The Monthly interviews a young New Zealand poet, Sarah-Kate Simons – Part 2 – Subject Matter

part one of this interview is here

Some of the poems you write have a very dark subject matter. Can you say that reading that kind of material is enjoyable?

In the case of darker subject matter, it’s about translating that into something that is readable. The harder parts of human existence need to be brought into the light and discussed, and turning them into poetry is a great way to do that.

Some of what I write emerges from things I have read in a newspaper or seen in news reports, but from there the same writing process applies. I will think about an issue, I will consider it, and I will imagine what it would be like to be that person in that particular situation, or to be the people on both sides of the equation, and I will work on those ideas and shape them into a poem.

International Page and Stage – One Year On – Sarah Kate Simons – Reading begins at 1hr 24min –

News articles can be very distant and bring about a level of disconnection from the experience that makes it hard for the ordinary person to relate to, so I will think through a situation and wonder what would it be like if that was me, or what those people in that article would be feeling.

Beyond that, if it is a very tough issue that I am working with, I will spend a lot of time and effort on trying to present the experience accurately and honestly. I strive to make the subject matter as accessible to the reader as possible, but I don’t believe in dumbing down the issue for comfort.

How are you learning the craft of writing poetry?

A lot of credit has to go to my mum. She is the one who gathers together all the resources, and she works with me, encourages me and offers me as much help as I need. I did go to a young writers’ school for about two years when I was younger, around the age of ten or eleven. Unfortunately as we live rurally, I found the travelling to get there exhausting and it just wasn’t working for me. Mainly I work at home using online resources and doing online workshops.

Is there anyone you’re influenced by or who you admire?

I find I am influenced by a lot of ideas and lots of information, but I think if I have any true poetic influences, Shakespeare would be that influence. I love Shakespeare.

Once again, my mum got me started on his plays and I just loved the stories and the use of language, the rhythm, the poetry. I found it really beautiful and it’s something that’s really inspired me.

William Shakespeare

Ironically—and it feels a little criminal to say this—many of the people whose lives or story-telling ability have inspired me the most aren’t actually famous writers. There are plenty of local NZ poets, ordinary people, or people in different lines of work whose podcasts I’ve listened to and videos I’ve watched who have inspired me to pursue my dreams, to discover new mediums for art and storytelling, and not be afraid to talk about issues that do involve darker subject matter.

Do you have much of an online presence?

Not really. We just don’t have social media at home and so I don’t use it that much. I don’t pay much attention to that side of things.

Where to now?

I am very keen on writing and see that as a career I would like to pursue. I am hoping to do some courses at the New Zealand Writers College after I finish school this year, and of course I would like to publish a poetry anthology and one of my novels.At the moment I am working slowly but surely and just writing as much as I can.  Different writing opportunities do keep coming up and I’ve been really surprised at little successes here and there.

I won the Junior Haiku section of the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition in 2021 and there have been other poetry competitions I have done very well in. Recently I won the HG Wells International Short Story Competition. At the moment, things are going quite well and I just want to keep building on that.

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