Simon Kindt is an artist quickly rising among fans of verbal play and rhythm. As a full-time teacher, father, and part-time poet, he is juggling paycheck responsibilities and a little bit of spoken word performance and beautifully written poetry on the side. But we want more than just a side dish from this newly discovered talent. Although Simon may be surprised by his immediate popularity, we at GTH are not, and that is why we are excited to promote Simon as a featured artist.
The first time I read one of Simon’s works, I immediately responded with “I must have this in my house. Framed.” The impact of the images in his poetry and microfiction is immediate, so much so, I wanted to display it on my mantel… you know, next to my wedding photos and such.
GT: On WordPress you publish micro-fiction and poetry. At what moment did you realize that you were a poet?
SK: HA! Well, funny story actually…. The short answer is that I ‘realized’ that I am a ‘poet’ only about two weeks ago. The long story is that I was one of those angsty, brooding high school kids who wrote notebooks full of incredibly bad poetry, never really shared it with anyone (which was probably a good thing) and hid it under my bed like I was stockpiling ammo for some strange apocalypse that was never going to come. I had ambitions and notebooks full of fragments and the like but, other than taking a single unit creative writing course at university (which was really just filling a timetable blank); I didn’t do anything to really pursue it. I graduated from university in 2003 and started working as a teacher and rapidly found that I had very little creative energy left at the end of the day and that was essentially the end of any real ambitions I had. I just poured myself into the profession.
Fast forward nine years to 2012 and I’m getting itchy feet, I’ve written absolutely nothing for about 8 years and I’m becoming conscious of a strange kind of loss. At the end of 2012, I decided to write a farewell poem to a group of incredibly inspiring young people I had the privilege of teaching that year. So I wrote it, performed it and then something in me just let go.
Since then I’ve been WordPressing, slamming and open micing my way into this beautiful community of writers and performers online and within the Brisbane spoken word family. To finally answer your question, the reason I say it was only two weeks ago is because I was doing an interview to promote the Brisbane Emerging Arts Festival, an event in which I performed, and one of the interviewers introduced me as ‘Simon Kindt, a Brisbane poet’. It sounded odd hearing it the first time; I think he picked up on me feeling a little awkward about the title and we ended up making a bit of a joke of the title itself, but it was like someone stuck a badge on me if you know what I mean. I think sometimes we need institutions or other people to define us back to ourselves and to give us that moment of self recognition. Maybe it’s a kind of ‘mirror stage’ in which we need to see a coherent image of ourselves as ‘other’ and then find a way to step into that identity. Like stepping onto a stage, I guess. For me, that has only happened very recently.
GT: You have recently become involved with Speedpoets, Can you tell us a little bit about their initiative and how you became involved?
SK: Speedpoets is one of the cornerstones of the Brisbane spoken word culture and has been running since 2002 (I think) in one form or another. In its current form, it’s a monthly open mic event run by Graham Nunn and fellow travelers. It consists of a series of open mic rounds (including rounds with a live band performing to bounce poems off) with feature performers between rounds, book launches, a monthly call back and some of the most elegant beers you can find in Brisbane.
I became involved with Speedpoets through a kind of osmosis, I suppose. Brisbane is still a very small city and as a result, the spoken word scene is very tight and the various events cross promote to push the culture along. Perhaps I’m a bit starry eyed but I really feel like the spoken word scene in Brisbane is focused on building culture and building community rather than competitiveness or posturing; as a result, when you step through one door and are willing to get involved, people are always ready to walk with you through the next one.
GT: Much of your work is written in prose form with free verse stanzas. Are these pieces written intentionally for spoken word performance? If so, how does this influence your writing?
SK: Someone whose opinion I value very highly made the observation recently that my writing seems to ‘walk the tightrope between spoken and page’. I wouldn’t say that I write specifically for performance but I imagine that being part of the spoken word community in Brisbane does shape my writing. In a practical sense, I guess that I use free verse as a means of having the latitude to convey something to the reader/listener without feeling bound to a particular structure. Having said that though, I do use structures at times; I think being conscious of little structural elements like iambic patterns and making use of little ‘gadgets’ like rhyming couplets to close off pieces can create a much more satisfying experience for the listener and gives a sense of purpose to, not just the message, but the communicative medium as well. For me it’s about using structures when I see a purpose, but not feeling bound by them.
GT: Micro-fiction is in high demand now that technology plays an important role in a time-sensitive society. Information is distributed very quickly and time is measured. In some ways, micro-fiction is a condensed narrative. What inspired you to write micro-fiction? Have you considered longer works?
SK: I know that as a reader I find myself losing track of narratives and characters at times in longer forms largely because I am most engaged by imagery, metaphor and the language itself. Some writers have such extraordinary deftness to their use of language that matters of narrative and characterisation are anchors to the beauty of the writing. As an example, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is a book which I have never actually managed to finish and yet it is one of the most exquisite pieces of writing I have ever seen. The reason I’ve never really finished it is because each sentence is a poem in itself and I’m constantly losing myself in the honey rich language.
I think that micro-fiction and poetry allows me to concentrate on language itself rather than narrative arcs or complex characterisation. I do see narrative and character as having a presence in my work but I see them as anchors rather than the ship, itself. Does that make sense?
