Hannah Mettner

Story by Loren Baxter

Museum and Heritage Studies, 2016

Hannah Mettner

Hannah Mettner is a poet and Victoria graduate based in Wellington.

Her work has featured in a wide variety of literary publications, and her collection Fully Clothed and So Forgetful, published by Victoria University Press, was released in early 2017.

Neither of Hannah's parents received a university education, but they saw education as a way to a 'better life' for their children.

The eldest of four girls, and born to two ex-hippies turned “happy-clappy born-again Christians,” Hannah grew up in a lower-income household.

From Reader to Writer

One year into her Bachelor of Arts, Hannah became pregnant and moved back home to Gisborne. “That was a tough year for many reasons, but it was also the year that I began reading poetry, so it wasn’t all bad,” she notes.

“I’ve always loved to read … I wonder if perhaps after ingesting a certain amount of writing, a person’s physiology forces them to put something out as a kind of response.”

International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML)

The last thing Hannah expected was to be accepted into the prestigious Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the IIML.

The opportunity to write non-stop for a year was so appealing that Hannah put her library qualification on hold (which she eventually made her way back to) to do so.

The most important influences on Hannah during her time at the IIML were her classmates.

“The variety of stuff that they were writing and reading was phenomenal, and the way that we pushed each other to think about the act and craft of writing itself, and our philosophies around how poetry fits into the world was incredibly exciting,” she says.

Sweet Mammalian

Hannah and two of her good friends, IIML graduates Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach, established Sweet Mammalian, an online literary journal.

“We started Sweet Mammalian as an act of resistance to the kind of poetry we felt was getting a disproportionate amount of exposure."

"The classical New Zealand lyrical, landscape, distanced, academic, tidy poems that were being published didn’t thrill us, and we knew that people were writing different kinds of poems and having them rejected.”

The journal has enabled Hannah to appreciate the artistic empathy poets have for one another, and the diversity of voices and poetic experiences being written in NZ.

Messy dirty emotional kitsch witchy

During her Master’s year Hannah realised she would never be able to, or in fact want to, write like the famous male poets she'd studied at university.

“This gave me the freedom to let my poems be a bit more messy and dirty and emotional and kitsch and witchy,” she says.

“I think I want my poems to be like little handicrafts, or nests or something. I don’t want them to be clean sculptural monoliths. I want the reader to become a bit entangled in them.”

Although life takes over sometimes, Hannah notes that meeting with her ‘poetry club’ helps to keep her writing in check. “It’s quite lovely and we trust each other a lot I think.”

The balance between trying to keep her poems from being both “too tidy” and “too messy” is no mean feat, however, one of the more difficult parts of being a poet for Hannah is reading her work aloud.

“On the one hand, I love to hear poets read their own work because it often makes me ‘get’ it in a really personal way that seeing something on a page doesn’t, but reading my own work out is a terrifying thing, because I worry people will hate it.”

“I think maybe there’s a point people reach where they stop worrying about this, but I’m not at that point yet.”

Listen to Hannah's poetry

  • Bones

  • Trip with Mum

A Creative Legacy

In her recently released poetry collection Fully Clothed and So Forgetful published by Victoria University Press, Hannah’s “messy and dirty and emotional and kitsch and witchy” poetry strikes a chord with those of us looking to read beyond the pākehā male experience.

Whether you’re an avid poetry reader, a fan of the classics, or completely new to the scene, there’s something for everyone in Hannah’s poems.

Touching on the universal themes of love, motherhood, anxiety, family and sexuality, Hannah’s writing continues to challenge and excite those who engage with it.

International Institute of Modern Letters

16 Waiteata Rd, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand