Interview With Poet Halli Lilburn

Welcome to today’s interview with poet Halli Lilburn for the National Poetry Month Blog Tour.  Please welcome her.

1. How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I’m boring!  My mind doesn’t come out my mouth.  I think the first thing I would do is sing.  Poetry put to music conveys emotion faster and lasts longer in people’s memories.  Then I would follow with this introduction; My name is Halli – it is a form of Hallelujah which in Hebrew means praise to Jehovah.  My middle name is Dee, which is Hebrew for delicate, weak, languishing and is a form of Delilah who was a false and treacherous woman.  So I love God, it’s true, but I’m not very good at it.

2.  Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why?

Spoken word is a social convenience for sharing art. It takes a certain type of poem where the sound of the words is an important feature, as well as the meaning.  Some poets, like myself, are not very good actors. The poem is lost in a bad performance.  The written word is not gone in a flash.  It is to be mulled over, reread, and pondered upon.  There is time for the reader to find hidden symbols and messages.  So unless I get a thespian friend of mine to recite my poetry for me, I would way rather have someone read it.  Even then, it’s disappointing to me if they only read it once.

3.  Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I can’t stand open drawers and doors.  It’s super anal I know, but if there is a cupboard or drawer left open it drives me crazy.  Even metaphoric ones.  I can’t keep secrets.  It eats me up inside.  If there is an unresolved issue I have to “close it” right away.  I don’t want to see the clutter inside.

4.  Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

Studying the craft of writing is essential.  No writer is so good that her art couldn’t use a little help.  Some of my favorites are continuing education classes on-line from ed2go.com.  Easy art journaling or creative writing class can give me a million new ideas.  I also rely heavily on NaNoWriMo or I’d never get anything finished.  Getting a personal e-mail from Lemony Snicket telling me I would never complete a 50,000 word novel so why bother, was the most amazing boost of motivational reverse psychology I’ve ever received.  Critique groups are always essential.

5.  Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

Art is made of two motivating components; therapy and impact.  There are hard times in my life when I used art for the sole purpose of therapy, but I don’t show it to anybody.  It will only make sense to me.  Readers think you’re an art snob, if your work is too cryptic.  If you create art solely for impact, then it ends up too extreme, fluffy or entertaining.  You’ll gather the wrong crowd.

6.  When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

Music and I have a complicated relationship.  I definitely have a soundtrack in mind when I replay scenes in my mind.  I’ll list the music in the back of my books as a suggestion to my readers.  But when I’m struggling to put the long form down on paper I have to have quiet so I can get inside the mind of my characters.  Luckily for me all my kids are in public school this year.

Here are five songs that keeping coming back to me:

So Heavy by Florence and the Machine
Kingdom Come by Cold Play
Hallelujah done by Jeff Buckley
Anything by Heidi Happy
Reasons Why by Nickle Creek
Blue Lips by Regina Spektor
Oops that’s six.

7.  Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

I reward myself periodically while writing as soon as I start to despise sitting for too long.  I love baking, especially cinnamon buns or butter tarts.  Yum.  I have hobbies like, gardening, painting, scrapbooking that I try to throw in once in a while.  I have to leave time to disconnect myself from a writing project so I can go back with fresh eyes.  When writer’s block hits it’s usually because I’m trying too hard.  If writing doesn’t make me emotionally drained, then I’m not doing it right.  I keep several projects on the go and I’ll switch back and forth. A writer can’t create constantly, they need to refine, edit, work on submissions and social networking.  That takes up a lot of time.

8.  What poetry books published in 2011 are you looking forward to reading or would recommend to readers?  Or which poetry books you’ve read have you recommended?

There are some journals that I am fiercely loyal to: The Malahat Review and the Antigonish Review, both Canadian publications.  When it comes to authors I must reveal my complete bias towards Tim Lilburn since he’s my uncle-in-law.

Here are some places where my work is available:

poetryquartery.com has accepted ‘First Kiss’ for their spring issue.
Seedingthesnow.net has accepted ‘Mother Tree’ for their spring issue.
Redfez.net has accepted ‘Messed Up’ for their spring issue.

Thanks to Halli for letting me interview her. I hope you are enjoying the National Poetry Month Blog Tour.


  1. I agree that a bad performance can ruin a poem, so being able to physically read it is important to me. Great interview!
    Anna´s last blog post ..Review- Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

  2. Wonderful interview. Always good to meet a new poet.
    Lydia K´s last blog post ..Know your Character- The Iceberg Test

  3. Thank you! this looks wonderful!