Thursday, 7 August 2014

Poets on their Pamphlets: an interview with Kristen Roberts

Kristen Roberts
We're in the final month of our call for poetry pamphlet submissions, so I've asked a few of the Emma Press pamphlet poets to write something about their experience of working on their pamphlets. First up is the lovely Kristen Roberts, an Australian poet based in Melbourne. We published The Held and the Lost, an Emma Press Pick (a short, illustrated pamphlet), back in February 2014.


Hello Kristen! Can I ask you to describe your pamphlet?

Hi! My pamphlet is a collection of poems about the happiness that we find in the sense of belonging, of just being with family and lovers, and then the sadness that swells around us when someone we love leaves or dies. I write what I think of as everyday poetry – sort of conversational, and less structured or formal in style – so the collection feels a bit like a written snapshot of everyday life. I think Emma captured its spirit beautifully with a calm, yet melancholic blue cover.

Why did you decide to submit it to The Emma Press?

I find the passion and creativity behind the Emma Press publications so appealing, while the size of the pamphlets makes them a perfect step for someone like me who does not have a large body of new work ready.

I first met Emma and Rachel via Skype when I had a poem published in The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse, and found their enthusiasm was infectious. And Rachel’s pamphlet is just gorgeous, so I wanted one with my poems in it! I was so keen that when I saw the call for submissions I responded almost immediately, and now that I’ve seen the other pamphlets that were released this year I’m really glad I did it.

How did you choose which poems to include in your original submission?

I had some favourite poems, some published and others shiny and new, that I knew I had to send in. I’m not always brilliant at identifying my strongest work; sometimes it’s the unexpected pieces that treat me well, so I pulled together a range of poems that wove into a common theme with my favourites (I seldom actually write with a theme in mind, so it was interesting to see how much of my work fit within this idea of love and loss). When I had a group that I thought worked, I picked out the ones that I thought best showcased my voice and style.

When did you write the poems?

Some of the poems are a couple of years old – a few had been published already, and others were sitting in a file on my computer waiting for the right opportunity. There were others I’d been working on in the year leading up to the submissions window, giving them the occasional stir and leaving them to simmer, and there were a few that I’d only written very recently (they were still raw in the middle!).

How did you come up with the title?

Hmm… it’s terrible of me, but I don’t actually remember! I do remember liking that ‘the Held’ referred to both those I hold, and those who feel held, and that ‘the Lost’ could refer both to those feeling lost and those who have been lost. It was only a working title in the beginning, but I think it grew on us all.

What did it mean to you to have your first pamphlet published?

Gosh, it was the most fabulous opportunity, and a lovely validation that I should keep up this writing thing. I’ve been writing for years in the spaces between my young children’s needs, stealing snatches of time while they slept or played in the garden, and while I’ve had single poems published in journals and anthologies, nothing feels better than having a gorgeous little volume of poetry with my name on the cover. It’s my turn, and it made all the hard work worth it.

What kind of a reaction have your friends and family had to The Held and the Lost?

I’ve had a fantastic response! My family and friends were incredibly supportive and proud, and all bought a copy without me even having to hint. Some of my favourite reactions have been from those who don’t ordinarily read poetry. I think some were surprised to find themselves enjoying the experience - they’d find certain poems that resonated with them, and then they’d come and discuss them with me! I’ve loved it.

What advice would you give to people preparing their pamphlet proposals for this round of submissions?

Go for it! Give yourself your best chance by showing off your range and voice, pull together the poems that illustrate a cohesive idea, and be brave.

* * *

'Night music', a poem from The Held and the Lost, was recently up for discussion in Poem Club – read more here.

1 comment:

  1. It was lovely meeting KR and hearing her work for the first time at the Williamstown Lit Fest. I've forgotten who it was who said 'I shall write about the creak of the washing basket' but KR writes exactly about that, the 'everyday', very well indeed. And 'The Held and the Lost' as a title alludes so nicely to that. Well done KR.