|Isabelle Kenyon (Freelance Editor, Book Marketing Consultant, and Managing Director of Fly On The Wall Press) interviews Elisabeth Horan on|
her new book, Was It R*pe (Rhythm and Bones Press)
How do you brand yourself as an author?
Experimental, feminist. I write about women for women. I would say I am an advocate for mental health and I’m brave in my writing – I say things to the world that I’ve never been able to say without my pen and paper. I write to increase awareness – for example, my debut collection, Bad Mommy Stay Mommy, with Fly on the Wall Press, increases awareness of postpartum depression. I feel like I am a loving and caring poet and that when I write it is a gift, I want the poems to do a job and make a difference. They express my identity as a mom and the mistakes I have made in my life are part of who I am.
What drove you to write Was It Rape?
I started writing it during the week Christine Blasey Ford was giving her testimonial to the court. It brought back memories of when I was 16 and was a victim of sexual assault. It was hard to hear – the pain of watching led me to an intense period of writing. I realised if she was brave enough to stand up in court and give that testimony that I could write a book about my experiences.
Do you think your poetry stands alone or is it essential to know something of your back story?
I think it can stand alone. But if you know personally, it becomes more intense – If you know my vulnerability the experience digs deeper. Often I have friends who find it too painful to read my work. But I have to write my truth. I like to think the message I try to share with others – to hold on keep hope alive, and that sense of solidarity is universal and can stand alone.
Do you think it is important to speak publicly about personal traumas?
It’s important to write so that readers know they are not alone in their experiences. So much of my life I allowed to be dictated by my past trauma. I’m not a person who deals with trauma well – it’s not a choice – it’s led by my sensitive nature. I see the beauty, but life is interwoven with pain. This comes out in my writing. It’s just who I am. It’s what I know about and feel the most.
Which writers and artists influence you and why?
I have always admired Frida Kahlo since I became aware of her in college. I studied in Mexico for a time and connected with her deeply. I endured a miscarriage, and ensuing hysterectomy and equally, Frida survived so much pain but continued creating art. I just have huge admiration, respect, love and care for her. I have undertaken to write ekphrastic poems about her art and her life as a tribute to her.
I think my room was No. 14
one time my pastor came
I think his name was Mark
he came to visit
I suppose to bless me
and the nurses, they asked me
May he come in
And I didn’t know what to do
so I said no
but I have wondered
all these 24 years since
Might I have succumbed to Jesus;
might I have been reborn,
maybe even saved
on the life raft that
I would’ve saved all
that disgusting food
the hangovers –
All that wasted energy
from trying to kill myself
Mark, the pastor
came to visit and
in fear of Man/God’s eye
on my – body
On my sin.
I never opened the door
to let him in.