WinterARTS 2016 preview: An interview with poet Paul Hetherington

WinterARTS 2016 preview: An interview with poet Paul Hetherington

As part of the UWA WINTERarts 2016 season hosted acclaimed Australian poet Paul Hetherington is running a workshop called "Prose Poetry as a Contemporary Art Form", hosted by UWA Publishing. We got the chance to interview Paul, and catch up with him at the Sturmfrei Poetry Night on Thursday 28 July at the State Theatre Centre


IN What do you find to be state of the current “poetry scene” in Perth?

PAUL: The poetry scene in Perth seems to me to be vibrant and various. I read at Voicebox the other night and really enjoyed the positive spirit in which the readings were conducted and the eclectic mix of material presented. 

IN Do you feel that there is a general enthusiasm for writing and reading poetry here, and how does that compare to the rest of the country? Is Perth a place that is conducive to poetry?

PAUL: There does seem to be a real entusiasm for poetry and cultural activities in Perth. Perhaps during a time of economic uncertainty people are even more responsive than usual to the extraordinary rewards offered by the arts in general, and by poetry in particular.

IN: O Captain, My Captain - Dead Poets Society is probably one of the most popular films about the art of poetry, and I have always wondered: What do actual poets like yourself think of the film?

PAUL: I saw the film when it was released and it seemed to me to encapsulate a great deal of the transformative possibilities offered by a genuine engagement with poetry. 

IN: Are there any films or tv programs about poetry, based on poets or their poems that you would highly recommend to people, and why?

PAUL: I’d certainly recommend Il Postino: the Postman, directed by Michael Radford. It’s a quirky and entertaining film about the age-old connection between love and poetry—and it features a depiction of one of the 20th century’s most important and popular poets, Pablo Neruda. 

 "Burnt Umber" by Paul Hetherington - on sale now at  UWA Publishing

"Burnt Umber" by Paul Hetherington - on sale now at UWA Publishing

IN: In your latest collection, “Burnt Umber”, there is a section, aptly titled “Mythology”, where your poems dive into Greek mythology, with multiple references to The Minotaur, Prometheus, and Icarus. Can you tell us more about your collection, and just what is it about Greek mythology that inspired you to dedicate a whole section of your book to?

PAUL: I have loved the Greek myths since I was a child, and have always wanted to write poems connected to them. The section of poems called “Mythology” is an attempt to rewrite a few of these myths in ways that will resonate with contemporary audiences. I have always been attracted to the wonderfully imaginative qualities of these myths, and their emphasis on struggle and transformation.

INSpeaking of, there is a piece in The Guardian that suggests that stories of comic book superheroes – like Superman and Captain America – may be the Greek mythology for our modern times. Would you agree with this sentiment?

PAUL: Such comic book superheroes undoubtedly do play some of the same roles in our culture as mythological stories did in ancient Greece—and also in other ancient cultures. However, the Greek myths seem endlessly rich and suggestive in ways that comic books don’t usually aim to be (as entertaining and as interesting as many of them are). 

IN: This Friday You are running a workshop called “Poetry as Painting”, which is about how visual imagery energies poetry. What is it about visual arts so complimentary to poetry?

PAUL: There are significant connections between poetry and the visual arts. Many paintings and photographs strive for ‘poetic’ effects, and poetry makes a great deal of use of visual imagery. Both art forms provide fresh ways of seeing, representing and understanding the world, imagining and depicting it in new ways.

IN: What is your favourite song or record right now?

PAUL: I've just rediscovered Alt-J's first album, An Awesome Wave, and I've been listening to Paul Simon a fair bit. So nothing very new there I’m afraid.  

IN: Do you have any advice for all the budding poets or writers in Perth?

PAUL: I don’t have any general advice for other writers, except to say how much pleasure and satisfaction writing has brought to me throughout my life.


Paul will be running a workshop called "Prose Poetry as a Contemporary Art Form" on Saturday 30 July at Lovehouse, Nelands. 

The workshop will "introduce you to key prose poetry techniques and provide the opportunity to write your own prose poems. It will emphasise the importance of working imaginatively and figuratively with language, and of making prose poetic works that are open and suggestive rather than closed"

Register for the workshop here!


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