Tell us about yourself.
Hello, internet! I’m Courtney Bates-Hardy, and I’m the author of House of Mystery, a collection of poems about fairy tales. I love mermaids, comic books, and the sound my slippers make on hardwood floors. I dislike shrimp, winter, and loud chewing. I knit scarves obsessively in the winter for people I love, I try to go running whenever I can, and I’m always reading at least three books at once. I live in Regina with my husband, Christian, and our very cuddly cat, Jean Grey.
When did you start writing poetry?
In grade two, my teacher wanted the class to write something for Remembrance Day. That was the first time I wrote a poem. It was called “When War Ended,” and when I showed it to my teacher, she asked me to come down to the principal’s office with her. I was terrified, because I had never been told to go to the principal’s office before. I have a vivid memory of walking down that long hall wondering what I had done wrong. Imagine my relief when they asked me if they could put my poem in the school newsletter. I was hooked after that. Writing poetry got me through my very awkward teenage years, and I never really stopped.
Who is your favourite poet?
I love Romantic poetry—Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, but I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary Canadian poetry lately. I’ll read anything by Lorna Crozier or Anne Simpson—I think they’re both brilliant. I read Marry and Burn by Rachel Rose recently, and I can’t stop going back to many of the poems in that book. For poetry that also deals with fairy tales and monsters, I love Sandra Kasturi’s Animal Bridegroom and Helen Marshall’s Sex Lives of Monsters. Lastly, she’s not Canadian, but Matthea Harvey has a suite of mermaid poems in If the Tabloids are True, What Are You? that I’ve taped up over my desk at work so I can read them again and again.
Who is your favourite author?
I’m a huge fan of Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Catherynne Valente, and Robin McKinley. I have so many books from these authors on my bookshelves at home. A friend recommended Valente’s work to me a year or two ago, so she is the most recent addition to this list. She’s incredibly prolific, so I haven’t read everything of hers yet. I highly recommend her Fairyland series to anyone who still feels cheated by Susan’s fate in The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s the best addition to the portal fantasy genre I’ve ever read, and fixes so many of the flaws of that genre. I just really love rich, gorgeous prose that just drips off the page. I think because my own style is so minimalistic, I can’t get enough when other authors really layer it on.
What is your favourite movie, comic, or book?
Ooo, I’m going to skip right to comic books on this question. I love comics, but I didn’t really start reading them until 2011 when I picked up Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl. That character really spoke to me at the time. She was newly healed from a traumatic injury, dealing with PTSD, and still kicking serious ass. At the time I was reading Batgirl, I had been in a couple car accidents, and was having a lot of trouble with my neck and back. I’d always been very active and athletic before the accidents, and the pain was taking a toll on my activity level. Reading about someone who was also healing from a previous injury was hugely inspiring for me. Other comics I love include Saga, Sex Criminals, Sandman, Locke and Key, The Wicked and the Divine, Monstress, Colder, and Clean Room.
How do you get rid of writer’s block?
For me, writer’s block means that I’ve been spending too much time on the output and need to focus on the input. So I do things like read more books, visit art galleries or museums, see friends, go for walks, and just live my life. You can’t drive a car without filling the tank up with gas, so you can’t expect to write anything halfway decent unless you’re doing things that fill up your brain.
Do you have any tips for aspiring poets?
Just write. I wrote a lot of shitty poems when I was starting off, and the only thing that made me better was writing more and reading poets I admired. I carry a notebook everywhere I go, and when I don’t have my notebook, I fill up the notes app on my phone with first lines, ideas, drafts, quotes, things I want to research later, or anything else that comes to mind. Also, make sure you’re reading other poets and getting a feel for what’s out there, what you like, what you dislike, and then apply that to your own writing.
Where can readers buy your poetry?
You can find House of Mystery on Amazon, Chapters-Indigo, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Barnes and Noble, or at your local library (for sure in Saskatchewan and Toronto).
About Courtney Bates-Hardy
Website – Twitter – Instagram
Courtney Bates-Hardy is the author of House of Mystery (ChiZine Publications, 2016) and a chapbook called Sea Foam (JackPine Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines, including Room, Carousel, and On Spec. They have also been featured in Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Regina. She lives in Regina with her husband, Christian, and their cat, Jean Grey.