Happy FridayFriends Day! The indie writing community is truly amazing, and my way of giving back to the community is to spotlight those who have been particularly helpful and inspiring. Today I am honored to introduce you to Elizabeth Hawksworth, poet and author. I came across her poetry collection “Break for Beauty” as I became inspired to take the writer’s path. I really appreciated her taking the time to perceive beauty and then to write so lyrically. Ms. Hawksworth braves even through some difficult subjects, and her insights are spot-on and eloquent.
1. What have you written?
I’m an internationally published writer who has work on the Huffington Post, Washington Post, Ravishly, Blogher, and other high-profile websites. I’m also the author of two books, “Break for Beauty”, and “Lake Effect: Voices of Toronto’s History”.
2. How did you decide to rhyme/ not rhyme or write in prose for the Break for Beauty collection?
The poems were written over a period of 10 years, and I arranged them into themes that were then bookended with prose essays that I wrote during my first stint in The Real LJ Idol writing contest. I felt it helped the reader to transition from one theme to another, just like I had transitioned through my time writing the poetry. I love rhyming poetry because I love music and song, so I’m naturally drawn to writing that way, but I also sometimes like the stark beauty of blank verse, so I included some of that as well. Different poems call for different styles, in my opinion.
3. “Dancing around Freedom” is particularly compelling in the first-person narrative, how did you become inspired to write this piece?
The plight of immigrants, mostly the Irish, in Toronto is something that I have always been interested in and that I explored more in my book, “Lake Effect”. The Irish really built the city, as they were the largest group at the time Toronto was founded, and they came over in droves due to the Potato Famine. I find their stories very poignant, and this character was one that I felt needed a voice. So many immigrants and Natives in Canada never get to tell their stories. I tried to create a space for that.
4. You write so openly and eloquently of mental illness, can you tell us a bit more about writing on this subject?
Mental illness carries such a stigma in our current culture, but yet some of the most beautiful writing comes out of people who are not neurotypical. I write about it because it’s had a huge effect on my life, and dealing with my own head vs. reality, and how I see the world vs. how others think I should see it, has been something I continue to write about so that others feel less alone. I’ve also found it cathartic to write about how I feel – almost as an outsider sometimes.
5. What are some other issues which are dear to your heart? Can you tell us a bit more about those?
I am very passionate about social justice and feminism, and a lot of my articles explore different aspects of this. I am Native, so many of my recent writings explore this identity that has been denied to me my entire life, systemically and culturally. I also have been known to dabble in fanfiction a little!
6. Tell us about Athena and Ophelia. How did they become so named?
My little familiars! Athena came to me via a good college friend of mine who acquired a grey kitten but couldn’t keep her. We named her together – I always loved the Greek myths and the Iliad in particular, so I said, “Why don’t we call her ‘Athena’ after ‘grey-eyed Athena’ in the Iliad?” The name stuck, and she very much is a goddess (in her own mind!). Ophelia was so-named because I really love Hamlet, but I call her Fili (Fee-lee) for short, and she’s more of a playful carefree Dwarf than she is a dramatic, tragic lady. Both of them brighten my days and inspire me.
7. What music inspires you?
Usually, I listen to a lot of instrumental pieces while writing, but I am also really inspired by Vienna Teng, Tori Amos, Stars, Billy Joel, Elton John, and Leonard Cohen.
8. Are you working on anything right now?
Right now, I’m writing poetry about the Native experience and working on some essays in the same vein.
Elizabeth Hawksworth is a Canadian poet, blogger and short story writer. A busy marketing professional and nanny in Toronto, Ontario, she enjoys taking in the sights and sounds of her city, writing historical fiction, and herding her two cats, Athena and Ophelia. Elizabeth blogs about feminism, body positivity, fatphobia, writing, nannying and social justice at http://www.elizabethahawksworth.com.