An Interview with Heather Grace Stewart


Leap, from the author of Where the Butterflies Go, is available for purchase at Lulu.com and Amazon stores worldwide.
It’s also available on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, and where all fine ebooks are sold. You can also order an autographed copy via Paypal. Contact the author at writer@hgrace.com. Half the proceeds from sales go to Hearts for Change – an Educational Project for orphaned children in Kenya.


Here’s an interview with the author from 2010:

Questions for a Poet, As Put to Seamus Heaney

Q: Some years ago, Seamus Heaney told an English journalist: “My notion was always that, if the poems were good, they would force their way through.” Is this now your experience?

HGS: Absolutely. Sometimes it comes through in a matter of minutes; other times, I write down a few lines, and the rest follows maybe a day or a few weeks later. But if it’s good, it all ends up on the page…and then typed into a document in my “Poetry in the works” file on my computer, and then, if I still like it after I’ve lived with it a couple weeks, I put it into a “Poetry to publish” file.

Q: Over the years, Heaney often quoted Keats’s observation, “If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.” Is that just a young poet’s perspective?

HGS: I think so. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. Sometimes I just need to sit down and force myself to write. Stop listening to the whining voice; shut it out, and just “do it.”

Q: Does this mean that a poem essentially begins for you when you find a form?

HGS: A poem essentially begins for me when I’ve found my voice for it; the form takes shape with the voice.

Q: Is there a poetry time of day and a prose time of day?

HGS: Used to be I used my early mornings for poetry and at sunset, and prose anytime, but now that I am a mother, it’s when I have a notepad, pen, and that spare minute when I’m not being asked to wipe a bum or put Barbie’s head back on.

Q: I remember Anne Yeats saying that her father mumbled to himself when he started to write. Would the Stewart household know that a poem was coming on?

HGS: In my household my hubby can usually tell a poem (for kids or adults) is being born if he comes home at 6:30 p.m. and DD is beside me doing a puzzle; a grilled cheese or rice is burning on the stove, and I’m soaking wet; just out of the shower in a towel with a focused look on my face, typing at the computer, “Just a minute, honey I have this idea…” And he’s so cool about that. He’s used to me by now. Now my daughter’s getting in on it, too. She looks at my face sometimes and says, “Mommy, what? Do you have an idea? Tell me, tell me, what is it? ” I try hard to be in the moment with her as often as I can, but the kid is smart, she’s onto me…so I usually end up spilling, because I don’t like to talk down to her, and sometimes, just by explaining it to her, she helps me better formulate the idea. Just wait, you guys are going to love our kids poem, ‘Cats Can’t Cook!’

Q: Do you ever feel burdened by the sheer amount of work you know it will require to do justice to a particular inspiration?

HGS: All the time. All the time. Right now, I’m trying to write a poem that’s going to do justice to this amazing group of people I’ve met online, and become close to over a year and a bit. Some might guffaw that you can make special friendships online. I beg to differ. I don’t know how I’m going to write something that truly speaks to this experience I’ve had. I think maybe they’ll help me somehow, because a lot of them are writers…actually, I’ve dedicated LEAP in part to them.

Q: How can you tell a poem is finished?

When it stops shouting at me. ;-)

Q: Do you keep a notebook of phrases and images for later use?

HGS: I have several notebooks, with penned poems/ ideas to type out later, and my images are saved on the computer by date.

Q: Does the poem come more quickly if there is a form? Would you be offended to be called a formalist?

HGS: I don’t think anyone would call me a formalist, but I definitely use techniques. Just not formally. Okay, seriously now, I’ve written haiku, tanka,
and Villanelles, using proper form. I just don’t like being weighed down by form. As Frank sang, I’ll do it my way ;)

Q: Do you have a preference for pararhymes and half rhymes over full rhymes?

HGS: I only use rhyme when it will only come to me that way, and even then, I hesitate to use it. I have to think about it first. I ask myself, is this form going to help the message or hinder it?

Q: Are you a poet for whom the sound the words make is crucial?

HGS: It’s all about sound for me. I love alliteration. Sometimes a poem starts out with words that sound great together; they just come to me and I have to write them down. For instance, I was walking to a Queen’s University class at 8 a.m. one rainy spring day in Kingston, and couldn’t get this line out of my head: ‘These are the days, quickly melting away,” (from the poem EQUINOX). The poem took off from there.

Q: Would you accept Eliot’s contention that the subject matter is simply a device to keep the reader distracted while the poem performs its real work subliminally?

HGS: To some extent. But I don’t do it on purpose. It must be subliminal. ;)

Q: What role does humor play in your poetry?

