proof…
Do you have a favorite poet/poem?
Several! But one poem I always come back to both as a source of inspiration, and just because I can always find something new in it, is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. I can read that poem anytime, anywhere and just get kind of lost in it: beautiful language, and so many layers of meaning.
Does music inspire you? What kind?
I love listening to music, and I do listen to a whole lot of rock and hard rock – both new bands and older bands. I think there’s a real connection between poetry and music: some lyrics are excellent poetry, and some music is poetic in its own right. Graham Greene is an Australian guitarist, he plays a lot of instrumental rock and his old album ‘Gaia Rising’ gives me inspiration whenever I listen to it. He also has a tune on his most recent album called ‘Through The Dark’ that is musical poetry of the highest order.
Do you write on the computer or in a notebook?
Both. I’m old enough to have started writing before word processors were the go-to thing. My first poetry was written by hand, and then typed out on a typewriter. These days, I write almost exclusively on the computer, but while I write all my prose on the computer, I still write some of my poetry by hand, at least the very first draft. There’s a deep connection for me between writing by hand and writing poetry, and sometimes I feel more disconnected from a poem when I write it in [Microsoft] Word.
If you could write a poem anywhere, where would it be?
By the ocean, in a very cozy writer’s den, with an ocean view. That would be my ideal writing location, or so I imagine! If I actually had such a place to write, I wonder if I’d get anything done, though.
What do you enjoy most about writing poetry?
That it’s such an immediate and visceral way of expressing emotions, thoughts, and ideas, without having to adhere to any strict “rules of writing” or even rules of grammar, necessarily. And you can express yourself in a multi-layered, complex way that says many things at once, without using a whole lot of words.
If you could hang out with any poet, who would it be?
I’m going to say Ursula K. Le Guin. She is mostly known for her science fiction and fantasy, but her poetry is outstanding as well. I’d love to just hang out with her, and talk about language and words, and sources of inspiration. That’s if I could get past being completely tongue-tied in her presence!
If you could physically fight a fellow poet, from any point in time, who would they be?
Maybe Shakespeare. I’d love to hear what kind of insults he’d hurl at me.
Have you read or performed poetry live at slams or open mic?
It’s been ages since I read, or performed my poetry in front of other people. I was never very good at it. In my younger days I always got so nervous that my hands and voice would shake. I think I would be better at it now when I’m old enough to suffer less from stage fright.
Why does nothing rhyme with orange?
It’s another glitch in the matrix. Luckily, if you translate it into Swedish, you can find many words that rhyme with “apelsin”!
Do you post your poetry online?
Yes, I do, occasionally. I posted some of the poems from my new collection ‘Cuts’ on my website while they were still works in progress. Sometimes I wish I had more poems to share. I usually work very slowly when it comes to poetry: sort of like squeezing blood from a stone! One poem that came to me very quickly, and that I felt compelled to share immediately, was ‘Pain In Progress’. It was written in pretty much one sitting after I found out a good friend of mine had died from breast cancer. She hadn’t told very many people that her cancer had returned, and when I found out she had passed away it just clobbered me. I still can’t express very well how and why her death crushed me, but that poem is an attempt to put it into words.
Do you put your writing into pictures to share on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook?
I’ve paired a few of my poems with pictures, and the poem ‘Peek’ in my new collection is paired with a photo taken of my son moments after he was born. But I haven’t done it a lot. It’s something that I think I’d like to explore a lot more. It’s a very organic and beautiful way to share poetry, and I love seeing that kind of work by other poets.
What is the most difficult poetry to write? Are there any forms you dislike?
Well, there is poetry that is technically difficult, of course. Like, how the heck could anyone express themselves in hexameter? But on a more fundamental level, I think that it’s hardest to write poetry that is simple, yet profound. And by that I mean poetry that uses simple words, but still manages to express something absolutely profound. Tony Connor’s poem ‘A Child Half Asleep‘ has the line ‘ I ask him what woke him? / ‘A wolf dreamed me’ he says.” That’s the kind of line that you almost can’t make up or imagine, and then when you see it, it seems so simple and deep and… I don’t know, inescapable. Like you should have always known it. I don’t really dislike any forms of poetry… though rhyming poetry that doesn’t actually rhyme sometimes annoys me.
