Joy Howard(Foraging, Time and Tide, Dusk) ) interviewed by Cassandra Passarelli (Five by Five, Liberty Tales)
Cassandra: What defines a poem?
Joy: For me, it’s a thought, observation or even a story, in a condensed form. Rhythm, rhyme, imagery, sound associations, line breaks: all play their part in giving the ideas or observations impact and energy. The choice form (or lack of it) can be important too
Cassandra: Why do you write poetry (not plays, stories or shopping lists)?
Joy: Well I do write shopping lists! and indeed a ‘found’ poem can actually be a shopping list!
I have written a few short stories, (humorous) and even begun a couple of novels (light). I have never been drawn to playwriting. I can do characterization but am not good at plot, which is why the novels never progressed beyond setting the scene.
Cassandra: What role does/should poetry play in contemporary life? (How will the current crisis affect that?)
Joy: No different from other ages, I think. To add thoughtfulness and beauty. Always needed.
Cassandra: What is creative thinking? Do you see parallels between creativity and mindfulness?
Joy: It has to be a ‘dunno’ to this one! Except I suppose that mindfulness is linked to concentration on the moment – especially important when writing from seeing/observation
Cassandra: Do you have any contemplative practices aside from writing?
Joy: No, once I start feeling contemplative, I tend to drift off into sleep….
Cassandra: How important is ‘the everyday’ to you in your work?
Joy: I tend to bump into poems – I write a lot about things I see, things that are happening.
Cassandra: In which ways can poetry be a way to insight?
Joy: It’s a great clarifier and orderer of thought, and also produces things you hadn’t thought of…
Cassandra: How much of the author dwells in poetry? How is what you write affected by your gender, sexuality, age, location etc?
Joy: Very much, I think. We are informed by who and where we are in life. I see a special perspective, for example, in older women’s poetry. In addition. I have written plenty about being a mother, and also about being lesbian. Location comes into the ‘bumping into’ category for me as I have lived a somewhat nomadic existence, but I know for many poets it’s rootedness in where they live and feel a sense of belonging that informs much of their work.
Cassandra: I’m fascinated by the relationship between the author, a text and the reader… what do you think about that triangle?
Joy: Poets write I think primarily for themselves, but then comes the wish to share. However, all texts, once they’ve left the writer, become the domain of the reader so are subject to multiple interpretation.
Cassandra: If life is illusory, in what ways is poetry particularly suited to mediate this illusion?
Joy: I don’t see life as illusory – the quotidian is what interest me most.
Cassandra: You are also the poetry editor of Grey Hen Press. What do you look for in a poem?
Joy: A number of things come to mind – precise use of language, beauty, originality, humour, ambiguity, perspective – I could go on, but in the end it’s that elusive something that stops you in your tracks…
Cassandra: Is there a question I haven’t asked you that I should have? If so… please include it.
Joy: This has been thought provoking and enjoyable – thanks for picking me to interview!
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