Stretching the Imaginable

Paul HETHERINGTON, Petra White

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Between July 2012 and June 2014 Paul Hetherington and Petra White conducted an interview by email about making and thinking about poetry, including the ways in which Petra approached her work and her views about poetic innovation, imagination and reading others poets’ work.

    Paul Hetherington: Can you tell me about the origins of your poetry—why you write, what started you, how it connects to your childhood and your experience of growing up, and what place writing now has in your life?

    Petra White: I always wrote stories as a child—never poetry—and I decided to become a writer when I finished high school. It happened slowly—initially I wanted to be an actor, but I found myself writing little snippets and poems, mainly when I was stoned with friends. Acting increasingly fell off the radar and I started to write what I thought would be a novel. It was quite surrealist, with a lot of very elaborate imagery and practically no plot or structure. After three years it defeated me and I found myself becoming interested in poetry, largely through a wonderful anthology I discovered at the Brunswick Street bookshop, and went without food for, and read over and over: Poems for the millennium (1998), in two huge volumes.
    I loved the European poets like Celan, Mallarme, Pessoa and Rimbaud. And the recontextualising of Blake and Dickinson in a 20th-century frame, but perhaps most important to me was Rilke. Rilke was the first poet to really get to me. From him I learned that it’s okay for a poem to take some time to write; I loved the way he described himself as a perpetual ‘beginner’. There was also something freeing about the very individual and idiosyncratic style of his imagery and argument. I felt that Rilke understood me, and that the way he wrote was something I could draw on, if not emulate. He was also instructive; I could see how his poems worked. And he showed me that it was possible to think in a poem.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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