Do you believe anyone can learn to write poetry? Do you think anyone can enjoy reading it?
I do believe anyone can learn to write it. But not everyone will become T.S. Eliot, of course. I do think it’s a good thing to try, and to allow yourself to write poetry, whether for publication or not, because it can help you process thoughts and feelings in a new way that doesn’t happen in prose. And yes, anyone can enjoy reading it: you just have to find a poet that speaks to you, that fits your thoughts and your emotions.
Where do vanishing objects go? Remember to phrase your answer in the form of a riddle.
Time and space can bend and twist, so you must ask yourself this: did they vanish, or did you? If you look for something that you can’t find, maybe the truth is that you vanished, and they were left behind.
What project(s) are you currently working on, poetry or otherwise?
Right now I have so many writing projects on the go that it’s kind of making me dizzy. The main thing I’m working on at the moment is short stories. I have a brand new short story that I’m polishing right now, and I’m also writing short stories for the next installment in the Mind’s Eye Series which is incredibly exciting for me. As for poetry, even when I’m working on prose-projects I still end up writing poetry occasionally. It’s like a safety valve, a way to process what’s going on in my life.
Would you like to share a poem with us today?
I’ll share Pain In Progress, from my new collection ‘Cuts’.
PAIN IN PROGRESS
(For another Maria.)
The lamps are lit
in every window.
I feel the warmth beneath my own hands
feel the flicker
inside my own room.
What lights the lamps?
What makes a fire
where there was only
wick and oil and breath of wind?
I don’t know.
But the lamps are lit
the light is everywhere
spilling through the curtains
through your fingers
through the glass
through the whispers in the hallway
through your eyes, half opened.
I can feel the light
warm in my hands
every cut and bruise and scar
another bit of light.
And then the lamp is put out,
I didn’t see
Where did the light go?
What puts out the lamps?
What takes away the light?
What makes the darkness
over the horizon
over the threshold
over your lips?
What eats away the light
ripping it out of your grip?
(Or did you let it?
Did you let it
Did you let it
I don’t know.
I look across the field:
brown reeds broken by the weight of snow
trees crouching low
cradling the dusk
in arthritic branches.
The sky is
cut bruised scarred
and there is just a breath of wind
stroking the grass.
I see your window
on the other side.
The lamp is not lit.
I can still feel the glow.
Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and translator with a passion for writing and reading in general, and science fiction and fantasy in particular. She was born and grew up in Sweden, but since the early 1990s she lives just outside Vancouver on Canada’s west coast.
Her English language debut ‘Odin’s Eye’ – a collection of science fiction short-stories – was published in March, 2015. Her book ‘Cuts & Collected Poems 1989 – 2015’ – a collection of poetry – was released on November 9, 2015. It includes both new poems written in English, and her own translations of her previously published Swedish poetry. She is also currently working on a science fiction novel, and various other writing projects.
Find more about Maria Haskins:
On her website: mariahaskins.wordpress.com
On Twitter: twitter.com/MariaHaskins
On Facebook: facebook.com/mariahaskinswriter
On Goodreads: goodreads.com/Maria_Haskins
On Amazon: amazon.com/-/e/B00UICDA2K
On Smashbooks: smashwords.com/mariahaskins
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A wonderful interview, Ben & Maria. Great questions and great answers! I loved your answer about where things go when they disappear LOL You also made me giggle with your answer about getting into a fight with Shakespeare! 🙂 I am reading your poetry collection at the moment, Maria. I’ve read ‘Cuts’ so far and absolutely loved it. That poem ‘Pain in Progress’ is one of my favourites. There’s so much emotion in it. I’m looking forward to reading your stories for the Mind’s Eye Series! So happy you agreed to join us for that project xx
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Thank you, Maria! I’m getting my writing gears turning for those short stories! 🙂
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Thank you so much Ben for having great questions for me: this was a lot of fun to do. 🙂
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