HGS: I don’t try to be funny. I don’t try to be anything. I just write the way I think, and I think people find my honesty refreshing and humorous.

Q: What are your thoughts about accessibility and obscurity in poetry?

HGS: Accessibility is probably my trademark: something I’m proud of and at the same time it’s my tragic flaw, if you will, because I’m so accessible, many journals wouldn’t be interested. I’ve managed to get several respected online journals interested, and printed ones in the UK, and even a Canadian textbook company sought me out. I’ve been published in international anthologies, including a very special one memorializing 911–Babylon Burning, edited by the great Canadian poet Todd Swift–and in a few print journals in Canada, but not the most “elite” ones–the ones that have been around almost 100 years. I’ve kind of given up trying because I don’t think it’s that important to me any more. I want to touch real people’s lives; not just the academics. I want to write something that might comfort a stay-at-home mom or a couple struggling with their love/ marriage or a depressed person looking for a glimmer of hope in a fast-paced world. I think the people I’m trying to reach are more likely to happen upon my poetry on the Net, not so much in the special collections rooms of their libraries. I know that people can understand my poetry without having to go look in some reference book (except for the odd references I make to items in the news, and even then I try not to be obscure) and that’s quite odd. But I can’t change the way I write. I guess I’m destined to be a Fridge Poet – the one that makes it to everyone’s fridge beside their kids’ finger paintings. And at the same time, to help a few children in third-world countries get the education they wouldn’t otherwise get. That’s just fine with me.

Q: And the avant-garde?

HGS: I’d love to be avant-garde. I’d love to be Avant anything. Ahead by a Century. That’s cool. I think some of my poems are there (for instance, my collection Leap features the concept of the Status Update as poetry), others, not so much, and I guess we’ll see which ones stand the test of time in 100 years. Well, no, unless I live to be 137, I guess I won’t see that. But whether they’re set in a classic or innovative style, as long as my words can touch a few people’s hearts along the way…for me, that’s really all that matters.

Thanks for reading! —Heather Grace Stewart

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November’s Sky

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November's Sky

November’s Sky

Meet me under November’s sky,
Where you and I are free to fly;
Where time and place do not exist;
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No rules, routines, and not one list,
Just you and I; a gentle breeze;
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No where to be; no one to please.

We’ll reminisce; we’ll laugh with ease,
You’ll say I still have days like these.
So say farewell, love of my life.
But kiss me here, beneath the trees.

Meet me under November’s sky,
Where you and I are free to fly;
Where you and I age like fine wine.
Meet me here. One last time.

No E-Readers In The Tub!

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Three Spaces

It’s now in stock, so get back in the tub, with your paperback Three Spaces, Rub-a-dub-dub!

NEW! CANADA  – paperback and Kindle  (or contact me to sign & ship you a copy using Paypal)

USA http://amzn.com/0986945897
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0986945897
Germany, Denmark: http://www.amazon.de/dp/0986945897
Italy: http://www.amazon.it/dp/0986945897
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00BG2EJ9Y

Thanks for reading and for sharing these links with anyone you think may enjoy my poetry, and prose and photography.

Heather

FREE in KINDLE STORE: THREE SPACES!

I just wanted to make sure you all knew that Three Spaces will be free in the Kindle store today, May 9, 2013, through to early Sunday morning. Don’t have a Kindle? No worries, you can go to Amazon.com and download their free reading software for a Mac or PC, desktop or laptop.
Just wanted to give my readers a gift this Mother’s day weekend. Enjoy!

THREE SPACES FREE in KINDLE STORE

IMG_9235_2Heather

FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK BOOKS!

Yup, you read that right. I love giving my books away, especially when I can sign them and ship them right to your door.  If you live in Canada, the US, the UK or Australia, this is your chance to sign up for a free copy of Three Spaces AND, included in the package, a free copy of my 2012 collection, Carry On Dancing. Hey, when I do things, I don’t do ‘em small :)

I’m really excited about this giveaway. Please do share about it – let’s give thousands of people who think they don’t like poetry a chance for me to prove them wrong!

My Goodreads Giveaway:

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/49443-carry-on-dancing

Please don’t forget to add my books to your “To Read” shelf if you sign up for this giveaway. Thanks!

Love,
Heather

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Bet You Didn’t Know!

My talented author pal Elisa Lorello tagged me in a blog hop, and I thought it would be a fun way for you to learn more about her, more about me (in the interview below), and to ‘meet’ some of my other talented author friends.

