Selected quotes from our interview of Australian poet Jane Williams

Jane Williams was born in England in 1964 and is based in Tasmania, Australia. She is a regular fixture at reading events across the world, including Canada, USA, Malaysia and Czech Republic and is the recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize which she won in 2005.

She came down to Malaysia last November and spoke to writer Lawrence Pettener at a coffee house in Kuala Lumpur (the interview can be found here).

It was followed up with another interview – through email this time. Below are Williams’ five best quotes from that correspondence.

Jane Williams on her reading choices:

“I’m a bit of a cherry picker when it comes to reading: recommendations from others, rummaging in second hand bookshops, through online journals etc. and periodically returning to old favourites. I usually carry a book of a particular poet about with me for months, sometimes years, before swapping over to someone else. I’m still reading other poets at the same time of course but I like the idea of having a ‘go to’ poet on hand literally in my bag wherever I am – for the sheer joy of it, the comfort, validation and inspiration and as the mood often takes me the delight in sharing with others.”

On the current poets that grab her right now:

“Well, I’ve been carrying the Irish poet Pat Boran around for quite a while now. I’m discovering new poets all the time. My partner Ralph Wessman and I run an online arts journal and this is a lovely and privileged way of coming across new work of poets I know and don’t know.”

On the importance of gaining feedback on her works:

“[It is] hugely important. More important now than when I was younger.

I’m not into poetry workshops and find it difficult to write in a group but I do get a lot out of one on one correspondence. I have a writer friend in America and we send each other drafts now and then fussing with each other’s work, I help him out with endings and he reminds me when I’m getting too fanciful and need to toss a few more concrete nouns in the mix.”

On the weak spots of her writings:

“As writers we all have our weak spots, potholes and blind spots. I think sometimes our strengths are what we need to keep an eye on, the yin yang of them that is. For instance people say I’m empathetic in my poetry and of course it’s pleasing to hear but the flip-side is I risk sentimentality, cliché … and sometimes it takes someone else to point this out to me. Others may have great descriptive powers and need to watch out they don’t overdo it, describing a thing to its demise.”

On why she writes:

“I write for reasons both known to me and unfathomable to me but ultimately I write to be read, to answer the call of other writers and to communicate those things I feel I fail to communicate adequately through other forms of language. I’m compelled to try anyway.”