GT: Yes, you aim for creativity with linguistic aesthetics rather than a linear plot. A lot of people say this is the sign of a poet.
SK: Of course I do agree that one of the appealing aspects of micro-fiction (and the same applies to poetry) is that it is easy to access in a time poor world. With a full time teaching load at work, a toddler to chase around at home, events and performances to go to on weekends, I am gravitating more and more towards short forms. I would love to be able to sit and read for hours at a time but that’s just not really possible at the moment. In terms of writing, I don’t have ambitions to work in long forms, probably for similar reasons of being time poor but also because I feel most drawn to the precision and clarity required by shorter forms.
GT: Novice poets are often curious to understand the behind-the-scenes work of other poets. Do you mind describing your poetical relationship with words? Are you methodical and intentional? Are you spur-of-the-moment, inspired by sudden revelation? Do you have a dictionary at your right and a thesaurus on your left?
SK: I don’t think I have developed a really specific ‘process’ as yet. I seem to go through periods in which I churn out lots of ‘fragments’ and unfinished drafts without really finishing anything, then having alternate periods in which I am more deliberate and measured, focusing on refining and finishing pieces. I guess it’s a process of alternation between divergence and convergence: divergence to churn out lots of rough material then convergence to refine and finish it. I am a chronic redrafter. I never really work in pen and paper as I’m constantly moving, deleting, undoing and redoing. Working digitally is the only way I can do that without feeling frustrated. I use my phone and tablet a lot to record ideas, images and fragments that I will later develop further. I have a cloud drive that syncs across all my devices and means that wherever I am, as long as I have WiFi, I can access all my notes and drafts.
GT: This definitely sounds like the beginning of a “process.” The creative process has evolved immensely: from pencil and paper, to typewriter, and now a tablet and cloud.
SK: I tried a new approach to the divergence process recently where I set myself a challenge to write a single short piece everyday which was inspired by Daniel Grey, a microfiction writer from Brisbane. Essentially, I committed myself to publishing a completed piece of micro-fiction or short poetry every day for a month, using Facebook as the publishing medium. The work I produced in that time became the basis for a number of pieces that evolved later into longer, more complete works and I’m still drawing on those fragments at the moment to develop some new pieces. The discipline required to do that was difficult to muster at times but I managed and it really pushed me into a more creative and divergent headspace than I usually work in. My plan is to use that process again soon to generate some more ‘raw material’ for some new projects.
GT: New projects? Care to expand? Do you have any plans to publish?
SK: I recently performed an eight minute collaborative piece with a wonderful Brisbane poet named Betsy Turcot that drew on our experiences as parents. The process of linking separate pieces into a coherent whole that has a kind of narrative or thematic ‘arc’ to it was really interesting. While I don’t have any specific plans right now, I guess I would like to be able to develop a series of ‘sets’ that have a kind of narrative or thematic unity to tie them together.
GT: On your blog you write, “I suppose I’m another one of those poorly ironed white collars that got halfway up the career ladder and realised it had left something behind. For me, that ‘left behind’ was writing which I returned to at the end of 2012 after a long time focused on other things.” I think this is extremely common for artists, especially young artists that are out of school and are searching for that full-time position to pay the bills. What advise do you have for artists who are struggling to make time for (and in some cases a living from) their artwork?
SK: Ha! Well I am definitely the wrong person to give advice in this area. I can only speak for myself here and I think that we all need to find our own way. As I mentioned earlier, after high school I really moved away from any ambition I had and started to see writing as having less and less of a role in my life and my identity. In fact, in 2008, I basically boxed up all of my old notebooks and everything I ever wrote, drove it to a local dump and threw it in. It probably sounds like dramatic posturing but it really wasn’t. I felt sad admitting it but I really felt there was nothing in me worth writing from I just didn’t see any reason to hang onto it any longer.
When I started writing with a focus in 2012, I started to reflect on why I had thrown it all away and why it is only now at age 33, that I am actually seriously pursuing this thing. And to be truthful, I think I needed to spend that time not being a writer in order to be a writer now. I am a great believer in listening before speaking and I think I spent the last 33 years just listening. I think of that time now as being like one (very long) breathing in. I’m breathing out now. And it’s nice.
GT: Experience becomes the muse of the writer. Do you believe in the saying “write what you know”?
SK: Not necessarily. Some of the pieces I am most satisfied with are ones that don’t have a particular experience as a point of origin. Drum 2 for instance is entirely fictional in terms of the subject matter but I do feel that I drew on memories of places in order to give it a sense of authenticity. It’s a tricky question because to say that one writes from what one knows implies a degree of authorial intent which is hard to sustain. It’s even trickier when we think about what the act of writing is; to me it is, in a sense, a means of inventing knowledge.
The question is whether or not other people will share the experience in a positive way. That’s of course what we all aim for. As to figuring out how to make that happen… well, who knows? We all try our best though.
GT: Thanks so much, Simon, for sharing a little of what you know, your poetry, and inspiration with GTH. Please let us know when you have upcoming events and publications!
SK: Thanks for the opportunity to share my work! Cheers!
Learn more about Simon Kindt and follow his creative works on WordPress at SimonKindt.WordPress.com.
Interview by Reagan K Reynolds