Every month, Writer’s Edit selects one work to feature as our Poem of the Month. This year we’re going behind the scenes of the writing to discuss inspirations and influences with the authors themselves.
We talked with Sydney tanka poet Marilyn Humbert about her enrapturing poem ‘Small Hours’ and its use of mythology.
What’s your writing history like, and what are your accomplishments so far?
After retiring from work about eight years ago I was drawn to writing, in particular free verse, tanka, and haiku poetry.
Some of my free verse poems have been published and awarded prizes in competitions. My tanka and haiku are published in Australian and overseas journals, anthologies and online.
I lead the Bottlebrush tanka group in Sydney.
Where did your inspiration for the poem come from? Why did you decide to use references to mythology?
The inspiration for this poem was one of those nights when I couldn’t sleep. I find a whole different world opens up when I use mythical references, they are a great way to show not tell.
Do you think mythology is important to explore in contemporary writing? Why do you think bringing the ancient into the modern is so effective?
The ancient stories are timeless.
The characters face the same human problems we all do but the myths are free from modern political, social, religious and cultural baggage.
This gives them universal appeal.
Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite, must-read books?
Seamus Heaney and Australian poets like Judith Beveridge, Michelle Cahill, Bruce Dawe.
I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy books, anything by Raymond Feist, David Gemmell’s ‘Troy’ series and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy.
What advice would you give to other writers? What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
Practice your craft, enjoy the writing process and be open to experimenting.
I write most days because I want to.
Join a writing group or two (different writing groups feed different writing needs)
The best lesson I have learned is to have confidence in my own writing, and listen to my peers.