Pamela Hirst | Interview

Kenneth P. Gurney. What got you started into poetry?

Pamela Hirst. My mother was a poet from the time she was a young girl, in high school she had a column in the student newspaper called Laverne’s Lyrics. So words, literature and poetry were a part of my life, but I didn’t become literary until I was well into my thirties and started writing and performing poetry with a friend in Nashville called Maria Serna. We were known as the Retro Sisters until Beatlick Joe Speer came along.

KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?

PH. Real bacon and eggs with biscuits and gravy.  But I rarely eat that way. Haven’t had the biscuits and gravy in years.

KPG. How much influence does your university degree have on your writing of poetry and how?

PH. I would say my university experience had a great deal of influence. My focus was newspaper and television writing in college but my mentor, Dr. Harriette Bias Insignares, was a marvelous writer with scrupulous integrity. She was named the Poet Laureate of Nashville a few years back. I learned so much about style and ethics from her.

KPG. Is there any other endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?

PH. Classical guitar. Since the death of Beatlick Joe Speer, six years ago, I have found little fulfillment in life. Publishing has been rewarding, but the music, something I work on every day, fills my heart in a way nothing else can.

KPG. Tell us about one of your favorite poetry experiences.

PH. My fiftieth birthday. I was invited to put on a poetry experience at the famous Cheekwood Mansion and Botanical Gardens in Nashville. It is the home of the Cheek family, of Maxwell House Coffee “Good to the last drop” fame. The Beatlicks put on a great multi-faceted performance with comics, poets and belly dancers. There was a great turnout, and Beatlick Joe and friends sang Happy Birthday to me on the portico of that mansion with weeping willow trees, splashing fountains and classic Greek statuary in the background. Magic.

KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?

PH. My Aunt City told me I had relatives in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, but I don’t know who. My cousin Thomas Cartwright, Jr., was the curator of Carnton, a Civil War era home and museum in Franklin, Tenn. He introduced Joe and me to reenactments and I saw the Battle of Franklin and another reenactment with Cousin “Ty.”

KPG. If you could wave a magic wand and place a poetry book into every high school english classroom as required reading, which one would it be and why?

PH. Probably Kahlil Gibran’sThe Prophet.” That is the first book of poetry that influenced me at an early age.

KPG. Where was your last selfie taken?

PH. Right here in Oaxaca where I am spending the winter.

KPG. Recommend a poetry (or literary) website that you frequent.

PH. Poetry Foundation website. I admire what they do to support poetry through so many venues.

KPG. What is your favorite National Park? Why?

PH. Big Bend National Park in southern Texas. It is wild out there, looks like a dinosaur could come ambling down an arroyo at any moment. Joe and I spent almost two months out there one spring with no water, electricity or neighbors. Winds of 60 mph were common. Learned how to enjoy warm beer, keep it dark and use a lot of lime.

KPG. Do you have a dream that you work toward achieving. If so, please tell us about it.

PH. My greatest goal is to become a musician. I love writing and have done it most of my life, now I want to expand myself and think of myself as a musician. That gives me a whole new identity to go forward with for the rest of my life.

KPG. If there is a little known poet you think everyone should read, who is that poet and which book of theirs should we seek?

PH. Of course, I am going to say Beatlick Joe Speer, the Jack Kerouac of the Southwest, and my precious life’s partner for 22 years. I founded Beatlick Press to publish his book “Backpack Trekker: A 60s Flashback.” He was so clever, so witty, so grand. I do not want him forgotten and I will spend the rest of my life promoting his literary values: Support art, don’t wait for art to support you. Publish the deserving.

KPG. If you could be present at any moment in history as a safe observer or unsafe participant, what event would you visit and why?

PH. I guess the French Revolution. I find it fascinating. There were so many historical lessons to be learned during that experience. Most importantly: The oppressed will rise against their oppressors, it is only a matter of time.

KPG. What reoccurring themes have you noticed in your poetry over the years?  Is there a point of personal experience you revisit often?

PH. The submitted poems show my journalistic background. I try not to get personal as I mature as a writer. Political issues, ethics and justice: these are my greatest concerns.

KPG. What is your favorite potent potable?

PH. Can’t have it but I love champagne.

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