The internet is, simultaneously, a wondrous communication tool and a flaming dumpster fire. It’s 2017 and millennial poet Hera Lindsay Bird has gained speedy momentum online for cutting social critique and her pop cultural bent. But are there drawbacks from easy access and distribution of works by poets?
We speak with with Hera ahead of EWF Formal about the time and space continuum and find out if it’s even possible to be a viral poet.
What was teenage Hera like? And what would teenage Hera say to current Hera?
Mostly I can’t remember what it felt like to be alive then. As a teenager I was shy trying not to be shy, but in this bizarrely proactive way where I put myself in lots of situations I was socially unprepared for just to see what happened. The weirdest part was that it kind of worked & I’m not shy anymore. I read a lot of Agatha Christie and made lots of weird and elaborate art projects with my friends. I don’t think I would tell myself anything, and if I did I wouldn’t listen anyway. I don’t think it’s a good idea to lecture yourself through time and space.
Did you go to your formal?
Nobody went to our leavers formal, because nobody cared. I went to the formal the year before and rented a dress for it, which I think was technically a blood-stained bride of Frankenstein gown, which retrospectively was a very Amanda Palmer thing to do, but it seemed funny to me at the time.
Tell us about what inspired your two (now famous) poems Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind and Monica.
Honestly I kind of can’t remember writing either of them. They were written much faster than the other poems in the book, which are a bit more constructed and elaborate. I don’t like to think too much about what I’m writing before I write it because overthinking a poem is the best way to ruin it. Sometimes I try and choose an unusual or banal subject to start with because I think it’s a good way of tricking yourself into paying attention in the moment, rather than coming into a poem thinking “I want this to be about my failing relationship and the unrelenting beauty of Autumn.” Monica and Keats were basically ways of distracting myself. I wanted to start out with an outrageous conceit to see if, over the course of the poem, I could narrow in on something true but without having to think about it first.
How do you use poetry to speak to your experience as a young woman?
Because I write autobiographically, writing about being a young woman is inevitable, although I’m leaving my twenties this year, thank god. I have a lot of fun talking about gender in my poetry, but I also think poetry has to be deeper than personal propaganda or aphorism. To me, poetry that advocates rather than interrogates is boring. The world has enough manifestos. Basically, I try not to use my poems for anything – I think art has to lead ideology, not the other way around, otherwise your art is dull and if your art is dull you’re not doing your ideology any favours.
And why do you write?
Because life is boring, and making art is one of the only things that makes sense to me. That sounds like macho posturing, but I think it’s fundamentally true, and besides, I don’t mean it in a judgemental way, I mean it with a kind of joyful nihilism. I like art more than almost anything else in the world.
Statement: you are New Zealand’s first viral poet. Agree or disagree and why?
I don’t ever know how to answer this question, because the term viral is so weird to me. I hope it’s not possible to be a viral poet. I hope it’s not possible to be a viral anything. It was cool to be read widely for a week, but I think it was a fluke and not something I would ever try and consciously repeat, because I think that’s a quick way to make a caricature of yourself.