Five questions for Heather Hartley

August 7, 2007

Heather Hartley is the Paris Editor for Tin House Magazine out of New York and has been based in Paris for the past four years–writing articles, poems and conducting interviews. Her literary essays and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthologies Food & Booze: A Tin House Literary Feast and The World Within: Writers Talk Ambition, Angst, Aesthetics, Bones, . . Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Post Road, Forklift Ohio, Mississippi Review, Tin House, Calyx, Kalliope, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. Her poetry manuscript Knock Knock was a finalist in the 2007 National Poetry Series.

Heather will appear at the next meeting of the Bardroom, scheduled for August 15th.

Heather Hartley1. What was your first (poem / piece of writing), and how bad was it?

“‘The Splur’ was the first poem that I remember writing–I was 8 or 9 years old. I typed it out on my mother’s fancy medicinal-green typewriter. The Splur is a bird // that likes to fly high. // Would you like to be a bird? //I would like to be The Splur. // (This is direct paraphrasing.) This was also my first experience with that grown-up, mysterious, sexy machinery of a typewriter. In the end, I think that the typewriter may have fared better than the poem, although The Splur was finally published: in my Snoopy Scrap Book, page 1.”

2. What word best describes the writer scene in your town: lame, poser, hip, upandcoming, hibernating?

“Honestly, all of the above apply. I would also add that the writer scene in Paris is exciting, filled with franglais, and beyond that very multi-lingual. There’s just about one of everything for everyone–from readings, to workshops, to gathering literary groups, little salons, poets, readers, poetasters, critics, quacks, bookstores galore, support groups, hidden corners, beggars, cafes, crazies, and more…depending on the season and the part of the city.”

3. What’s the last thing you read that made your hair stand up on end?

“Boris Vian’s L’ecume des jours (Foam of the Daze). (See short explanation below.)”

4. What’s the last piece of literature that made you cry?

“Boris Vian’s L’ecume des jours (Foam of the Daze). I can only urge reading Foam of the Daze for the double experiences of your hair standing up on end and crying–though not necessarily in that order…and maybe both emotions happening simultaneously.”

5. Does poetry matter anymore?

“Given the words of Calvin Trillin about the shelf life of the modern hardback writer [replace with poet/playwright/et al] being somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt, I would say that the shelf life of poetry is somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt left out on the counter over an August weekend during a heatwave. Add to that the general rise of lactose-intolerant consumers, and you could come to the conclusion that poetry doesn’t matter in the least–that it’s not even in the fridge.

“But it is in that small cusp of time, I think, before the milk sours or the yoghurt becomes frighteningly lumpy–forgotten or thrown out–that the essential and beautiful in poetry is evident and crucial. That poetry matters. As ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ so go forth and drink your milk quickly, but drink from the entire glass and savor every bit of it. Bring it to the Budapest Bardroom to share with others. Yes, poetry matters.”

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