Hannah Newberry is a poet, songwriter, and musician from Raleigh, NC. Below are Hannah's unedited responses to questions she was asked as part of the Piedmont Poetry Project.
Piedmont Poetry Project: What do you hope to achieve with your poetry?
Hannah Newberry: I hope that people read my poetry and can relate to it. I hope they think about things that they had never thought about before. I hope I can bring something to their attention, and I hope my poetry alters their perspective. I hope people act on the ideas expressed in my poetry. Art can't change the world, but it can change people who can change the world.
PPP: What are your earliest recollections of poetry in your life?
HN: Does Dr. Suess count? After Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein, I remember finding a book of poems from my mother's high school library. It's mostly children's poems, but I remember flipping through it and falling in love with Ogden Nash. I loved everything he did, but The Tale of Custard the Dragon became my favorite poem. I remember skipping over everything in that book that didn't have his name on it. I suppose that was my first recollection.
PPP: Why, in your opinion, is poetry important in our society?
HN: It's an outlet. It's a means of education about the important things that they never teach you in school, like how feelings sound when you write them down, and how words paint some of the most beautiful pictures that could never be captured with a camera or a paintbrush. It's an expedient to making people question everything. Poetry can change the people that make up society, therefore changing society. And society is always in need of change.
PPP: What inspires you to write?
HN: Plenty of things inspire me. Sometimes a thought comes to my mind and I center an entire poem or song around that thought. Sometimes I'll ask someone else what to write about (and I get everything between lions playing ukuleles and paranoid schizophrenia) and I write about it. That's how "Darling" came about. Sometimes I write from other people's perspective, sometimes I just get angry and vent in poetic form. I challenge my own creativity and imagination. People inspire me quite often. A lot of the time though, I draw inspiration from the internet. There are plenty of strangely inspiring things on the internet.
PPP: When do you write?
HN: Every day. I've just started a 365 project, and now I'm writing either a poem or a song every day- sometimes both. Sometimes I write three songs a day. I used to have writing binges where I'd write something really good every day, and sometimes multiple poems or songs a day, and that would go on until I'd lose all my inspiration or motivation and I'd have a writer's block for about the same amount of time. And then it would repeat. But I try to write as often as I can. That's how you get better.
PPP: Is there a particular place that you like to write?
HN: I write everywhere. I write in the car, I wake up in the middle of the night and write in my bed sometimes, I've written a poem with eyeliner on a napkin when I was hiding from people in the bathroom. I write during class. I write anywhere I can, especially when I'm inspired and I have a good idea. I just like to write, so I do it every where.
PPP: What poets do you read?
HN: Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and of course, Ogden Nash. But I don't just read dead white people's poetry. I go to local poetry readings a lot, and I read things I find online. I'll read just about any poem, but I just happen to read a lot of poetry by dead white people.
PPP: What advice do you have for others who might want to get started writing poetry?
HN: Start now. I started when I was eight years old, and that's put me years ahead of people my age that are just starting to write now. Lots of people say they don't want to try it because they know they won't be good at it. That's so disappointing, because first of all, that's not the reason to write poetry. No one starts writing because they think they'll be good at it. But once you get going, and figure out your own voice and style and what inspires you, there are so many beautiful things that can be written, but not if you don't start now. Write right now.
PPP: Have you noticed any trends or patterns in your writing over the past 5-10 years?
HN: Most of my poems are written either in anger or sadness. But I seldom feel the same way when I begin writing a poem as I do by the end of it. People always tell me to write happier things, but it's easier said than done. Happy poems are hard to write. And no one likes them because it's hard to relate to them sometimes. And sometimes, an angry or sad poem can make me happier than a happy poem. It's comforting knowing that someone else feels the same way I do. But when I read a happy poem, I just get sad that I'm not as happy as that poet.
PPP: Share a comment or two about life, writing, or anything else that you'd like.
HN: Poetry is medicine.
Read more about Hannah Newberry and her writing (including her poem, "Darling") in the May 28 edition of The Independent Tribune.