Who are you and what do you do?
I am Miriam Hechtman and I am a writer, poet, community gatherer and the founder and creative producer of Poetica. I run poetry and music events and workshops. I also write poetry and co-host the poetry podcast Wordsmith. This year I’ve also been writing a monthly column for Plus61J Media called Both Sides Now, where I interview two people separately about their relationship and how their Jewish culture or faith has played out in this relationship. The column is written verbatim – directly using their words to tell the story. I love people’s stories.
Which of your works has had the greatest impact on you, or have you loved the most?
The Alphabet of Women has been my biggest self-started project to date and there’s a whole lotta love that’s gone (and is still going) into it. I often refer to it as a creative beast as it’s a book (soon to be released with Ginninderra Press), a performance piece and there’s the potential for a film (don’t tell anyone!). It’s the story of woman told alphabetically by 26 alliterating ‘women’ poets – so there’s a lot of people involved. It started as one poem that I wrote chastising the letter P for its words such as patriarchy and then it just grew from there. I’m so proud of everyone involved and so proud that it all happened through another little organic project – Poetica. From little things, big things grow.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
“Just do it”. No idea who said this to me and it might very well be my own advice channeled from many artists before me. My mum always said, “life’s an adventure” – this has helped greatly. I also think Mary Oliver’s famous line from her poem The Summer Day is life changing: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” And Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Done is better than good”. Perfectionism is a killer.
Is there a particular theme which is central to your work?
I think my poetry is usually very personal and often refers back to my grandparents and their experiences as Holocaust survivors and how this has affected me and my family’s trajectory. Trans-generational trauma, the grace in the grittiness, nature as teacher. I am a cup half-full kind of human so I am always looking for the light.
What local artists do you admire?
There is a huge list of local writers/singer-songwriters/poets I admire, including:
- Abby Dobson – Abby has one of those rare voices that is as distinct as it is sublime. She can take a well-known song like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and makes it her own. When I saw her perform this many moons ago at The Vanguard the man in front of me sobbed.
- Ilan Kidron – Ilan is a good friend and someone who I love collaborating with because he always brings his heart. He is a superstar on the stage – he owns and he loves it. He gives each performance his absolute everything.
- Miriam Lieberman – The mother of song. She holds space on stage like a queen. She takes her audience on a journey and we are all better for going on it.
- Vashti Whitfield – She’s no bullshit and she’s full of love and wisdom. She’s also a mighty good poet.
- Daragh Byrne – Irish-born Daragh runs Sydney Poetry Lounge with absolute charm. His poetry is now award-winning – but we always expected this to be his arc. He just keeps getting better.
- Stacey Cotter Maniere – Stacey writes the most exquisite poetry and you can hear a pin drop when she performs her poems. She commands the spotlight in the most gentle and unassuming way.
- Jane Turner and her team at Gertrude and Alice – They are my poetry nest. They gave me the perfect launching pad and have supported me ever since with unconditional love.
- Declan Kelly – Declan is a Sunday afternoon in Bondi: you just want to hang out with him, listen to his music, his stories in between songs. He’s all heart.
- E for Echo – Jenna + Zana are the lead singers and they have performed as a duo twice at Poetica – both times blowing the audience away with their gorgeous harmonies and beautiful lyrics.
- Jessica Chapnik Kahn – Jessy is what I would call a Renaissance woman. There is nothing this woman can’t do when it comes to the arts. She writes, she sings, she acts, she poets, she draws. And she offers this with her heart, mind and soul.
- Huck Hastings – Harrie is a superstar. No other way to describe him. When Harrie sings I click in to his world, his stories, his life. He is a kind person too and this comes through in spades.
Click through our gallery below for more of Miriam Hechtman’s work.
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