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Prose is Walking, Poetry is Dancing – with Hazel Menehira
JUNE: Tell me a bit about yourself Hazel, and why you write?
I know a bit from your profile on BCC and meeting you at Tropical Writers – you have a very warm and engaging personality and a passion for words, but if I met you for the first time how would you introduce yourself?
HAZEL: I’d say Hi…it’s great meeting you…tell me about yourself first…Me? At 78 with 12 books under my belt I have been earning a livelihood from writing and teaching voice and drama all my life.
At 12 years I decided I would be an actress and my wise headmaster at a Hertfordshire Grammar School stated how precarious that profession was and maybe I should pursue journalism. I did both professionally as well as raising a dysfunctional loving family.
JUNE: How has your speech and drama background assisted your composition of poems, you often talk about ‘musicality of flow’, can you explain that?
HAZEL: Poetry has always been meant to be spoken aloud. Studying through years of theoretical and practical diploma examinations and listening to countless performers as a teacher and an examiner for the New Zealand Speech Board I have become aware that a skilful poet (prose writer too) achieves impact not simply through the meaning of words but through the sounds.
The study of voice and speech grounded me in the structure and qualities of sounds and its association with music. For example it has helped me appreciate the beauty and flow of long vowel sounds and the verve and crispness of certain consonant sounds.
Great poets like Dylan Thomas bring the magic of music to life in poems so listeners are enthralled.
JUNE: What did you enjoy most about being a journalist – at the Wanganui Chronicle? What were your biggest challenges with some of the stories you might be asked to write?
HAZEL: I enjoyed writing and communicating with so many diverse people I may never have met otherwise.
I was in journalism when it was one of the few professions that women could succeed in.
I learnt from the ground up in day to day hard work slog in practice. ..(not theory) with sub editors and management who knew their stuff, encouraged and mentored my work.
I began with Wanganui Chronicle in the advertising dept…and begged to be a reporter…
I began as a cadet and each year moved up a grade until I was eventually a sub editor, then woman’s editor, then arts editor and finally sometimes set out front pages.
I was also one of three staff on the papers midweek tabloid who wrote the features, took photographs editing it in total.
Biggest challenges: front page fatal smashes and royal visits.. court reports in limited time…starting (then maintaining) several new feature series that I began enthusiastically like ‘They work at Night’ or ‘Bouquet of the Week.”
The hardest part was working nights for morning press and early starts at 6.30 to deal with cable, read, collate and sort priorities.
Today’s wonder is words – I love them for what they convey, and authors like to play with them, and poets like to rhyme and make music with them. So the conversation with Hazel continues and touches upon readers and writers – there are many links to follow as she has such a varied interest in reading.
JUNE: Who have you enjoyed reading at different times in your life? Why?
HAZEL : I have been an avid reader all my life.
Definitely a lover of the classics in all genres. Why? Because they’re great!!!!
For my LTCL and FTCL I covered the development of English poetry and the novel and also history of theatre.
If I had to pick personal favourites – I guess for poetry: Dylan Thomas, Poe, Yeats, Hopkins, Wordsworth, Edna St Vincent Millay,oh so many… NZ poet James K. Baxter was a friend and great influence on me….novels again classics, Tolstoy, Brontes, indulgences:, New Zealand’s Janet Frame, British Catherine Cookson and historian Edward Rutherfurd…playwrights Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and Pinter .
I did my fellowship thesis on Tennessee Williams.
Seriously a lot of my reading has been spiritual or aspirational work ..Gibran, Krishnamurti, Rohit Mehta, Vivekenanda… much theosophically based writing. Blavatsky and Besant. I read lots of non-fiction and text books and nowadays international books for reviewing.
JUNE: Finally what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to write…WRITE… keep writing…no matter where you are or what moves you to put pen or pencil to paper.
Never discard a note or a line of your scribble…when you feel the urge make your first rough draft. Put it away for a time.
Remember good writers are re-writers. No matter how many drafts it takes keep going until you make a tight professional presentable manuscript that satisfies you.
If you want to write-read …read as many different types of prose as you can to become discerning about different disciplines and genres. Find out what works for you and for your readers.
Above all aim for tight prose….if poetry is your passion read poetry continually. Study prosody and the use of poetic devices to enhance your own poems. And ensure that compression is paramount to reduce over-wording.
Prose is walking…poetry is dancing. Writing is never a chore…but self editing can be.
Above all else maintain a healthy balance between the different worlds you move in and try to develop a balanced writing practice so that health is not endangered nor important relationships damaged.
Accept feedback willingly but pigeon hole only sound advice that works for you. Know that knockbacks and rejection slips are all part of the process
Write because you enjoy it….If you don’t enjoy it then play golf, garden or go fishing.
(c) June Perkins
(c) All Rights Reserved, June Perkins