I am thrilled to be bringing you my first interview with a poet. As a teenager, writing poetry was my outlet, my therapy. I had notebooks full of poems. Meet poet Nona Rose. This lovely lady is a fellow Aussie, and lives in Sydney's Sutherland Shire, where I grew up. Lets find out a bit more about her, and her poetry.
Tell me a bit about yourself
I’m a bit of a Jill of all trades – I write, I take photos, I run social media accounts as an admin. Oh, and I coach Gymnastics for a living. I’m a mum to a wonderful teenager and two mischievous cats. As far as writing goes, I’ve tried my hand at just about everything except writing a novel, but predominantly have stuck to poetry.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I started as an angst-ridden teen, inspired by an English teacher at high school when I was 13, Mrs Dixon, who had us write poetry. The first poem I ever wrote “Requiem for a Society” is on my blog and it’s very dark, but my teacher loved it, had the rest of the class read it, and hung it on the wall. That feeling of accomplishment, that I had a way with words, stuck in my brain, and I wrote on and off for the next 16 years, but it’s really been the last 12 months that I’ve really put my mind to doing something with it. I used the lockdown here in Sydney as an excuse to write more, in what I called my Iso Well-Being Compilation, and it’s just continued since then.
Do you have a favourite book?
I have a few. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King and my favourite is “Rose Madder”. I’ve been reading quite a few science books recently and “Dr Space Junk versus the Universe” by Alice Gorman is a definite favourite. Thomas Pynchon’s “Vineland” is another favourite and I’ve always wanted to adapt a screenplay for it. But my favourite poetry book is actually “The Norton Anthology of Poetry” as it’s just so diverse and I can find something for any mood I’m in, plus all of the old favourites are in there too.
What do you love about writing poetry?
Poetry is like a window to the soul. You can write about anything and everything. I’ve written about emotions, social issues, places and things, people, animals – you name it, I’ve written about it, or will be soon! That variety really appeals to me. I don’t get bogged down with one thing for too long. Having said that, I write a lot about love and emotions – parental love, romantic love, grief and the losing of love, unrequited love, and the absence of love – because it’s a fascinating topic to me and so many people can relate to it on so many different levels.
Tell me about your blog ‘Nona’s Poetry Corner’
My blog started as just a place where I put some of the poems I’d written to share with family and friends, but as I’ve begun this latest project, I’ve used it as a way to publicise my poetry in advance of this project getting off the ground. It’s also a great way to connect with people who read my poetry because, too often, writers are in this vacuum without any feedback on what they are writing except from professionals, but they aren’t who I write for – I write for myself and for the general public. I don’t see it as a stepping stone to having a physically published book, I see it as part of the package, the interactive part of the writing process. Even when I do eventually get published, it will be amazing for people to buy the book and then be able to discuss their favourite poem or ask questions about their meaning.
Who are your favourite authors / poets and how have they influenced your work?
So many favourite authors, but many of the novelists I love haven’t really influenced my poetry. I think I’ve been most influenced over the years by the classics – Shakespeare, Joyce, Owen, Rossetti, Yeats, Frost – and they have really influenced the way I word things, and I tend to drift between quite a modern style, and a semi-classical style.
Most recently I’ve been bingeing on the poetry of Sam Illingworth. He has a podcast that I adore in which he reads his poetry inspired by scientific discoveries, then discusses the science behind the poem. The way he forms pictures with words is phenomenal, plus it brings together two of my favourite things – poetry and science!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
It might sound like a bit of a trite answer but the world! I am inspired by so many things. I can take a single word and find a way of turning it into a poem. Sometimes it’s a news event or something that’s happened in my life that inspires me. I was inspired by the BLM movement and by the events at Capitol Hill on January 6th, but I’m also inspired by history, science, language, and art. I think, as a poet, you need to be open to inspiration from anywhere, and at any time.
Can you describe your writing process?
I’m not sure I have “a process” unless you classify staring at the screen until inspiration hits. Once I’ve got a spark of something, though, then I’ll do some research or some reading of poems in the same vein. I also like to flood my brain with images about what I’m writing about: the colours and the way others see what I’m trying to express can make me think about it from another perspective.
When it comes to actually writing, my most used tools are a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus, and I can normally knock out a first draft in a few hours. I often start with a brainstorming session, where I just write down the ideas or specific words that I want to include in the poem. Then I’ll start playing with the structure and style of the poem. Deciding if it’s going to be free verse, or rhyming, or if it’s going to strictly follow a particular pattern, can be very difficult. Then I’ll flesh it out and play with the order of stanzas or lines depending on how I want the poem to feel.
Occasionally, all that goes out the window and a poem will just fall out of my head fairly well formed, but that is very rare. It’s only happened maybe five or six times, and I’ve written well over 400 poems in my life so far.
In all, it normally takes about 24 hours to get a poem to the stage where I’m happy for people to read it. That may not be its final iteration – I have an editor who finds all my spelling mistakes, and helps identify strengths and weaknesses in the different poems, so they are ready for more traditional publishing – but it’s the beginning of the poem’s life, somewhere for discussion to begin.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Well, I’m a single mum, so I run around after my son with his activities and I work my paid job. In what little free time I do get, I like to read. I’m currently making my way through “Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t”, which is a small anthology of poetry, and “A Trillion Tiny Awakenings” by Candy Royalle.
I also love going to the AFL and the BBL, though covid has put a bit of a dampener on that in the last year, as it has for pretty much everything, like travelling – I was meant to go to Ireland with my son at the end of 2020 but that got kyboshed fairly early on – so we’re just finding things to do locally. We really love a good road trip so that might be on the cards for later in the year.
My other passion is photography and I love taking photos. Mostly nature photography. I find it very relaxing just sitting by the coast and taking photos of waves or the sunrise, or I’ll go to a botanic garden and take photos of the flowers as I walk around. It’s important to do what you love, even if no one sees the fruits of your labour, but you.
Thanks to Nona Rose for sharing the inspiration behind her poetry. If you would like to check out her work, click on the links below.