Hera Lindsay Bird (Writing for the Page, 2011)

The MA year accelerated my thinking and my courage, and helped me find my voice. It gave me permission to make writing the central task of my life.

Every year there's some kind of blow out on the internet about MA writing programs, and whether they are utopian boarding schools for literary savants or capitalist assembly lines churning out endless bland iterations of Raymond Carver. Neither question is helpful when deciding whether or not to dish out thousands of dollars on an arts degree which could be spent on multiple trips to the aquarium instead.

Everyone I know who has ever been through this MA has had radically different experiences based on their teachers and their classes and their project. Some MA years had feuds, parties, love affairs, breakdowns. I met both my best friend and my partner in undergraduate writing workshops at Vic so I know the Stockholm syndrome is real, but my memory of my MA year was one of total freedom & solitude. I don’t remember the lectures or class discussions or parties or even the feedback on my work. What I remember was sitting in Bernadette Hall's sunny office once a fortnight with a cup of tea and laughing over some quasi-poetic reference to blow jobs. I have always been a teacher's pet. But the thing I valued most about that year was the luxury of time. Time is hard to come across, as a writer. There's a reason why the Romantic Poets all had trust funds. The MA year was the first time I had a concentrated year to experiment and fail and learn to take myself seriously as a writer, and then learn to take myself a lot less seriously as a writer. Do you need a MA program to achieve this? Of course not. You don't need an MA program for anything. You don't need an MA in order to study the cultural significance of French Weaving patterns either, but that never stopped anyone. I didn't produce anything in my MA year worth publishing, but I couldn't have written my first book without having experienced that year first. It accelerated my thinking and my courage and helped me find my voice. It gave me permission to make writing the central task of my life. The room also has a great view, and someone brings scones every other week. Apply for a scholarship and you can still go to the aquarium on weekends.

Bio: Hera completed the MA in 2011 and won that year's Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. Her work has been published by The Toast, The Hairpin, Sport, Hue & Cry, The Spinoff, The New Zealand Listener and Best New Zealand Poems.

Her first collection of poetry, Hera Lindsay Bird was published by Victoria University Press in 2016 and won the 2017 Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry 2017. To date, it has been the fastest selling, most popular book of poetry VUP has ever published.

She was the editor of Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2019.

Reviews and interviews on Hera Lindsay Bird's website

Victoria University Press author page

Ōrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2019