Welcome Louise, it’s great to be interviewing you about your book of poems, I Thought We Were Just Hanging Out.
Thank you, Peri. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you about the book.
Your poems have great immediacy, emotional honesty, and seem to come from authentic raw experience. Which poets do you admire and which poets have inspired you?
I really enjoy Jodi Hill’s poems. She’s a poet from Minnesota, USA, who writes about love, being a woman, vulnerability, opening up, embracing, and letting go. I also love Pia Tafdrup, a Danish poet working with similar themes, and other Danish poets I grew up with. But to be honest, a lot of the times I’m inspired by people I meet during my travels, what they say, and writing I see in coffee shops or on Instagram. To me, poetry is everywhere – including in my own heart, when I’m quiet and listen.
You were born in Denmark and now live back there, in Aarhus. You have travelled to 60 countries. Has travel been important for your writing?
I feel very inspired when I travel, yes. I do a lot of writing on airplanes, trains, busses, even on the backseat of a car and on my iPhone. I write when it comes to me, and often when I travel, something will pop up and I’ll write it down that moment. It may end up in a book, a song or a story later. My job in that moment is to capture by writing it down.
How was travel important for this book?
‘I Thought We Were Just Hanging Out’ is a personal love story that transpired while I traveled in Australia, North America, Europe, and Africa. I wrote poems along the way, so without the travel and without the love that I felt, there would have been no poems and no book. Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote, ‘To travel is to live.’ I know what he means. I feel very much alive when I travel – when I move. It’s a hugely inspiring setting for me to be on the road. The editing of the book, however, was done at home in the quietness of my apartment in Aarhus, Denmark with Skype screen-sharing to my editor and graphic designer in the UK. The photographs were done in San Francisco. Traveling played a significant role in the creative process.
You’ve worked as a journalist, film producer and international event director. Has your working life shaped your writing, and if so, how?
I’ve always done a lot of writing as a child and young journalist. I had my first newspaper story published when I was twelve and by the time I finished high school, I had had over 400 stories published in the local paper and different magazines. I had my own column too for three years. When you work with film production and events, you do a lot of writing – story boards, invitations to attendees, press releases, website updates, etc. I feel that the way my work life has shaped my writing is that I write in a simple, quite direct way with a journalistic approach and an authenticity and honesty. I also write about people and places and how things feel and smell, and that is probably from all those years in the field as a journalist and around the world as a producer and director.
The poems in the book seem to come from recent raw experience – in a word: heartbreak. You’ve dedicated the book to ‘T’ ‘For breaking my heart right open.’ I’m guessing ‘T’ is the man in the relationship that inspired the book?
Yes, his name starts with a ‘T’. The book is dedicated to him.
In the first poem the relationship changes from friendship to something deeper. The second seems to deal with infatuation. The third poem speaks of your soul’s recognition upon meeting. The fourth mentions the other woman in his life (and she seems to haunt some of the poems). The fifth the longing to see him again. The sixth delights in the richness of the relationship. The seventh his departure for another country. In the eighth poem the relationship is in the past tense, he has gone back to the other woman, and there’s great sadness in that poem and the ninth poem. The final poem That Day on the Beach is more reflective, you seem to have come to terms with the loss, and there’s gratitude for what you did have together. Is that a fair assessment?
Yes, that’s a fair assessment.
There seems to be an arc in the poems from beginning to end. Do the poems tell the story of the relationship from beginning to end? And does that arc reflect something deeper about humanity and this human life?
I guess you could say that, yes. I wrote the poems while we were together and after we parted. I had no intention of ever publishing them. Three years went by before I was ready to do that. During my book tour in the U.S., a lot of people in the audience came up to me after a book reading, telling me how much they related to the poems in the book and the overall story. I met many who had experienced love and loss similar to mine, and the poems reminded them of that. I also met a woman who said that she had never felt anything like that, and she had been married for 25 years – now recently divorced. But I think the themes of love, longing, loss and moving on are universal and when I read my book today, it still expresses themes I’m going through – not necessarily related to ‘T’, who the book is about, but to my life in general.
Good writing, poetry or prose, reveals truths and explores universal themes. What are the truths revealed and universal themes explored in these poems?
The themes for me in the poems and in the book are: Love is possible. Life can be truly magical. Letting go and moving on is hard, but something incredibly beautiful can come from it. Everything changed for me when I realized that my heart was broken open and that the love I felt in the meeting with ‘T’ was the beginning of a much more rich life, not the end of it. I’m very grateful for the experience today, and I’ve felt first hand that we don’t always know or understand the meaning of things while they happen, but perhaps we will later on. And last, but not least: time does heal. You will love again. That is true for me today, four years after the adventure with ‘T’.
You are working on a new book. Please tell me about your new project. Is it more poetry, or is it prose? With your background as a journalist I sense a fellow prose writer?
I’m always working on a number of different projects. Which ones actually get published, turn into a book, song or a music video, I have less control over. That seems to reveal itself in the process. But one project I’m working on is a book about how I’ve traveled to 60 countries on five continents the past fourteen years, lived my dream and filled my heart with adventure. A lot of people asked me during my book tour how all this travel is possible for a 33-year-old Danish woman, who is not (yet) independently wealthy. To them, the life I live on the road, which is completely self-funded, is mysterious. To me, it’s a normal way of life. I want to give people the ins and outs of what I’ve done to live a life many people simply dream of but don’t know how to make a reality. A lot of it has to do with management of finances, priorities, choosing jobs and projects you can do on the road, etc. I like the idea of giving people tools and showing them what I’ve done in case they want to live a life full of adventure as well.
What themes does the new book explore?
How to travel the world, live your dream and fill your heart with adventure. How to manage your money in ways so you can fund your adventures and how to think creatively about how your life is spent. We don’t have to work and live like everyone else. It’s possible to do things differently. It’s possible to live the life that is right for you. Do things your way.
Thank you Louise, it’s been great interviewing you. Where may readers buy your books?
It’s been an honor to speak with you, Peri. My books and other adventures are available on www.louiseroenn.com