The Interviewer: My name is Max Sinclair. I am a Year 6 student who lives in Queenstown, New Zealand and I like soccer. I go to Remarkables Primary School.
Doc Drumhelller (Jason Clements) was born in South Carolina but now lives in NZ as an author. He teaches in the School for Young Writers and has won numerous awards. He edits a literary magazine called Catalyst.
What inspired you to become an author?
I have always enjoyed writing, as a young boy I enjoyed writing stories, funny rap songs, and parody lyrics of popular songs. One of my first loves in the arts is music and as a teenager I became obsessed with the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan. His songs are like musical poems and I love how he expands awareness. I carried my harmonica with me everywhere and made up songs while I went for walks, then I began reading poetry that influenced Bob Dylan, and have been writing poetry ever since.
What were you feeling when your first book came out? Why?
The first time you see your work in print is very exciting, it’s a bit like Christmas time and birthdays rolled into one. I still feel a sense of joy when a journal arrives in the mail, not only because I like to see my poems in print, but because I love to read other writer’s work. I believe you never stop learning, and keeping that excitement alive makes all the hard work feel like fun.
Are you an illustrator as well?
I love art, and enjoy drawing, but wouldn’t call myself an illustrator. I have worked with many artists, and have had one of my poetry books illustrated.
What poem of yours is your favourite?
My favourite at the moment is: ‘The Republic of Oma Rāpeti’ (see below). I am a very keen gardener and was annoyed when GST was increased, especially the tax on food. Instead of staying grumpy, I worked harder in the garden and wrote a poem about it.
When you were young, what did you want to be?
My father died when I was seven years old and I wanted to become a medical researcher and find a cure for cancer. This experience is what made me become a writer, because at an early age I asked questions about the world around me, and now that I am older I still ask questions, and my poems are often attempts at finding an answer.
What was your first book?
My first book was called: Blueprint for Resurrection or Destruction and it was inspired by the mapping of the human genome. Science is still one of my interests and this book was the first part in a ten-year, ten-book project I have just completed called: 10 x (10 + ˉ10) = 0. My first book of haiku is called Snake Songs and it was illustrated by my friend Rua Pick.
Note from Paula: What a great interview Doc and Max! Thank you. Doc has a poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children that has such delicious detail and it sounds good in the ear.
The Republic of Oma Rāpeti
I planted a fruit and vegetable garden
out of protest against the rise in GST.
The finance minister disguised as a rat
hides in the corn row counting my kernels.
The opposition leader is a bumblebee
passed out drunk from the marigold’s nectar.
The minister of education is a caterpillar
growing fat off the cabbage patch kids.
But I refuse to use sprays or lay poison
because all are welcome in my garden.
To all the urban hippies waging invisible wars
go and plant a cucumber in your combat boots.
Sow a field of carrots to fuel your rebellion
like a roving republic of running rabbits.