Interview with Heather Sweeney 01/11/2021
Heather Sweeney, lives in San Diego where she writes, and does visual art. Her chapbooks include Just Let Me Have This (Selcouth Station Press) and Same Bitch, Different Era: The Real Housewives Poems (above/ground press). She is also the author of the collections, Dear Marshall, Language is Our Only Wilderness (Spuyten Duyvil Press) and Call Me California (Finishing Line Press). Her chapbook, The Book of Likes is forthcoming from The Hunger Press in 2021. You can find her walking her dog and looking at trees.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I am working on some poems called Always the Sun. They are very much influenced by the pandemic and experiences of sheltering in place. I am also working on a series of abstract paintings called Soft Graffiti in which I am working with layered intuitive markings. My work, as a whole, is created very much in the moment and I don’t plan projects; I try to let them emerge.
How has this pandemic affected or shifted your practice/changed your projects?
As a writer and artist, I think that the conditions under which I work have not really changed that much, but the content is certainly influenced by the pandemic. I wrote some poems at the beginning of the pandemic that blend the “realities” of social media and sheltering in place. I am now thinking about the idea of instability and how the current climate serves to highlight the myth of stability now more than ever.
What has your journey been like as an artist or creative person?
My journey has been a long and inconsistent one. I have always loved drawing and painting. As a teenager in a small town in Michigan, I spent many late hours drawing and writing poems in my bedroom. I was inspired by new wave music, Andy Warhol and MTV. At the time, I thought I’d become a famous artist and live in California someday. Well, part of that did come true. I feel at home in San Diego and I have been manifesting this life for many years. In between then and now, I taught English at high schools, community colleges and universities in Michigan, Arizona, and California. I had abandoned my true self and was settling for something that loosely related to my dreams.
I pursued my MFA in Writing in 2014. I never imagined it possible, but not only did I get into one of my top choices, but I was also granted a full-ride fellowship at Naropa University in Boulder. I knew I had to go even though that meant spending time away from my husband and our beloved dog, Dexter. While at Naropa, I wrote my first full-length poetry book, Dear Marshall, Language is Our Only Wilderness which was just published by Spuyten Duyvil Press.
After my MFA, I took a year off of writing and starting doing visual art again, and I feel that these pursuits are very connected. A year later, in 2018, Selcouth Station published my first chapbook, Just Let Me Have This, and above/ground press published my second chapbook, Same Bitch, Different Era: The Real Housewives Poems, shortly thereafter. Later, I wrote my second full-length book, Call Me California, which is coming out soon by Finishing Line Press. Right now, I am both writing and painting and spend a lot of time in my home studio with my dog as my assistant.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming, or rising artists/creatives?
I think that my number one piece of advice is to stay true to yourself as a person and as an artist. Don’t compare yourself to others. Keep doing the work. Think about your intentions behind the work. Keep experimenting. Be bold. Don’t be afraid.
You can find Heather online: heathercsweeney.com