Today I’m interviewing Erin Hanson, also known as The Poetic Underground. Erin is an extremely talented young girl whose poetry is now all over Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. Erin is 19 years old and living in Australia.
Let me just start off this conversation with the most typical question I'm sure you've already been asked a lot. At what age did you come up with the idea of writing your own poetry? What books/authors have influenced you the most?
There wasn’t any specific age that I decided I wanted to start poetry, I think it was just a continuation on from reading so many books as a child. I figure it’s just natural after reading stories that you would want to try and create your own. It was never actually a conscious choice of 'okay I’m going to write some poetry' until I was around 11-12 and had to write a piece for school. After that I was more aware that it was something I enjoyed doing, so I just kept at it. The majority of my favorite books are fantasy stories, which may be why so many of my poems have magical themes/characters/things that just aren’t possible in real life. When I was 13, I read my first ever fantasy series, The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke, and fell in love with all things mystical and magical which still continues today. I try to read an assortment of different writing genres though and take little pieces of inspiration from it all.
Reading your poems, I never would have guessed that you're only 19. It's incredible how deep you feel and understand everything going on around you. "If you catch the train to nowhere you'll find the strangest man I've met who claimed his ears were always ringing with the sound of his regret." How can you possibly understand the feel of true regret when you're so young? But, for some reason, you do. Do you personally feel more mature and developed that most teens your age?
Thank you! I wish I could stay 19 a little while longer but I've only got a month until I turn 20 which is scaring me a bit. I think it's impossible to tell how mature you are compared to others because there's no 'Gold Standard' for us to judge our maturity by. Maturity is just a giant spectrum that extends in all different directions – just because you're higher up in one aspect doesn't mean you're more mature than someone else. So I'm going to say no, I don't think I'm any more mature than others my age. There are a lot of things that my age group are interested in that I just can't relate to: I'm not a particularly social person and hence may spend a lot more time in introspection than others my age, but that doesn't make me more mature, it just means that my focuses aren't generally the focuses that you'd associate with the stereotypical teenager.
One of the reasons I decided to interview you is that you remind me of one of my all time favorite poets, Nika Turbina. She was born in Soviet Union and became famous at a very young age. She started writing at the age of six and published her first book when she was only 10. Her poetry was dark and extremely profound for her age. Here's one of the poems she wrote when she was only eight years old:
Nika died at the age of 28 when she accidentally fell out of an open window. There's a theory that she committed suicide because she was heavily depressed. I guess it all happened because she was a true prodigy and her talent set her apart from everyone, especially her peers. She tried to write poems at her 20s but she wasn't able to repeat her own success. Are you afraid of not being able to write so sincerely once you become older?
I’m not worried about not being able to write so sincerely when I get older because I already know that I won’t be able to. That's the whole point of growing up, I feel, to continually change your outlook on the world. If the things I write when I'm 29 are still the same as the things I'm writing when I'm 19 then I think it'd be more of a failure than a success. I hope I can look back on my writing in a few years and instead of wishing I still wrote like that, be thankful that at one point in my life I did because that's who I was in that moment and just because I'm not still that same person doesn't mean I've lost something or given something up as I've grown. Even now, I look back on my work from a few years ago when I first started my blog and cringe because of some of the things I wrote, but I know I can't judge myself for it because that's who I was back then and those poems helped shape my poems now. In a few more years I'm sure I'll be cringing at my current pieces, and that's how I'll know that I've improved. What I am worried about, however, is just getting to a point where I feel like I can't write anymore. I’m not sure what I'd do if that ever happened because even now when I find myself with particularly bad writer's block, I fear that I'll never write anything of merit again and that kind of worry can eat you up inside. I try not to worry about it too much and just focus on the present. The Internet is a fickle place and I'd be silly not take time to step back and be grateful for where it's brought my writing. My only hope is that I keep writing in the future, even if it ends up being only for myself like it used to be.
What's your creative process? Do you come up with the structure first and then you try to fill it with words or do you come up with a line that grows into an entire verse?
It changes around with every poem but most of them do have the same general structure. Usually I already know what I want the theme of my poem to be before I start writing and the first thing I come up with is the last 2-4 lines. I get so excited when I find a way to end a poem which gives it a little kick at the end, either something the reader wasn't expecting or something that drives the point home. Then after I know where I want the poem to go I'll just start from the beginning and let it grow from there. Using a metaphor is like word-weaving. I already know what I want the end design to look like, so when I'm creating it and a thread of thought goes astray, it's much easier to pull it back in again instead of drifting off in a direction I didn't plan on going. Other times I just start from the top and let my thoughts wander wherever they want to go, some of my favorite pieces have been created this way.