Fem: Who was the poet who inspired you to start writing?
Maddie Christie: Elisabeth Hewer (http://elisabethhewer.tumblr.com). I came across her poem ‘obituary for the princess who forgot to be a fairytale’ and I fell in love with her words; I wanted to create the same feeling in other people as she did in me. I’d always considered myself a writer but never really thought of poetry as an option for myself until reading that poem. I started exposing myself to other female poets, such as Clementine Von Radics, Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Plath and I grew surer each day that I should be writing poetry.
F: You describe your genre of choice as alt-lit poetry. How does alt-lit poetry differ from conventional or traditional poetry?
MC: I think in terms of the poems themselves, alt-lit has a tendency to flout the rules of syntax; you can read a line in a poem and think ‘that doesn’t make sense’ but it does and it works. I used to write conventional poetry, a mimicry of other online poets I liked, which were often personal stories, recounted in simplistic language with imagery as the focus, but I think it can grow tiring after a while. I found alt-lit style poetry takes risks; it doesn’t have a clear meaning oftentimes, but that’s half of the appeal. Also, it’s often really interesting structurally because it’s shared on the internet.
F: Why are you particularly interested in writing about the millennial generation?
MC: Millennials are interesting to me because they’re in between; they don’t quite fit into this world. A lot is expected of them and then often not acknowledged. There’s been a huge transition, especially technologically, from when we were children and we’ve had to learn to adapt. We grew up with change and now we want it in the rest of the world.
There can also be this tendency among older generations to view as us privileged and spoiled, simply because we haven’t grown up with the threat of recession or World Wars but don’t acknowledge our voices or the struggles we face, simply because they might be less obvious.
F: You self-identify as bisexual and mentally ill. How do you utilize your poetry as a means to advocate for marginalized groups?
MC: I largely use my poetry as a way to bridge the gap between myself and other people who feel the same way but might not realise. I often just want to do something as illuminate the experiences that queer and mentally ill women face, especially where they intersect: how alienating it can feel to be a part of these marginalised groups, how it can feel like the world’s not meant to you. Hopefully, to those who share my experiences, they can identify themselves in my works & know there are things out them specifically for them.
F: One of your primary topics is anxiety. Do you draw on personal experience?
MC: Absolutely; I’ve had a lot of anxiety in my late teens and I’m often quite focused on my experiences with it, how it changes my perception of the world. One of the most regular things I experience with anxiety is not being able to breathe. You can’t do anything if you can’t breathe. You can’t talk, you can’t move, so a lot of my poetry comes back to this, in a desperate, grasping sort of manner.
F: Do you think that there is a connection between language and stigma for marginalized identities?
MC: Completely. I think I have a slight tendency to notice these things, simply because I study language and surround myself with language as much as possible.
You’ll often hear it in casual conversation something like “The weather is so bipolar today” and it really, really gets to me. It shows ignorance; it reduces how serious the mental illness is. Bipolar is more than just a shift from up to down, it’s a serious & debilitating mental disorder. That’s not even taking into account the negative connotations the word “psychotic” has grown to have. It means “someone who experiences psychosis” not “someone who is evil”
The same thing happens with queer sexualities; the amount of times I’ve heard someone using the term “gay” to denote something negative and when I’ve asked them to stop using it, they continue using it. They don’t see the damage it can cause because they aren’t the ones being damaged by it.
F: How can we go about using poetry as protest to call attention to struggle and injustice?
MC: Poetry can be used as another medium to spread information, something that might catch someone’s eyes. Some of the things I’ve read that have informed me most about the struggles that other people suffer from in the world, things I couldn’t possibly ever experience myself, have been poetry. Because of the nature of poetry, often it’s incredibly powerful and will strike close to home. I think the most important thing is supporting the voices of those who have suffered from injustice. Then, other people can hear them, other people can spread their own stories and hopefully, soon, a call for change will come.
Madeleine Christie is 19 & lives in New Zealand, but has a yearning to see the bottom of the ocean. Currently studying classics & linguistics, she excels in loving other people’s words & is trying to do the same with her own. Her poems have previously appeared in Germ Magazine & the Rising Phoenix Review. More of her work can be found at http://vespairs.tumblr.com