Elisa Lorello is a best-selling novelist and the author of four books: Faking It, Ordinary World, Why I Love Singlehood (co-authored with Sarah Girrell), and her latest, Adulation. Currently on sabbatical from teaching, Elisa recently returned to the northeast from North Carolina, where she is busy developing new projects (she’s superstitious and never talks about her works in progress!) and getting re-acquainted with snow. Elisa’s blog post will be about Adulation–perfect for Oscar season! Please visit Elisa at I’ll Have What She’s Having.

I am tagging the following authors in this ‘blog hop.’ Could you please visit them this week? I think you’ll love getting to know them and their work.

Arianna Merritt: Author, M.Ed., Learning and Development Specialist

Website: http://ariannasrandomthoughts.com

Nate Hendley: Author & Freelance Writer

Blog: http://crimestory.wordpress.com/  Website: www.natehendley.com

Mark Stratton: Poet/writer – poetry collection “Tender Mercies” available here: (http://radio-nowhere.org/nb/?page_id=766) and website here: http://radio-nowhere.org/nb

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…

AN INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER GRACE STEWART

Tell me about your writing process. Do you plan out what you’re writing  or sit down and do it? What was the greatest surprise about this writing process for you?

I plan to write, but I don’t always plan what I’m going to write. Unless I have a magazine deadline or I’m writing a presentation, I set aside time, usually 7:30 in the morning to noon, to write creatively. I try to avoid distractions like the Net and the phone until noon. As far as plot, poems just come to me and I go with the feel of the poem and then edit later. I’m working on a novella right now, and I did plot a little down on paper, including character sketches, but I find what works better for me is to just sit and write for a few weeks without any rules. Just stream of consciousness, every morning.

That’s been the biggest surprise to me. I didn’t realize plotting out can sometimes strain my writing. The Friends I’ve Never Met. was a story that just woke me up like an alarm clock at 4 a.m. every morning for several weeks, without fail, and I found I just had to go write this story down. After a few weeks I went back and made sure the plot and characters were working, and then I fattened everything up, and did many, many edits.

Ideas come to me in the shower, and especially while I’m driving alone, so I have learned to use a small tape recorder whenever I go on a road trip. I used to try to write on a yellow sticky note at the stop lights, but I could never read my writing later. I’m going to try texting myself, too!
What was your worst job ever? (doesn’t have to be about writing) and why? What did you learn from it?

When I was 16 I worked at a Rifle Range. I had to sweep up barracks and clean the toilets. That wasn’t so bad, but the army officer in charge was weird and made me put up heavy tents in the blazing July heat, and then take them down as soon as they’d been put up, as if I were in the army too. I experienced a lot of harassment and sexism that summer. I think it made me ballsier. I didn’t take crap from a boss ever again after that. Ha ha, maybe that’s why I work for myself!
If you knew tonight was your last meal for a week, what would you eat?

Probably many many slices of pineapple cheese pizza with green olives. And a pint of beer – Heineken or Tsing Tao- mabye even a Hoegaarden. And vanilla ice cream for dessert, with Smucker’s hot fudge on top. Okay this interview is making me hungry.


How do you feel about frogs?

 I have a special relationship with frogs. I truly love them! Besides being fascinated by the biology, like how they get oxygen through their skin, since I was very young, I’ve been able to catch them easily ( the other kids coined me the Green Lake Frog Catcher) and get them to stay on my palm for over 10 minutes with out hopping off. I rub their temples and pat them and they stay. I’m the Frog Whisperer.
Where’s your favourite place to chill out, and why?

There’s a private beach on Cape Cod ~ it’s actually the cover of my latest book, Three Spaces, and it’s so quiet and full of fascinating aquatic life. My daughter and husband love exploring it after the tide goes out late afternoon. We try to save crabs and starfish by throwing them in deeper. The private beach belongs to a small motel, and compared to other places we’ve vacationed, it isn’t expensive to stay there, but if I tell you any more it won’t be my favourite place to chill out any more.  :-)

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Give Yourself Some Breathing Space

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Hey there!
Just a thank you to all you Kindle readers for picking up Three Spaces in THREE countries!
I am thrilled that it has been sold in the Canadian Kindle store (Amazon.ca), the US store (Amazon.com), and the UK (Amazon.co.uk)  It has ‘charted’ as #1 in Kindle Books>Canadian Poetry on Amazon.ca and also hit #7 in Bestselling Canadian Poetry Books!

Yesterday was a very good day. Three Spaces was on best-selling charts in all three countries! #82 on Amazon.com in Bestselling Poetry; #84 on Amazon.co.uk in Bestselling Poetry Books (just above Milton- wow- made me laugh!) ; #7 in Bestselling Canadian Poetry Books on Amazon.ca.

