Interview: Poet Andy Jackson
How long have you been writing for?
As long as I can remember, but probably publicly since the mid-90s. The scene back then was different than it is now. It was 90s, grunge era. It made sense to go to a dingy, stinky sort of pub with an open mic and read poetry. I guess what was important back then was self-expression, using language and being public. And I guess the entry for me was always a physical presence, being together in the same room.
What do you think has been the influence of the internet on the writing scene?
It’s a paradox, isn’t it. It is really a lot easier to find out what’s going on and put it in your diary and say “yes” to everything but not actually turning up because you know they’ll be something else. For some people it’s really great, if you’re really stressed about being in crowds you don’t have to be there. I think it would be good if there were more events that were less stressful and/or more accessible.
What are your ideal writing conditions?
I really need expanded periods of time, sort of the sense that it could be a day, an hour, the sense that I don’t have a lot of other things that I have to do. I’m also doing a creative writing PhD at the moment so for me it’s kind of work as well. It’s intense and very self-directed, you have to be committed to making progress over time. But It’s like an extension of what I’m doing anyway.
How do you cope with the pressure surrounding others’ achievements on social media and what you yourself are working on and achieving?
On the one hand its poetry so it’s always going to be marginal. Public achievements are always minor. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s kind of just the rainbow. The thing about going from open mics to having books published is that it’s very gradual, each thing you do is like “oh wow that’s fantastic” and then a few weeks later it’s not so special anymore. I’ve been lucky enough to not think too far ahead. I’ve never planned a career or had a goal. It’s always been what do I want to write next, what am I interested in and then what am I going to do with it.
I often feel because poetry is so marginal I feel like “I want to write something that is important” but that maybe I don’t do that sort of political. You’re more likely to connect to other people not by writing something universal but writing something particular. It’s kind of counter intuitive but people will translate it by either relating to it or seeing differences and finding subjectivity.
Do you try to reach a niche or certain audience?
It sort of relates to being highly sensitive. If I’m thinking where do I fit in? It’s a small step to start thinking, “I shouldn’t do this, I should do that” because I need to fit into this space here. It can be inauthentic and can also not be very pleasurable. If I’m just writing what I’m interested in doing, it’s so much more enjoyable.
Also relating back to the the thing about shared space. You just go and see what happens. I think in terms of finding a niche, it is partly about following your intuition. You look to see what other people are doing, because you’re interested in what they’re doing, you're passionate and its important to be an active part of a community.
Andy is a poet from Melbourne. He has performed at dozens of events and festivals (including The Age Melbourne Writers Festival, Brisbane Writers Festival, Prakriti Poetry Festival [in Chennai, India], Goa Literary & Arts Festival, Australian Poetry Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Clifden Arts Festival [Ireland], Newcastle Young Writers Festival and Overload Poetry Festival), had poems published in a variety of print and on-line journals, been awarded grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria, been the recipient of an Australian Society of Authors mentorship, and self-published two collections of poetry. He has been awarded residencies from Victorian Writers Centre, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre (Perth) and Asialink. He is also an infrequent collaborator with musicians, sound artists and other writers.
Check out his website and poetry at Among the Regulars