Poet pens a wild persona

Johanna Aitchison has recently had her third volume of poetry published.
FAITH SUTHERLAND

Johanna Aitchison has recently had her third volume of poetry published.

Palmerston North writer Johanna Aitchison has created a persona called Miss Dust for her newly published book of poems and she says the character is a far wilder version of herself.

Aitchison has a Masters in Creative Writing and Miss Dust is her third book of poems. She said the idea of creating an alter ego came from having extensively read the works of John Berryman.

"He has lots of alter egos and I became interested in creating someone who I could work through that wasn't me, but was someone that was a writing version of a speaker in a poem. I think she started to become more prominent as I wrote the book and I initially started off with three alter egos but then she took over all the poems."

Aitchison's previous book, Long Girl Ago, was shortlisted for the best book of poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2008 and from that she received funding from Creative New Zealand to work on another volume.

"I was also the Massey Artist in Residence in 2012, which really helped me. It gave me the space to write and to look at the book as a whole."

Aitchison teaches creative writing at the International Pacific College and said writing Miss Dust in persona form was a very freeing experience.

"She was like a vehicle for exploring different things, she took on her own life and way of being. She is far more troublesome than I have ever been, she is a very adventurous, out-there character."

Aitchison recently won a place in the prestigious writers programme at Iowa University for two months and she will be heading there next month . During her time in Iowa Aitchison will begin work on her next project, which she said would definitely not be poetry.

"I have just spent all this time on poems, so I think I would like to do something non-fiction. I don't really have much of a plan and am still ruminating on it. I would really like to write something funny and while I am in Iowa I will just be responding to the different environment and record a whole lot of that."

Johanna Aitchison's book of poems Miss Dust is available at Palmerston North's Bruce McKenzie's Bookshop.

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