Thursday, February 10, 2011


Cow forthcoming March 2011
Spinifex Press RRP $24.95
SUSAN HAWTHORNE spent some months on a writer’s residency in India in 2009. Cow is the resulting collection of poetry. Through a main character - Queenie, a cow of many abilities and a history that takes in the creation of the universe - readers come to see the world in new ways. The collection draws on the author’s knowledge of ancient languages and its structure draws on philosophy and the Sangam poetry tradition of South India.

1. What does travel do for the poet?
SH: It gives you a fresh perspective on life. Makes you rethink you way around language and sometimes it makes you smile.

2. Is your new book as focused as the single word title might suggest?
SH: Yes Cow brings together everything I have ever known about cows and a lot I didn’t ever know. It’s the content centre and the structure. I almost believe that the universe is a cow!!

3. What would your new book be about if you hadn’t gone to India?
SH: It would have been much shorter, because the cow in India is everywhere. I haven’t ignored Australian cows but they do not carry the symbolic weight of cows in India. I would never have found the number of images or metaphors. I think it would be a much more mundane book.

4. What was your favourite moment in India this time?
SH: One of my many favourite moments was when a young woman (about 16) in a temple asked me if I wanted to see God. I had to say yes.

5. Is there a poem about it?
SH: There is a poem called What If This Is God

6. How did this visit change your writing?
SH: It changed my writing because I read a lot about Tamil Sangam poetry and that became part of the structure of Cow. Also because I had almost a year away from my day job, I had time to explore all sorts of different poetic approached. I wrote a poem a day for the year and just that kind of regularity of writing means that you get to try lots of things. Some of them made the collection, some will never!!

7. How did the writing change you?
SH: How did it change me? Hard to say. I think it has given me more confidence as a poet. The editing experience has also been really good. I worked with Jordie Albiston and her responses made me work harder, and turned a few medium poems into good poems.

8. Is there a particular Indian poet we should all be reading?
SH: Everyone should read Sangam poems from 2000 odd years ago. I especially like AK Ramanujan’s translations.

9. You are an aerialist as well as a poet and often combine the two – what’s the best pen for writing upside down?
SH: The body - and then the voice - is the best pen for aerial poetry.

10. How does Australian poetry look from up there?
SH: I think Australian poetry is really healthy – lots of experimentation and some truly wonderful writing. Pity so few ever make it into international markets.

11. What question do you wish people would ask?
SH: What’s the sound of the universe?

12. What’s the answer?
SH: Oom – which is moo backwards.

Rhythm & Muse is an occasional conversation with poets that Lizz Murphy has met.
© Lizz Murphy and the guest poet

No comments:

Post a Comment