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Interview: Claudia Jardine talks about BITER

Claudia Jardine has an MA in classics with distinction from Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the 2020 Alex Scobie Research Prize and a Marsden Grant for Masters scholarship. Her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, was published in AUP New Poets 7. Her ancestors are from the British Isles and the Maltese Archipelago, and she lives in Ōtautahi. Claudia talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about BITER.

BITER is a book of contemporary poetry about love and relationships. Translations of poems from the Classical and Byzantine periods are dotted amongst modern lyric poems and more traditional forms. It's a hybrid creature!

What inspired you to write this collection of poetry?

My feelings! In the early days of our relationship, my boyfriend and I wrote to each other a lot, though we only lived a few suburbs apart. I made him a tiny zine of love poems I had translated from the Palatine Anthology as a treat, and then tried reading them at an event in WORD 2021 (the PA is a compendium of poetry that spans the Classical and Byzantine literary periods). It seemed to me that the audience had an appetite for more.

What research was involved?

A Masters degree in Classics. Kidding, but... not really. All the time I spent studying for my degree, I was building context and learning about how our modern world interacts with the past, and what the ancient world means to us now. All that time I spent learning about the political history of Greece and Rome, I was also secretly wondering what their love lives were like. BITER would not have been possible without several years of Ancient Greek and Latin classes.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I wrote a good chunk of BITER during a residency at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora in 2021, which gave me valuable time to be a full-time writer. My routine was lovely; reading at breakfast, coffee in the quad, walks around the centre of town, more coffee (with a friend or two), writing at my super-long desk in the afternoon, more reading, cooking a meal with my fellow residents. And when it was back to being a contractor, I found the time to write and edit whenever I could. For a while last year I was getting up early and heading to Tūranga for an hour of editing or administration regarding the book every day before working for my clients.

If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I'm Gonna Getcha Good by Shania Twain, So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings by Caroline Polachek.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this collection?

Translating the epigrams from the Palatine Anthology was a lot of fun - they have such great words! And in some cases, the words are rare and no other extent texts contain them. Investigating idioms and figurative language from the ancient world is so interesting to me, I could do it all day!

If you had to choose, what is your favourite poem and why?

I often find myself reaching for 'Rural Activities' at readings. I spent a long time editing and refining this poem, and I think it shows. Also, the pink shorts in the poem are worthy of immortalisation. I expect a call from Get it to Te Papa any minute now.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Jumped around the room!!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, an excellent novel about an artist trying to be a good parent and still have the spoons to do what she loves. The book has a magical realism feel to it, as a reader you can't quite be sure of what is happening at times, nor can you entirely trust the narrator. And the depiction of the pyramid scheme that a lot of the other mothers in the book end up in is tragicomic.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

My goals for the next 12 months are, find another writing residency to kick start my next project, and get married to my now-fiancé :)

Auckland University Press


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