The New Zealand poet explains the 90s sitcom references and unembarrassed passions that have gone into her eponymous debut
It is an ungodly hour on a Wednesday morning and Hera Lindsay Bird’s disembodied head is telling me about the time that she wet herself at a supermarket checkout. “It was one of the great humiliations of my life,” she says, over Skype from her home in Wellington, New Zealand.
The reason I’m dragging it up again is because it is referenced in the first poem of her debut collection, the self-titled Hera Lindsay Bird, which came out to acclaim in New Zealand in 2016 and is released in the UK this month. “To be fourteen, and wet yourself extravagantly / At a supermarket checkout,” the poem Write a Book begins, “As urine cascades down your black lace stocking / And onto the linoleum / Is to comprehend what it means to be a poet / To stand in the tepid under-halo / Of your own self-making / And want to die.”
This sets the tone for the rest of the collection, which is presided over by a voice that is simultaneously sharp and confiding, sardonic and lugubrious, and peppered with references both gothic and pop cultural. “It’s a contemporary book of long, metaphor-laden love poems filled with exploding helicopters, outdated 90s sitcom references, and dick jokes,” the 29-year-old says, when asked to sum up a book that contains items such as Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind, and Monica, a five-page rant about the character from Friends and much else besides, (choice lines from the latter include “to be able to maintain a friendship / Through the various complications of heterosexual monogamy / Is enormously difficult / Especially when you take into consideration / What cunts they all were”). Both these poems went viral, gaining so much attention from overseas that her New Zealand publisher had to almost immediately reprint the book, which is now being picked up in the UK by Penguin.