Interview with Brisbane poet Mandy Beaumont
Rhiana Jay | On 07, Jun 2016
Mandy Beaumont is an award-winning writer and poet based in Brisbane.
I first encountered Mandy’s poetry 5 years ago, when my mother came home from an event at the State Library of QLD clutching a tiny red booklet entitled ‘Blood Haiku’. I’ve always had a penchant for the morbid, and as I lay in bed that night I read and re-read Mandy’s poem ‘To Make a City out of Conversation,’ which describes a murderer reminiscent of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. I had never read a poem like it before, and I remember feeling distinctly surprised and inspired by how eerie, dark and witty poetry could be, all at once.
Mandy’s creative writing has featured in numerous publications (including Australia’s Best Poems, Cordite and The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Journal to name a few) and earned many awards (including the esteemed MOTH International Short Story Award). If you’d like to find out more about Mandy and her work, head to her website.
TCI: How old were you when you started writing poetry?
Mandy: Gosh, young. My dad worked in the newspapers as a typesetter and used to bring home letters from the old printing presses. I remember sitting on the floor as he would have a beer with my mum after work and make up poems on the floor. So back then, I suppose. Dad is a big reader too, so it was always around. I remember finding Plexus from Henry Miller in my Dad’s room early on, and it changed shit for me. Changed shit.
TCI: What inspired you to start writing?
Mandy: I’m not sure that there was a defining moment as such, I just always have. It’s a compulsion, just something I do. When I was younger it was messy, unedited, unruly, very Bukowski like – with little attention to form or editing. Things have changed now, I’m much more focused on my writing as a craft.
TCI: Do you have a particular writing process?
Mandy: I’m very, very organised. I plan a lot, I have themes and ideas and stories running around in my head for months before I put anything on paper. And I edit. A lot. I also run stories out. I start a run in the morning and plan to ‘work though’ the idea of the story before its finished. So yeah my process – running, organisation and time.
TCI: Is writing a very therapeutic practice for you?
Mandy: It helps me understand the world better, so yes I’d say so, but so does whisky and travel, – so its one of many things that make me a better person.
TCI: Do you undertake any strict daily/weekly writing rituals or exercises?
Mandy: I write best when I’m fit and active, when I’m busy, when I have deadlines. A perfect day for me is going for a long run in the morning, making a juice, sitting down to write hard all day, then in the evening cooking up a storm in the kitchen for my partner, with some very loud music on (currently it’s Jack White and Curtis Mayfield). Solitude, routine and music are some of my favorite things.
TCI: Who are your favourite poets/writers? Which writers are you most inspired by?
Mandy: Shit, big question. I don’t write poetry that much anymore, I mostly write literary fiction, so my tastes have widened considerably over the last few years. I’m a HUGE fan of Eimear McBride. She’s such an outstanding writer. I’ve always loved Andrew McGahan, Charles Bukowski and Nick Cave. Each make me feel glorious and alive. Sharon Olds is also a firm favourite. I recently devoured Clive James’ poetry book, Sentenced to Life. It’s his farewell to the world and I sat in a coffee shop/bookstore in Dublin for hours crying and drinking tea. The poem Japanese Maple in it, is outstanding. Outstanding.
TCI: What do you hope to bring to others with your poetry?
Mandy: I don’t think it matters what I want it to bring to others. The idea that the writing no longer belongs to me once it’s out there and published, that it belongs to the reader is a huge comfort to me. It takes on a life and meaning of its own. It no longer matters what I want it to say. It matters what the reader wants it to say.
TCI: Do you think that people have misconceptions about poetry and it being somewhat inaccessible?
Mandy: I think that it’s a valid point that poetry feels inaccessible to some. I think some poetry is, some poetry feels too big, too academic in its tone and theme. Your dabbler in poetry won’t engage with that, wont feel it in the pit of their stomach.
I also hear a lot that people feel uncomfortable or out of their element at poetry events or readings. And I also think that’s a very valid point. It’s a very ego driven art form at its heart. But that’s not my bag. I don’t go to readings or really engage with other writers, I just go my own way, own my own shit, make my voice my own.
TCI: What is the importance of ‘poetic terrorism’ (taking poetry out of its traditional setting between the pages of a book and into more confronting avenues) in your opinion?
Mandy: I’ve done a lot of it myself. It’s important. Poetry is everywhere. It’s in the litter on the street, in the fights of strangers at the shops. Don’t be limited to think that poetry is only available on the page. It isn’t.
TCI: Do you have any particular hopes for the future of poetry?
Mandy: You know, I want to say something prolific here, something that will make people go wow, she’s got some vision, but honestly I don’t. I like where it sits in popular culture. I like its outsider status, the way it challenges. I just hope that people keep writing. It’s such a good thing. It’s such a powerful thing. It can and has, changed the world.
TCI: And finally, any advice for aspiring writers/poets?
Mandy: Bukowski can say this one for me ‘“If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it. Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.” Writing, for most of us, won’t make you a fist full of money, its not going to get you laid, or get you expensive coats and drugs. Its just not. My advice is to keep the day job, write every day, perfect your craft. Do it for the pure and utter joy of putting pen to paper.
Mandy’s poetry collections are available online, or from Junky Comics in West End. You might even find her poems plastered around ol’ Brisbane town (remnants of her ‘poetic terrorism’ for the Brisbane Festival last year).
Image credits: Helen Kassila photography, theguardian.com, jacketmagazine.com, mandybeaumont.com