Heather Spears, Vancouver-born writer and artist, has lived in Denmark since 1962. She has published 13 collections poetry, five novels, and 3 books of drawings. The Creative Eye (Arcturus 2007) is the first of a series of non-fiction books on drawing and perception. Spears has won the Pat Lowther Award three times (latest 2002), and The Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Her newest collection is I can still draw (Wolsak and Wynne 2008). She specializes in drawing threatened infants, and has exhibited widely in Europe and America.
(More info on my homepage www.heatherspears.com)
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
My brother aged 7 composed a couplet that rhymed. I believe it was boys and toys. What a revelation! I was 6 and I tried as well. The poem was about a view. One of the couplets was “Up on the hilltop a child doth stand/ a lunch in her hand.” I was laughed at for this but thought it was all right as the child had after all trudged up the hill and would be hungry.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
Often from drawing. Often when I can’t do a drawing for some reason. Sometimes from current things I read or see on TV, anything outrageous.
What is your writing process?
I write by hand.
What is your revision/editing process?
The best poems, I wait till they are matured (the idea of them) in my head, write at one go. I can edit on the computer but it is not much fun.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
If yes, how did you get started? If not, why not? Yes, and in grade school. On my own I set myself to write poems in every poetic form I came across. I entered the rare school contest—maybe 3 in my whole school time—and won twice, was accused of copying once. I wrote poems for friends to submit and same thing happened. One contained the lines “Wawan-nesa the wind’s daughter/ Trails her long hair on the water” which a friend submitted and was told her onomatopaea was good. I did not know what that was. Another was the made-up story of Lost Lagoon and the friend got in trouble for copying it out of a book. Writing poetry had nothing to do with school and we were not taught the poetic forms or encouraged to write in class. We had to memorize and recite a poem in Grade 8 and I stood by my desk and recited Birney’s David.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
I would say steer clear of sites and textbooks and read (and memorize) lots of poetry.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
I was encouraged by published poets when I got to University. Was in the first Creative Writing class at UBC. High school students nowadays have many opportunities to meet poets, publish their work and have it read, at that time poetry was a very private happiness. It was probably fine to get on with it myself at that stage and learn the craft through imitation. Students in all the arts are unfortunately encouraged to be “creative” before they learn the craft—music somehow excepted—and this is too bad. You have to be an apprentice for a long time.