Melinda Smith makes a lot of art. She is a poet willing to experiment, and, invariably, the experiments pay off. Whether with form, or seeking out incisive and vital new content, her work interrogates language and society. It’s reaped the rewards of recognition in the form of the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry and in being viewed as a poet who balances openness and play with a concern for social justice.
We have a society . . . in which artists are free to do and say mostly what they like without being . . . thrown into jail for it, and we should celebrate that fact and use it to aspire to be a society in which there is a lot of art for everyone.
Melinda SmithPoetry in Process Podcast, 28th February 2019
Melinda’s forays into form include traditional lyrics, but also poems that prise phrases apart to find new ways to speak. She is particularly open to the use of fragment and found materials. Her work is also notable for its experiments with point of view, taking on the personas of diverse historical and contemporary characters. Smith seems to work at times almost in the manner of a method actor. In our interview, she likens herself to a novelist who hasn’t yet written a novel, but uses character, setting and plot in diverse ways in her writing process. Found material also aids her in creating new voices. Despite the seriousness of many of her subjects, Smith’s work remains playful and surprising. She talks about bearing witness in this interview and holding up a fractured mirror which might produce work that’s rich and strange enough to have another life beyond the moment portrayed.
I hope you find the podcast inspiring and enriching. Please post any comments below. Thoughts, ideas or discussions about the process of writing poetry are much appreciated.
Melinda Smith is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Goodbye, Cruel (Pitt St Poetry, 2017) and Members Only (with artist Caren Florance, Recent Work Press, 2017). She is a former winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry, and her work has been widely anthologised and translated into multiple languages. She is based in the ACT and was poetry editor of The Canberra Times from 2015 to 2017. A selection of the misogynist language poems discussed in the podcast will appear in a chapbook called Listen, bitch, out from Ampersand Duck / Recent Work Press in October 2019.