Poems Seem Impossible: An Interview with Stacey Teague


Tell me a little bit about the creation of your new mini-chapbook, Not A Casual Solitude.

I didn’t intend for these poems to be in a collection, but I started writing poems which shared that form, and I guess they all have a similar feel. I was inspired to write in that way after reading a book called Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey (recommend!). That was my starting off point, but the result is something quite different in both form and content from Sorrow Arrow. Some of the text in that collection is found text from entries in an online Māori dictionary.

Do you consider yourself a naturalist at heart, or something else entirely? Does incorporating natural components outside of oneself, like the behavior of birds and the morning rain, in a poem engender more sincerity? What do we have to lose for doing the opposite?

I don’t know if I consider myself anything in particular, but nature makes me feel calm and good, so I often write about it. It’s cool. I don’t think that writing about nature is necessarily any more sincere than writing about anything else.

What animal or other element of our world do you most spiritually identify with, if any?

I don’t know about ‘spiritually’, but I feel very akin to my cat, Winnie. She is a real shit but I love her. I’ve always felt in tune with animals, we find things in each other. Generally bodies of water and anywhere with lots of trees are fine by me.

Your poems have an innate flow and calm to them, a slap upon the senses from the earth. What is your typical process when composing one?

One thing I do not do is sit down and say I am going to write a poem and then write one. Does anyone actually do that? Poems seem impossible. There are a lot of different processes, some organic and some more experimental. I take notes most days and will browse through those and combine them or elaborate on them to make a poem. Recently I’ve been trying out more ways to write, because there is only so far you can get in writing organically. I’ve started using methods like reworking found text, using google translate or text manipulators like markov chain or randomisers. These things can kick start creativity, otherwise you spend too long staring at nothing, you need text to fill in that space, any text. It makes me appreciate language more, having to fight your way out of it.

Is there a differing or conflicting philosophy when it comes to poetry in New Zealand than in England or America? Or is such an idea just rubbish?

It is only different in that they are different places. NZ is so much smaller. It is hard to talk about poetry in New Zealand when I haven’t properly lived there for 4 years, and I’ve never really felt a part of the writing scene there. When I lived in Auckland it was really hard to get anything exciting happening there, poetry-wise, but I have friends in Wellington who are doing amazing things. What’s important to me is supporting young writers, which is something that is done well in Australia where I currently live, and in NZ there’s this great journal called Starling.

Poetry everywhere can seem largely academic, and elite somehow, and what I want within poetry is a space where writers can get together in an informal, supportive and fun atmos in which to share their work. This is what I try to do with a reading series that I co-run, Subbed in. Sometimes you have to make space where there is no space.

Who are some writers and artists that you have studied, loved, or both?

Anne Carson, Emily Kendal Frey, Hera Lindsay Bird, Alice Notley, Carrie Lorig, Chelsey Minnis, Claudia Rankine, Zoe Dzunko – my current faves.

Anything in development we should be looking forward to?

Not really, but I’m always writing, I guess slowly working towards my second collection, but I’m not really thinking about that. This year has been an important year for me in poetry, I’m just reading and reading and I feel open.

Where can we buy your material, and how can we otherwise support you?


Interview conducted by Jordan Hoxsie.