Isabella G. Mead discusses the inspiration behind her debut poetry collection 'The Infant Vine' with UWAP intern Samantha Hearn

Interview Isabella G. Mead Poetry Samantha Hearn The Infant Vine

The Infant Vine by Isabella G. Mead is a poetry collection that explores the reality, love, dedication and wonderment of motherhood. In this interview Mead shares her experience with poetry and discusses the inspiration behind The Infant Vine with UWA Publishing intern Samantha Hearn.


Isabella G. Mead headshotIsabella G. Mead was born in Hobart in 1989 and grew up in Melbourne. She is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Monash University and holds a BA from the University of Melbourne and an MA (Digital Humanities) from King’s College London. Her work has been published widely, including in Meanjin, Island, Westerly and Cordite Poetry Review. In 2023, she was shortlisted twice for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. She lives, works and raises her young family on unceded Wurundjeri land. The Infant Vine is her debut poetry collection.


What was the inspiration behind The Infant Vine?

Many of the poems in this collection were written in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was at home with a baby and a toddler. In what felt like an instant, my world simultaneously contracted and expanded. Despite the exhaustion, it was a highly generative time—I felt sensitive to emotions and attuned to imagery. My children amazed me. Even my dreams felt more vivid and urgent (the poem 'Bonnethead' was based on a dream I had about human-shark babies and parthenogenesis). I spent a lot of time listening to a white noise machine looping through its water tracks, and walking, sleep-deprived, through local parkland. There were poems in all these small, seemingly insignificant moments.


The Infant Vine is your debut poetry collection, how are you feeling about it being published?

Excited and nervous in equal measure! It has been a dream of mine to publish a book of poetry and, to be frank, it still feels like a dream. I’m not sure if it will feel more real when I have a copy of the book in my hands.


What role has poetry played in your life?

Poetry has been a constant in my life. It allows me to interpret and reinterpret the world; to see things—relationships, places, history, systems—anew or askance. For example, I came across the poem 'Occupation' by Suji Kwock Kim the other week and I have been turning it over in my mind ever since. Poetry is changing me all the time.

There was a time when I stopped writing poetry (I was working full-time in the publishing industry), but I never stopped reading it. The books that I have bought or borrowed or been gifted—a dog-eared copy of Wisława Szymborska's Monologue of a Dog; my mum's 1985 copy of The Poems of Lesbia Harford, inscribed by a friend—feel like treasures. I look forward to passing these on to my children when they are older.


Which poets have influenced you throughout your career?

At school, I read Sylvia Plath's 'Morning Song.' At the time, I thought it was the most remarkable thing I'd ever read. Recently, I read Claudia Rankine's Plot and now think this might be the most remarkable thing I've ever read. Other influential poets to note include Alice Oswald, Eavan Boland, Tracy K. Smith, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Gwen Harwood, Marianne Moore, Jane Hirshfield. And I can’t forget Ursula K. Le Guin for both her poetry and prose.

The great thing about poetry is that it has such a rich and varied tradition. It is also constantly evolving, and I am forever learning. I am sorry to have come to the work of Refaat Alareer late; every time I read 'If I Must Die,' I am stopped in my tracks, moved beyond words.


The Infant Vine by Isabella G. Mead


When did you start writing poetry?

I feel like I've been writing poetry forever, although I probably started in earnest as a teenager. I had my first poem published in Voiceworks magazine when I was fifteen. I remember it so well—I was in Grade 9 and experimenting with a side fringe and wearing long, lace up boots. The thrill of receiving my copy in the post and seeing my words in print was like nothing else. The poem was about the moon. I am still writing about the moon almost twenty years later!


What are the most challenging components of poetry writing? And, if any, how do you overcome these?

I love the process of redrafting poems but knowing when something is finished can be challenging. I try to look for where my attention 'snags' in the writing as this usually indicates something is amiss. For example, the phrasing might be off, or an image isn't working. When I can read through a poem without any snagging, I know that it is finished—or as close to finished as it can be.


Do you have any advice to people who are wanting to write poetry?

This advice is commonly given but I think it is important: read widely and read out loud when you can. When I am stuck for ideas, I turn to ekphrasis, one of my favourite forms of writing. Writing in response to visual art or artefacts is a powerful way to attend to language, image, the self. I would recommend this form to anyone, including those looking to start out writing poetry.


What do you hope readers will take away from this poetry collection?

The poems in this collection attempt to speculate on an unknown future, which feels increasingly menacing, and to capture a present moment that feels precious, weighty, alive. I hope readers will take this collection as an invitation to exercise their imaginations; to consider care, especially how we care for children (our own and others); and to rethink (reimagine!) our lives under capitalism and climate collapse.


The Infant Vine by Isabella G. Mead is available for pre-order and is out on 8 July 2024.


Samantha Hearn is a Curtin University student who is in her final semester of postgraduate studies, completing an MA of Arts, majoring in Professional Writing and Publishing. She has a love for reading, writing and literature (specifically in the fiction genres) and has a passion to work within the publishing industry. 

Samantha Hearn | LinkedIn


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