Firstly, I would like to thank Spillwords for shining the spotlight on me, giving me the opportunity to participate in their series Spotlight on Writers. It’s a real honour. I grew up in the heart of the Waikato, the dairy capital of New Zealand, spending my childhood on a dairy farm, and attending rural schools. The farm was not far from where filming took place for the film The Hobbit. Imagine my surprise when I watched the opening scene of The Hobbit at a cinema in the South East of England some years ago. I said aloud, “I know that place. I was there as a child!” Someone else in the darkened audience quipped, “She’s making it up!” Someone else replied, “But listen to the accent.” I can say with authority ‘Hobbiton’ is close to a nature reserve, Te Tapui, and wild peacocks roam there. I lived for 30 years or more in the UK and never thought I would return to my homeland, but here I am. The forests, bush, evocative mountains and rivers forever remained with me.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
My residence is quite close to my childhood home, and lies under a mountain, Te Aroha, or the Place of Love. Thirty-seven thousand hectares of native bush thrives outside my door, home to kiwis, wild deer, and many native birds. There are endless bush tracks, some which cross rushing streams and waterfalls, some which extend over the peaks in the Kaimai Ranges and are a continual source of joy and rejuvenation. Just down the road is the fabulous Mokena Geyser, the only natural hot soda water geyser in the world, set in the grounds of an Edwardian Domain, with private spas and a Cottage Cafe, both loved haunts. A tourist might travel miles, or even fly from overseas, to visit these attractions, but I am lucky that I can enjoy them every day.
What turns you on creatively?
Nature has always been the key to creativity. Some of my best works were created when I lived close to nature, with woodland on my doorstep. When I lived at Woodside Park in North London, I enjoyed an exceptionally creative period, which I’ve always cherished. Creativity is a continual current flowing within my psyche, but there are places and situations which are conducive to its expression. Trees, wild weather, and a quiet corner in my favourite cafe allow creativity to flow; walking in the bush at twilight, listening to the melodious tui, or walking through early morning fog.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
Liminal is my favourite word. It encapsulates how life flows, with something of the mysterious continually lurking at the periphery of my perceptions. I have used it a few times in my poems:
‘A crowd of black swans smudge the edge of the sky, Compass point of the liminal place; Between night and day the veil parts…’
What is your pet peeve?
Procrastination! Together with inaction, indecision, and idleness. Action is my watchword. If I catch myself being idle, I soon whip myself out of it. Sloth is genuinely one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Often I would hear people sitting around talking about what they wanted to do, but didn’t do it! It’s as if they frittered their energy away on talk, rather than acting. I tend not to talk, which is probably why I appear aloof to some. I have learned to preserve my energy, and channel it as best I can into useful action.
What defines Elizabeth Barton?
Ask my husband! He will say I am unique. But ask my enemy, and he will say I’m antisocial, or aloof. From that observation, it is easy to guess the ‘enemy’ is trying to fritter my energy. It depends on who is doing the observing. It is essential to define oneself, and there lies the magic of becoming who you want to be. A student once told me I am magical; I believe it is possible to create almost anything that you want, and to be magic is an aspiration as much as a definition.