Taking my seat in the fancy hotel restaurant, I felt a little too underdressed and out of place, only to be brought swiftly into the warmth of Lang Leav’s welcome. Funny, I thought I should have been the warm and welcoming one.
Besides obvious talent, Leav had Tumblr to thank for her massive following. After the success of her first hand-made book, Charlie’s Widow, she had to publish a second. That came in the form of Love and Misadventure, with a dedication that read:
The half of this book –
the whole of my heart.”
Decked tastefully in a black dress, her ensemble was simple yet elegant – much like her poetry. Her grueling schedule since touchdown cost her a sleepless 48 hours; you could tell she was almost drowning in fatigue. Yet, the Australian poet-cum-artist managed to carry herself in effortless grace.
Popspoken: Tell me more about your book, and why you wrote it.
Lang Leav: Love and Misadventure was a culmination of many years of being in and out of relationships. It was basically a form of self-expression. It wasn’t until very recently that it came into the public spotlight because I had so many people asking for a book, because I started posting some poems up on social media and it went really crazy.
I saved up and decided to self-publish, because I didn’t think I was going to have a real shot at a traditional publisher. I thought I’d sell a few hundred, if I was lucky, but I ended up selling a lot more.
What’s your process of writing a poem?
Sometimes poems just pop into my head, if I’m lucky. Other times, a line would just pop into my head and I’d just write around that. It’s usually when I’m zoning out before bedtime, or when I’m going for a run or cooking or something that doesn’t involve too much thinking…
Cooking involves a lot of thinking!
Well, not if you’ve made something a million times… Like spaghetti bolognese! “I just chopped off my finger! Opps!” (Laughs)
You could write a poem about that!
Yeah, yeah! (Laughs)
How do you describe your writing style?
Freestyle. I studied art. I didn’t study writing. So, I just write from intuition.
Who are the poets you admire?
Dorothy Parker, she’s a big influence. Emily Dickinson is also a major one. And Robert Frost, he’s fantastic.
I realise many of your poems are quite short.
Yes! I used to write poems that were longer. I came across, some few years ago, this poet. He wrote very short verses, and he was very passionate about getting a profound idea out in a short, succinct verse. I loved his poetry so much that it’s almost been a challenge for me to cut back as much as I can. I think it’s actually much easier to write a really long poem, than it is to get your point across in a short verse.
Have you written Haikus? Because they’re really short as well.
I have written Haikus before in the past. The reason why I don’t write them is because I don’t like the restrictions, and I don’t like sonnets or limericks. I just like free writing, and taking advantage of having a poetic license.
So the girl on the front of your book, is that a self-portrait?
Yes, sort of! (Laughs) Maybe when I was younger. She’s with a little pug. I’ve got a little pug named Tory. She lives with my parents back in Sydney.
Besides poetry writing, you illustrate as well (which was what you did for your book). Tell me how that came about.
My first passion was writing, but then I started drawing because I thought if I’d taught myself to draw, then maybe people might be interested in my writing. So basically, that’s how it started. I ended up doing pretty okay at it in school.
What do you think makes a good poem?
I really believe that every single poem has its own merit and deserves that sort of respect. Because I think poetry is so subjective, and someone can passionately hate one poem just as easily as another person can passionately love it. So, I don’t think there is a good poem. I think it’s a good poem if you like it.
So, do you have a favourite poem?
Yeah, yeah, I love “Masks” by Shel Silverstein. I don’t know if you’ve heard that.
No, I haven’t.
Okay, it’s really short, so I can just recite it. It goes, “She had blue skin and so did he. He kept it hid and so did she. They searched for blue their whole lives through, then passed right by and never knew.”
It’s really short, but it’s basically saying they were both blue, but they kept it hidden, and they were searching for that all their lives, and they just passed by and they didn’t… you know. It’s just a really beautiful poem.
What is your favourite word?
Michael. That’s my favourite word. I have to say that otherwise I’d get into trouble! (Laughs)
Photo credit (not including featured image): Youth.SG