The Last Word with Matt Hetherington

Matt Hetherington talks to Amanda Anastasi about For Instance: a haiku & senryu collection.

Many consider a three line poem with any reference to human life to be traditionally a senryu, rather than a haiku. However, your poems seem to be a combination of the two poetic forms. Do you find this merging of human nature and the world of nature inevitable?

Everything is inevitable.

Why the title For Instance?

I think haiku and senryu are essentially about capturing something of an instant in experience, as an example of events in the world that are beautiful/sad/humbling/funny/poetic/enlightening etc…so they are all dedicated to the instant[s].

Have you ever started writing a poem of length and ended up reducing it to a haiku, or vice versa? If so, is this a frequent occurrence?

No, but I’ve sure written plenty of very short poems. And not very many long ones. I think the odd early haiku of mine might be a bit long, too. I have a different attitude when writing haiku/senryu than other poetry, more based in the senses, and envision them as a kind of snap-shot, which is why the first part and third part of the book are written overseas – I purposely didn’t take a camera, in order to write them about what I observed. It’s also a really nice way to remember those things, and in a way makes the memory of them more vivid than a snap-shot with only a camera would.

Ants feature a lot in your poems. And snails…but mostly ants. Why?

Someone once asked some old Zen master, ‘Where is Buddha?’, and he replied ‘In the ant.’ I just really love insects, and ants are easily observed, maybe…Grant Caldwell writes about ants a lot, too.

Which one of your haiku do you most want people to read, if you had to choose one?

Notice how I chose TWO…I think my favourite overall might be

a snail
begins to cross
a highway

and from For Instance, maybe:

drunk again the moon in a puddle

What is your favourite word?

Warm. Or cudgel. Or we.

Name the poetry collection that you have kept returning to.

The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry [ed. Paul Auster]

Poetic self-portrait: in no more than seven words, describe Matt Hetherington.

I’m irreducibly vast and also quite humble.

For Instance by Matt Hetherington (Mulla Mulla Press) will be launched in Melbourne on Thursday, 9th April 7.30pm at Red Wheelbarrow Books, 105 Lygon St, Brunswick East.

Amanda Anastasi