Michele Seminara is a writer, poet and editor. She has published four books, her most recent being Suburban Fantasy (UWA Publishing, 2021), and has appeared as a panellist, performer and facilitator at numerous literary events and festivals Australia-wide. You can read a recent review of Suburban Fantasy here. Michele has been the managing editor of online creative arts journal Verity La since 2014 and is the media and communications manager for Canberra Writers Festival.
How has it felt to have your work published in print for the first time?
Suburban Fantasy is actually my second full-length collection. My first was Engraft (Island Press, 2016), and I've published also two chapbooks – HUSH, and Scar to Scar (written with Robbie Coburn). Having said that, getting Suburban Fantasy published feels no less exciting just because it's not my first book. It's challenging for even well-established poets in Australia to find a publisher, so I feel fortunate that the book found a good home. I'm also incredibly grateful to Terri-ann White, who was responsible for accepting the manuscript when she was with UWAP. She's such a great supporter of Australian poetry.
Has poetry always been a part of your life?
While I don't come from a literary background, I knew from an early age that writing was my ‘thing’. But while I've always loved reading poetry, it wasn’t until I turned forty that I began to write it. Now I read and write virtually nothing else. It must have something to do with age; I don't want to waste any time. For me, poetry is the most potent and moving distillation of language, emotion, imagination and spirit. As Gaston Bachelard writes in his iconic treatise The Poetics of Space, the poetic image ‘emerges into consciousness as a direct product of the heart, soul and being’ of the poet and ‘takes root’ in the reader. When a poem reverberates inside us in this way, it brings about ‘a change of being’. I love poetry because poems are capable of not just communication but transformation.
How would you describe the New South Wales literary landscape?
The poetry scene in New South Wales is vibrant. Many fine poets are working to keep poetry and poetry publishing alive. Unfortunately, this is marred by lack of funding – as we know, the arts are woefully underfunded, literature gets the least funding of all the arts, and poetry gets the crumbs of that! Sydney can also be an expensive, cliquey, and competitive city for poets. Perhaps that’s why areas like Wollongong and Newcastle have such vibrant poetry communities – poets can better afford to live and write there, and the literary landscape is more welcoming and supportive. Nonetheless, some wonderful writers are working passionately to nurture the literary scene here in Sydney – such as Angela Stretch, founder of Poetry Sydney, an organisation supporting live poetry performances and community.
Which New South Wales poets have influenced you throughout your career?
Les Wicks has been a major influence on me. Not just because of his own wonderful and sustained poetry practise but because of the way he quietly goes about supporting other poets and building up the poetry community. We need more like him!
Which Australia poetry collections do you recommend?
I want to give a big shout-out to my UWAP compatriot, Robbie Coburn. His collection The Other Flesh is a revelation. He’s such a fine writer – and still so young! I can’t wait to see where he and his work goes. Robbie is that rare breed – a natural-born, self-taught poet who doesn’t follow trends but writes from his gut and his soul.
It has been almost a year since Suburban Fantasy has been published – what is next on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a book-length series of poems inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’m in awe of the Comedy’s timeless depiction of human virtue and vice, and resonate with its themes of exile, self-discovery, and personal redemption. I feel drawn to write something that explores these themes within the current zeitgeist, particularly in relation to social media and its effects on human psychology, society and culture.
Suburban Fantasy is available to purchase.