While I try to take rankings lightly, as it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m selling a ton of books but just out-selling others in that category, I do try to compete with myself every time I bring out a new book.

I’m thrilled to say that this is my best-selling poetry ebook yet! And the first one to hit three bestselling Amazon charts at once!

Three Spaces will be out on Kobo, iBooks, Nook Books, Sony Reader and more soon.

Please do tell your friends about Three Spaces (share this post!). It’s got prose as well as poetry this time, and full colour photography for those nifty colour e-readers.

Thanks again so much for buying & sharing!

Heather

Review: Heather Grace Stewart’s Carry On Dancing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2012)

In the introduction to her latest book, Canadian poet Heather Grace Stewart describes what follows as ‘my small adventure’. In many ways, that’s a fair enough opening gambit. As she’s shown in Leap and Where The Butterflies Go, Heather is an accomplished and supple lyricist of the everyday and of the small miracles and telling moments which interrupt its routines (that some of these moments are also recorded in the poet’s own photographs is a bonus).

In this new collection, ‘Bookmarks’ is a finely honed example: a guitar sitting against a wall becomes ‘a bright reminder of/easier days’, but this souvenir of a personal belle époque is set against ordinary household chores – leaves being raked up outdoors, ‘the laundry,/left to fold’ – before the mood shifts and, outside, the sound of ‘laughter is the song/that fills/our sunlit yard.’ It’s a poem of only seventeen short lines, but it unpacks its momentary domestic occasion with the simplicity, precision and resonances of a pointillist interior. Similarly, ‘No Matter’ rises from its kitchen occasion to a dance ‘through the rainstorms/in this beautiful mess of a home’; while ‘Marilyn’ plays out a ‘little silly’ fantasy between ‘her Knight with Shining Briefcase’ coming home from work and ‘his spaghetti-stained/pinup girl gone wrong’ amongst ‘overpriced groceries, bills long overdue’ and ‘dinner thawing like their days’.

However, as the declaration of independence in opening poem ‘Enough’ puts it, ‘I am not my Facebook, my blog, or any of my Tweets,/I am not my purse, my shoes or my unmade bed’, and Heather’s palette extends way beyond these well-wrought vignettes. For a start, many of these poems are themselves shadowed by darker thoughts and suggestions, an often unspecified ‘dark matter’ – as in ‘I Melt’ with its plea to ‘let’s hold onto this picture’; in ‘On Days Like This’ with its admission ‘Sometimes I hold on/too tight’; or, more openly, in the first couplet of the William Carlos Williams-echoing ‘Maybe It’s Your Love’: ‘Maybe it’s your love/and all this death around us.’ Death haunts other poems, too – poignantly in poems about her daughter like ‘She Drew Me a Sky’ and ‘The Present’, and in the beautifully simple aubade and love poem which ends – and in many ways draws together – the themes of the whole collection, ‘Longer’:

just beneath

our breathing,

the humming fridge,

morning traffic –

The dead, they whisper:

No work that will not wait

till tomorrow.

Perhaps more so even than her previous collections, however, Carry On Dancing expands into poetry which addresses issues ranging from bullying (‘Words’) to gun law (‘Guns’: ‘the laughable laws/the ones that get made/and unmade/like an antique bed’) and war (‘Unrest’), whilst also demonstrating both Heather’s playful wit – ‘Kindlus Interruptus’, ‘Twaiku’ and a number of snappy ‘he said/she said’ dialogue poems – and fashioning of longer, more overtly performance-y style humorous and/or satirical pieces like ‘Boobies’ and ‘Should I Ever Become THAT Poet’.

All told, in fact, Carry On Dancing reveals Heather to be a poet who has very much come into her stride, leaving images and moments to speak (more than) themselves, but also confidently deploying a repertoire of styles and forms, from haiku and sometimes acerbic, sometimes aphoristic apercus to polished lyric, and deftly building ambiguities and embedded puns into the most seemingly direct turns of phrase: ‘with wired words they will write/my legacy, and get it wrong’; ‘she said yes,/no hesitation’. Perhaps Carry On Dancing doesn’t represent quite such a small adventure after all. (Tom Phillips)

Heather Grace Stewart & Carry On Dancing, March 2012

 

I’ll Meet You…

When I’m missing you

When I’m missing you, I walk to the river’s edge. Frozen or free-flowing, it soothes me;
sends me back to our small adventures. Stargazing. Fireflies. All-day swimming.
Long goodbyes. No matter how cold it is outside, our summers warm me,
and we’re together again.

Winter walk copyright Heather Grace Stewart

Posted for tonight’s dVerse poets Open Link Night http://dversepoets.com/ come join us!