An Interview With Laura Solomon

Laura Solomon has an honours degree in English Literature (Victoria University, 1997) and a Masters degree in Computer Science (University of London, 2003). Her books include ‘Black Light’, ‘Nothing Lasting’, ‘Alternative Medicine’, ‘An Imitation of Life’, ‘Instant Messages’, ‘The Theory of Networks’, ‘Operating Systems’, ‘Hilary and David’, In Vitro and ‘The Shingle Bar Taniwha and Other Stories’. She has won prizes in the Bridport, Edwin Morgan, Ware Poets, Willesden Herald, Proverse Hong Kong and Essex Poetry Festival competitions.

Laura’s poem Janet Frame’s Adversaries Have Their Way. Janet is Lobotomised and Spends Her Life Selling Hats in Oamaru. was my Tuesday Poem this week.

Laura, you are best known as a writer of fiction, and in vitro is your first collection of poetry. Have you been accumulating the poems in this collection for a while, or have they all been written recently?

I wrote the poems between 2006 and 2009.

For those who don’t know your work, how would you describe your poetry – does it follow a particular style or poetic tradition?

Fairly experimental, but also quite lyrical.

While I was reading in vitro, I noted down descriptions like ‘clinical’, ‘forensic’, and ‘disenchanted’ – though, lest this make the book appear too gloomy, many of the poems are also very entertaining! But do you think these adjectives can fairly be applied to these poems?

Some of the poems are quite bleak or severe in subject matter, but lightened up with comedy.

I see that you have published several novels as e-books in Hong Kong. Was it a difficult decision to have them published in e-book format, and are you happy with the result?

Happy with e-book for Hilary and David, not sure yet whether the sequels to Instant Messages are going to be ebook or normal printed book yet.

I have the impression – forgive me if I’m wrong – that you, like I, write fiction that doesn’t fit neatly into the categories that New Zealand publishers, and perhaps other international publishers, are comfortable with. Do you ever think “Oh, if only I’d written good old realism”, or, “time to get cracking on that paranormal romance”?

No, I just write what I feel like and hope for the best.

How do you think the publishing scene overseas compares to the New Zealand scene, particularly in its hospitality to work that doesn’t fit neat category definitions?

Just the same, difficult to break into UK market, none of the agents or publishers seem interested, so I just keep entering UK competitions from NZ. Seem to do better in comps, than just straight submitting to agents and publishers, not sure why.

Which (if any) poets would you describe as influences on your work?

Atwood, Rich, Plath.

How about writers of fiction?

Atwood, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson.

If you have the opportunity, what direction(s) do you see your writing heading in next?

That’s a secret!! ☺

Book availability

Laura’s collection in vitro is available from HeadworX, and there are more publication details of Laura’s other books on Beattie’s Book Blog – check the first comment.

Tuesday Poem: Janet Frame’s Adversaries Have Their Way. Janet is Lobotomised and Spends Her Life Selling Hats in Oamaru., by Laura Solomon


What good would she have been anyway,
left the way she was, full of dotty ideas, half-crippled by madness?
There’re enough raving lunatics in the world,
we don’t need one more curly-haired crazy,
lolloping about the streets, spilling prophecy.

What good would she have been anyway,
claiming to be from her Kingdom by the Sea,
perching on gravestones in the Otago Cemetery,
staring into the far distance,
like somebody who could see something we couldn’t?

And see her there, so happy, all her pain chopped out, eradicated,
along with all her brilliance. Smiling, always smiling – so what if the eyes look dead?

It’s not visionaries the world needs, but hat sellers.

She was something that could not blend in,
too many sharp angles, too many gaudy colours,
and gawd that hair,
but anything, you’ll find, can be reduced to black and white,
anything can be shoved into a box,
it’s just a question of how much has to be chopped off
in order to get it to fit.

After all, anybody can write a book. It’s retail work that’s tricky,
all those numbers to add up and subtract,
when you tally up at the end of the day (that’s if they choose to grant you such power),
all those hats to keep in those tidy little piles,
same colours, same shapes, all together, all neat,
a place for everything. Everything in its place.

All those people to so faithfully serve.

Don’t ask me who made the mould – somebody else, a long, long time ago.
Who cares now, when that thing was created, or how?
we all managed to squeeze ourselves into it,
so why shouldn’t she be forced to do the same?

Who cares what she could’ve or would’ve achieved,
left to her own devices?

The important thing is that we maimed her while we had the chance,
before she grew too big for the boots we wanted her in.

O please now, children, don’t make a fuss,
She could’ve been one of the greats, they said,
now she’s one of us.

Note: This poem is published in Laura Solomon’s collection in vitro (HeadworX, 2011). Look out for my interview with Laura later this week.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog – the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week’s other poems are linked from the right-hand column.