Interview with Poet Kirsten Warner (GRITTY, DANGEROUS DOLL)

 1) What is the theme of your poem?

The theme of this poem is how to turn disappointment into something useful for myself, how to transform that deadly blow into art.

2) What motivated you to write this poem?

I was not long-listed for the New Zealand book awards which I expected, although I later won best first novel. It seemed that all my work and hopes and dreams were for nothing.

3) How long have you been writing poetry?

I have seriously been writing poetry for about 15 years.

4) If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would
that be?

Michael Ondaatje. He’s such a wonderful writer, he comforts and inspires me.

5) What influenced you to submit to have your poetry performed by a
professional actor?

I want to take my poetry out into the world beyond the confines of my small country, New Zealand. I perform my poetry, I can always hear it. This seemed a wonderful opportunity.

6) Do you write other works? scripts? Short Stories? Etc..?

My novel called “The Sound of Breaking Glass” won best first book at the New Zealand book awards in 2019, and the Hubert Church Prize for Fiction. I am working on getting an e-book up and a book trailer. I have written short stories and television programmes.

7) What is your passion in life?

Writing was my passion but only poetry remains a passion now. Music is my other passion. I play and sing in a folk-blues band called Bernie Griffen and The Thin Men.


Watch the Poetry Reading: 

Performed by Allison Kampf


I forage for her, the doll of my disappointment

a spray of brittle twigs
a faggot of fallen fronds
crusty sticks with lesions of lichen

crouched over, calling up my ancient sister.

Then it is only a matter of seeing and she takes shape.

A forked branch and spindly legs start running,
over-wide arm-span
shock of invisible fingers
guts hanging out
circulation unspooled
half a skirt of flax flowers,
all bundled together
leaving a strong stick where her head will go.

Overnight she stands sentinel,
my doll of disappointment,
through my sleepless 4 AM and discarded novels.
My insides agitate like giant kelp in a blowhole.
Somewhere a strange crying
but each time I get up the whimpering stops.

In the morning the pillow is wet.
I’m flimsy yet my ache weighs heavy on the bathroom scales.
I count my losses in the vanity’s distorting mirror.
It feels like something died. Like I never had a chance.

I craft her head from crumpled cellophane
and glinting, spooky transparency,
attach a savage halo
consider lengths of yarn the violent red of secobarbital
but she’s done. I nurse the day

while she fossicks in the underneaths
grubbing out contagion,
cursing humbug and sideshow
drowning out the comfort of friends
muttering spells to turn my gaze away
daubing herself with horse manure
full of grass seed that will eventually sprout green.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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