Camille Gower: You’re a poet, researcher, teacher, essayist, home brewer and band member, among a host of other things. How does having such a variety of interests help to fuel your creative process as a writer?
Astrid Lorange: For me, writing is an activity that requires an enormous amount of energy from a variety of sources. I can only write if I have excess energy. I'm powered by mental energy, so I need to be reading, thinking, talking and teaching to provide me with the material for poem-making. I'm an occasional home brewer (with my friend Alex) and even more occasional band member (with my husband Ed), and those two modes provide a different kind of nourishment – the former slows the body down and the latter warms it up.
CG: Do you have an ideal setting for writing, or does inspiration seize you at any given moment, like when you’re doing the grocery shopping?
AL: I've never been one to be motivated by inspiration. In fact, though I enjoy moments of sudden recognition or extreme interest, I'm not certain I actually believe in 'inspiration' perse. I see writing as something with (at least) two distinct modes: one is ongoing and continuous, a mode of inhabiting and reading the world; the other is an acute, often incredibly difficult practice. And I mean practice in a literal way. That is, something that you do over and over again, that you gain some strength and agility in through repetition, and that is never quite finished or certain.
CG: Your keynote address at the Emerging Writers’ Festival looks at the future of the writing industry in Australia. While the industry is constantly changing, what would you say are some of the consistent principles of ‘good’ writing?
AL: Good writing comes out of voracious reading, conversation and critical thinking. Good writing is willing to make a wager, and willing to change its mind.
CG: Great writers including Sylvia Plath and Vladimir Nabokov suffered some pretty harsh initial rejections before finally being published. Did you face a similar uphill battle before your talent was recognised?
AL: Of course! And I'm certain I'll face plenty more in the future. But I'm lucky because my publishing experiences have all been with independent presses that are run by people I know and respect greatly. So for me, publishing is something done collectively and with support from my various communities. Poetry is, above all, social.
CG: Do you think the next generation of writers is heading into a receding or flourishing industry?
AL: Some things are receding and some are flourishing – more importantly, new things are happening and new modes are possible. I think it's a tremendously interesting time to be a writer. There are countless ways to imagine a text and its distribution. Sites like Gauss PDF (curated by J. Gordon Faylor), which releases new works in digital formats, are publishing exciting work quickly and with instant access. On the other hand, small presses like Vagabond continue to release exquisitely produced short-run chapbooks. The co-presence of the digital and the physical forces a really productive consideration of materiality. There's amazing work being done in micro and long-form essay writing, and there's also some criticism and theory that is working hard to make connections between these emerging modes.
Astrid Lorange gave the keynote address at the launch of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and will be hosting a conversation on Contemporary Poetics at the Writers’ Conference, Saturday May 25, 11am.