Poetry Muse:Heather Nolan + Land of the Rock: Talamh an Carraig
This week on Poetry Muse we are joined by Heather Nolan, author of Land of the Rock: Talamh an Carraig (Breakwater Books). Heather shares a list of poetry collections she admires, her advice to aspiring poets, and how she began writing this collection while travelling in Ireland for the first time.See more details below
Who is your muse?
I think my inspiration is in constant motion, so it would be difficult to pin the term muse on anything constant. I am often inspired by walks, essays and overheard snippets of conversations.
What inspired you when you started writing your poetry collection? And what is your creative process when you begin writing?
This collection began with the poems I wrote while traveling in Ireland for the first time. Having grown up with such a rich Irish cultural identity, I was taken by the dissonance of expectations. After the trip, I began mapping out the structure of the collection, and then set to work on the first section, Southern Shore. This project required a lot of travelling to the places I was writing about in Newfoundland and Ireland, writing from within place.
I am not a great fan of structure, ritual or habit. As a neurodiverse writer, I work best when I have the flexibility to work when I can, for as long as I can.
When did you start writing poetry and why did you choose to write poetry over other forms of literature?
I actually can't remember whether I came first to poetry or fiction, and both impulses have developed alongside each other since I was a child. I still actively write both. For this particular book, poetry felt like the best way to present the narrative arc while crafting the acute attention to place, landscape, and individual moments of identity that populate the book. It also felt like an appropriate nod to a classic form of storytelling inherent to both islands.
How would you describe your poetry collection?
Three words: identity, landscape, journey
What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
Read more! Write more! Edit more! I find an absurd amount of aspiring poets don't particularly enjoy reading poetry, and it astonishes me. The best way to improve any craft is to critically observe the work of the others, and to learn what works and why. I also believe that the best way to become a good writer is to learn how to edit and be edited. It is so satisfying to finish a piece, and I know it is tempting to call it finished then, but in reality the work has only just begun. Learning to turn a critical eye on your own work, and to accept criticism from others, is such an important part of the writing process.
Are there any poets or poetry collections that you admire?
Congratulations, Rhododendrons - Mary Germaine
Crow Gulch - Doug Walbourne-Gough
Short Haul Engine - Karen Solie
Small Fires - Kelly Norah Drukker
The Debt - Andreae Callanan
Caribou Run - Richard Kelly Kemick
Paradoxides - Don McKay
Ocean - Sue Goyette
Ariel - Sylvia Plath
these are just some of the dog-eared collections in my frequent re-reads pile.
Does music inspire you when you start writing poetry?
Only the music of ocean waves, river sounds, rainfall, that sort of thing. I often listen to nature sounds when writing, but I find music too distracting. Though I Am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkle became something of an anthem for the long drives associated with writing this book.
A poem from Land of the Rock: Talamh an Carraig
abandoned house in aquaforte
sickly green of old man’s beard
cascading from cupboard door.
paint peels like lichen
on swollen chipboard.
we step high over settlements
of buckled floorboards, laid
by those who tried to root here, make it
to the kitchen. east corner wilted away
by time. In the empty space
where the wall once stood,
in and out of doors
exchange breath –
carpet thick with moss, kitchen sink tangled
in raspberry canes out front. no point
trying to keep anything out,
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Heather Nolan is a neurodiverse writer from St. John's, Newfoundland/Ktaqmkuk. She is the author of Land of the Rock (Breakwater Books, 2022) and This is Agatha Falling (Pedlar Press, 2019) which was shortlisted for the ReLit Award and longlisted for the BMO Winterset Award.
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During the month of April, you can buy Land of the Rock: Talamh an Carraig and any one of our other featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code ALUPOETRYMUSE. Or find them at your local independent bookstore!
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