We were able to get an interview with Caroline Hardaker about her piece “Pan” in Issue Seven.
Pan’s been a recurrent figure in literature for centuries. Of his mythology and lore, what’s your favorite part about him? Is there a work he features in that you like most?
In ancient Greek myths, Pan is the gold of the wild, of hunting, and shepherds. A half-human creature, his ‘death’ is often seen as the birth of new theologies. He’s the only Greek god to die, and though he’s linked to joyful pursuits like music and drama, his attempts to seduce nymphs ended up in loneliness, due to his goat-like appearance. When angry, his voice was said to be so terrifying that it could induce panic in whoever heard it. This is when the world ‘pan-ic’ comes from! I think the only time he managed to seduce a goddess was when he cloaked himself in a sheepskin to hide his form, and lured Selene, the goddess of the moon, down from the sky and into a dark forest.
Pan is a god caught halfway between the lives of the gods and humans. I wanted to explore a moment of his self-reflection. I imagined Pan as a real man, different from his neighbours, and forced into isolation – alone, but close enough to hear the whispers spoken about him. Unable to answer back without terrifying everyone, he’s forced to watch these rumours shape his existence, without his consent.
Do you think it’s important for writers to remember such prominent figures in mythology and their influence on current literature?
While I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, I think it’s more than helpful. Mythological figures pop up throughout history in many shapes, cultures, and forms. These stories haven’t only influenced literature through the centuries, they’ve influenced human behavior, too. In many ways, human thinking never changes. Even now, we’re still writing stories about human experiences, trying to make sense of it all. Hero-worshipping characters and our favourite fables. We’ve been doing it as long as we’ve been able to communicate. Hearing legends and myths gives me a lot of comfort, and ties what I’m doing to a tradition of truth-telling.
Poetry can be invigorating and exhausting. Which do you find most true for yourself?
It’s both! When crafting a poem, I find laying down the first lines is exciting – as if I’m venturing into the great unknown. The next part of the process (the bit where you really find out what a poem is about) is exhausting – and can go on for quite a while. Once I’ve had that eureka moment (which sometimes doesn’t come at all), the next part is the most invigorating. Editing is my favourite part – tweaking, snipping, improving. Finding just the right word for the right line. I’m a lot better at it now than when I first started out as a poet!
How does poetry make you feel? To read and write and share it?
It depends on the piece! But ultimately, I want to feel moved, stirred, unearthed. I want to see the world and feel human experiences on a slant. I like pieces that jar a little, make me stop and think halfway through a poem.
As for writing poetry, I only notice how it feels when I stop. When I’m in the middle of those weeks where you’re too busy to stop or create, I start feeling ‘messy’, like a sink slopping over with dirty water. Writing is pulling the plug, letting all the tension drain away. It’s not that I write about my everyday experiences or stresses all that much, but writing must be my method of meditation. It’s part of me. And though it can be tricky and frustrating at times, I can’t be without it now.
And as for sharing my writing, in the early days I was petrified. And I still get a little self-conscious from time to time, but I’m a lot better. I sometimes read at festivals or events, and though I think I hide my nerves OK I’m practically catatonic before I get on stage. I worry that people will be bored or won’t understand what I’m saying, but I’m slowly starting to accept that an audience attending a poetry gathering actually DOES wants to listen to poetry. Hopefully my nerves will subside as the years go by!
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
This is a difficult one! I’d have to say I’m most proud of my recent poetry collection, Bone Ovation (Valley Press). At the time, I couldn’t believe that this physical thing between my hands contained my words alone. It was eerie. And having people Tweet me or email me afterwards to tell me they’re reading it or what they think makes my day. It’s amazing! A lady got in touch recently to tell me that she read one of the poems (which is about an old lady who eats the rain) at a funeral of a friend, and it was perfect. I was so honoured to be able to lend my words to help express how she must have felt.
Some of the poems in the collection have been published in online journals, all of which you can find in my ‘poems and stories’ hub on my poetry and writing blog.