What is a Hedgewitch? According to Webster’s online dictionary and the Oxford dictionary, no such term exists, though they were kind enough to redirect me to Hedge Hog of Well Witch.
According to the Great Wiki,
Hedge witchcraft is the shamanic art of crossing the "hedge" or boundary between this world and the Otherworld. A Hedgewitch is a mediator between spirits and people. They may also work as an herbal healer or midwife. (and now for my favorite part of the definition….) Some claim it to be the continuation of the practices of the cunning folk and wise-women, while others say that it is a modern tradition.
We toads know which parts of that definition are apt to our very own Hedgewitch who graces our prompts with her unique voice and story craft. Many more may know her work from her blog: Verse Escape. I got in touch with Hedgewitch last weekend via e-mail. I had questions, and she had answers that packed a punch. Nevermind WHAT a Hedgewitch is...let's learn more about WHO Hedgwitch is....
It should first be said that Sherry Blue Sky wrote an amazing interview with Hedgewitch last year (found here). I encourage you to read Sherry’s interview as a companion piece to my own, as I tried not to ask any of the same questions.
All right, get ready Toads, Hedgewitch is among us!
Izy: You live in the heart of Tornado alley...how do you spend your time in the storm shelter/basement?
HW: Presuming we had one, I would be either reading, or writing, or else curled in the fetal position kissing my ass a fond goodbye. Since we don’t have such a convenient place to cower, we pack the dogs in the car and head for the hills, trying to guess the safest route away from the mesocyclonic cells that like to sprout those ominous black swirls of clouds spiraling slowly groundward, like milk going into strong coffee as it’s very slowly stirred. Our weather forecasters are extremely helpful and specific, so it’s not as difficult as it sounds, and it does keep you in touch with nature at her most interesting and impressive, which unlike humans, is usually when she’s pitching a fit.
Izy: Your perspective on nature and her spiraling fits is a poem in itself. I can understand how being very weather aware is a must for you. Let me inquire about another must have….You are about to be exiled to the edge of a dark, foggy forest where you will live alone for five years. You can bring one of your own poems to keep you company in solitude: which piece do you choose?
HW: Honestly, I can’t even pick—it’s like saying, which of your children will you pull from the burning building? I‘d much rather have a notebook and a pen, and just write new ones. But assuming some draconian and omnipotent deity(I’m looking at you, Ms Gruye) is forcing this decision on me, I’d take one that’s suited to the environment, I suppose, like Asteria. (I was tempted to choose my sestina sequence, Hedgerider’s Lament, simply because that would give me the backs of four sheets of paper to write on instead of just one, but it sounded like cheating, and also, I spent so much time agonizing over those poems, I doubt they’d be much fun to pour over as my only reading material.)
Izy: Isn’t it odd how the things we agonize over the most are sometimes the things we’d like to hold onto? One of things I admire about your work is how accessible your poems can be to many readers. Best case scenario: what will a reader take from your work?
HW: Some annoying or elating fragment that works itself under the skin and makes him/her look at something differently—I don’t really care what, some preconcieved attitude s/he’s never questioned, or a mood, place or person, or a state of mind, and that amazing shift will occur that happens in good poetry, that the words I’ve used will cause a connection to a new or a changed perspective on a relatable experience. I think of it as translating the particular to the general, the subjective to the universal.
I’d also like the reader to take a sense of the comfort of words, of all the forms they can take and jobs they can do, that never-failing resource that we all have and which will dig us out of all kinds of holes, of our own making and otherwise.
Izy: I definitely get those things every time I read a Hedgewitch poem. I find it interesting that you strive to connect your reader to a broader sense (the particular), all the while making it a safe experience. In your Poets United interview (link provided) you mentioned an affinity for role playing and gaming, how has this hobby contributed to your writing process?
HW: That’s an interesting question with all kinds of little corners in the answer. My primary gaming interest is old fashioned 90’s style role playing of the fantasy sort, which derives heavily from myth, Tolkein and mediaeval cultural characterizations, reinforcing my relationships with archetypes—the Wizard/Witch, the Wood Elf, the Demon, the Prince(ss), the Hero(ine) the Preist(ess), the god or goddess of this that or the other. That goes straight into certain constructions I like to use in my writing, both about the nature of myself, others and the world.
I also like strategy games which focus on tactics and rapid, minute by minute shuffling through options and resources, a process which keeps my brain engaged in puzzle solving, which as poets and writers, we are constantly doing as we edit and rewrite and search for not just the right word, but the right progression to fit it in, the right totality of which it’s an increment, to produce the thing we want to say. And it keeps me from taking any damn thing too seriously—especially myself. Having one’s butt handed to one on a plate by a piece of software is always a humbling experience. I strongly recommend it when you need to fight with someone or thing and wish to do no real world damage. (You do have to learn not to throw things at the monitor, of course.)
