I first became familiar with Hadara Bar-Nadav’s name when she co-authored a poetry textbook that I used in my advanced creative writing classes. I then had the privilege of meeting her (and taking her workshop) at the William Paterson University Writers Conference (I was teaching a workshop on writing for children).
Naturally, I wanted to ask Hadara a few questions for The Whole Megillah:
The Whole Megillah (TWM): When and how did you realize you were a poet?
Hadara Bar-Nadav (HBN): I started writing when I was 6 years old. I always knew I was a writer and artist. I had a chaotic and often difficult family life, and writing was the one thing no one could take away from me and where I felt most safe and most free.
TWM: What poets and authors inspire you?
HBN: Claudia Rankine, Paul Celan, Lucie Brock-Broido, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Simic, Cole Swensen—there are many. Visual artists inspire me, too: Louise Nevelson, Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, Magritte, Cartier-Bresson, Mark Rothko, etc.
TWM: What do you think are the three most important considerations to writing poetry?
HBN: This question is fairly large for me, and the answers change all the time. What is most important right now to the writing of poetry: 1) time to work (I have a 2 year old); 2) space to work (we just moved); and 3) the opportunity to sit down with literature that inspires and challenges or troubles me (time to unpack my books and get a babysitter will help greatly J).
TWM: What challenges do you think beginning poets face?
HBN: Based on my interactions with students I would say beginning poets face the following three issues in no particular order: 1) being too hard on themselves or, conversely, not being hard enough; 2) refusing to really wrestle with their poetry, dive deep, and revise; and 3) maintaining a poetry practice beyond the classroom or workshop.
TWM: Please describe your literary journey as a poet.
HBN: I have always been drawn to the arts. I started playing piano at age 3 and from there became interested in visual art and then poetry. As a teenager, I got into spoken word poetry and regularly read/performed in NY (this for me connected music and poetry). Later, my interest shifted to poetry on the page (this connected music and the visual world via form to poetry).
TWM: What challenges you the most as a poet?
HBN: Time, time, time. Did I mention my little boy? J I should say he also inspires me and had a direct impact on my assembling the poetry collection Fountain and Furnace, which was awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize (Tupelo Press, 2015).
TWM: What are your greatest satisfactions?
HBN: Family, friends, writing, reading, art, a sense of community.
TWM: Among your own work, is there a particular poem or set of poems you hold most dear? Why/why not?
HBN: Usually I’m most interested in my recent work—what I’m actively grappling with. But I do hold my book Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia Books, 2013) close to my heart. It was inspired by my father who died in 2007, my mother, and my ancestors. Writing that book taught me about the elasticity and musicality of language and form. It also helped me believe in language again as I investigated the elegy (poems in honor of the dead) and collaborated with Emily Dickinson’s poetry (her work still dazzles me). Through the writing of Lullaby (with Exit Sign), I was able to commune with the dead in poems that were also energetically charged and, in that way, very much alive. It was marvelous and challenging and exhausting work, but it brought my family back to me. I’m still grateful for that.
About Hadara Bar-Nadav
Hadara Bar-Nadav’s newest book of poetry, The New Nudity, is forthcoming from Saturnalia Books in 2017. She is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia Books, 2013), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin (New Issues, 2012), Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/Intuit House, 2007), awarded the Margie Book Prize. She is also author of two chapbooks, Fountain and Furnace (Tupelo Press, 2015), awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and Show Me Yours (Laurel Review/Green Tower Press 2010), awarded the Midwest Poets Series Prize. In addition, she is co-author of the textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. (Pearson/Longman, 2011). Her poetry has recently appeared in American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.