Izy: It is nice to have virtual enemies to take your aggression out on, and it’s even better when those enemies are in a world that draws parallels to our own in myth and psyche. You have referenced Hans Christian Andersen, mythologies, and archetypes as a source of inspiration for your work and you mentioned above that you like to use some of those constructs in your writing...what is it about them that draws you in?
HW: I suppose the unconscious at work, the identification with a more universal, potent and latent self, and not just self, a more primitive and mysterious world that’s passed and gone under the hill, where magic exists in every form, the word is spirit and spirit is power, and knowledge is truly control, where the Old Gods that inhabit our underbrains still come out to have their say, and where Nature is something as intricate and real as the science that inhabits and shapes her forms. Let me interject here that I am atheist, as people have taken me for a latter day pagan or Wiccan before because of my topics and approach. Nothing against such beliefs, but my interest is not in the religious aspect of these symbols, but the human one.
Izy: With poetry being one method that we use to tie in our everyday to the extraordinary, can there be such a thing as bad poetry?
HW: Short answer: You’re kidding, right? I more often ask, especially when I’m writing, can there be such a thing as good poetry?
Longer and less snarky answer: I do believe bad poetry is out there, and by that I don’t mean inexperienced poetry, naive poetry or even obvious poetry—I mean disingenuous, dishonest poetry that exists solely to feed the ego of the writer and to pander to an audience. Obviously in any form of art, we as practitioners have healthy egos, or we wouldn’t be able to create a personal world out of whatever raw materials we’re drawn to and ask people to relate to it. But art that’s dishonest is bad in ways beyond quality.
It warps the creator and feeds weakness instead of strength, stagnation instead of growth, and it pacifies rather than inspires the audience and permits them to be intellectually lazy and dishonest themselves, and settle for less than they deserve. Unfortunately, it happens often, especially in the world where people are concerned with making money, becoming famous, or as it manifests in the new fad, collecting ‘followers,’ because many writers don’t really want to spend the time it takes to learn the craft, and many audiences don’t really want to spend the time it takes to understand it. I don’t like to have to struggle every time I read someone’s work, but I do know I often get to some place, some understanding I otherwise wouldn’t have, by doing so. But I don’t think any of us gains much from a false slickness that gives nothing back, so it’s important that what we give has value and not be empty.
The corollary of this, of course, is the person who knows what he or she is doing may not be deathless art, but finds release and enjoyment in an honest rendering of feelings and experiences, of doing their best to express them for others, at whatever level they can achieve—that is giving back, and it’s every bit as valid, whether its hallowed by the NYT Bestseller’s List or the halls of academe, or just retweeted a lot by people who’ve enjoyed it, who’ve had their day broadened or load lightened by the sharing of a commonality, and a sense of community. This is the level I feel comfortable with and function at most frequently myself.
Izy: That is one answer I want to have cross-stitched onto a pillow or maybe just scrawled across the walls of my apartment. Up next is a series of quick fire questions to end the interview…
Izy: In a perfect world, what would Hedgewitch be doing?
HW: Traveling to every prehistoric and historic site of archeological interest to her, from the neolithic digs of Turkey, to Egypt (O to see the Cairo Museum) and Crete, to Viking sites in Europe and Celtic sites across the British Isles, MesoAmerica, too of course (with itinerary and daily hassles all handled by obliging minions,) to return to her flower-surrounded white-walled cottage on the Mediterranean when travel became too onerous for an expertly prepared but simple dinner and a great wine. And never having to dust, vacuum or mop floors again.
Izy: Things no one knows about Hedgewitch.....
My maiden name.
What happens when the lights go out.
My secret love of old country music and raunchy blues (though now they do)
Izy: Your favorite thing to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?
HW: Assuming I’m in that mood, write a poem about a rainy Sunday afternoon, preferably with a demon or two thrown in. Otherwise, enjoy the rain, gloat over its benefits to the garden, and loll slothfully in the sense that nothing has to be done that can’t wait.
Izy: Matinee or Late show?
Izy: What keeps you up at night?
HW: Old people’s insomnia, embryonic dreams, and the beauty of the moon and stars.
Izy: You can have dinner with any 5 people (living or dead) who and why?
HW: First, Fireblossom(Shay) and Mama Zen(Kelli) for the conversation, snark and laugh factors, because Girl’s Night Out is the best dinner there is, and then to keep things interesting, I’d like Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson to join us, two poets whose life stories, experiences and thoughts I would most desperately like to know. The fifth, well, that’s a secret. (You’ll notice I don’t include my personal favorite poet, Wallace Stevens; this is because he was a Taft Republican and we would end up fighting about politics.)
Izy: 4 things you never write about?
HW: My mother, anatomically correct sex, christianity, my mother
Izy: 3 favorite words?
HW: indigo, cyclopean, glissando (but I have many more)
Izy: 2 things which keep you from writing even when you’re inspired?
HW: My back pills and lack of privacy
Izy: The secret to life and answer to everything is......
Read, learn, listen, try to never stop laughing, loving or growing. Or as James Taylor once said, “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.”