When I first came across Emma Lidewij (@emmalidewij) on Instagram, she instantly stood out. As writers, we read tons of poetry a day, but there are few (at least for me) that make me want to stop scrolling, re-read the piece, and allow time to let the words sink into my skin. It wasn't long after I followed Emma that I became an avid fan of hers and I felt like she was able to say all the things I wasn't able to express myself.
Based on the depth and range of Emma's poetry, I was sure she was a seasoned vet in the game and had lived through her fair share of love and heartache so you can imagine my surprise to learn that she just turned 19 in February! Born and raised in the Netherlands, Emma may be young but she is fierce both on and off the pages and her sophomore poetry collection, Chaos and Catastrophe, is the perfect example of it.
Continue reading for part one of the April Spotlight Interview, where you'll learn about Emma the person, the woman, and the writer and also, how she chooses to take on Instagram's ever-changing platform.
What is your first memory of writing? Detail your thoughts, emotions, the space you were in, age - paint the picture for us.
The first time I started writing was for a school assignment when I was about ten years old. We had to write about an imaginary school trip on which we could do anything we wanted. I decided that my classmates and I were going to go to a deserted island. I remember that I kept writing it for the entire lesson and even at the end of it I wasn’t done yet. I had written over six pages in my little notebook, whereas most of my classmates had written about ten lines if not less. The teacher picked mine as her favorite and from there onwards my love for writing developed.
When you first hear the word poetry, what do you think of? What do you see in your mind?
Quite honestly I see everything, but not as images, as words. Poetry to me can be found in everything. Sometimes you’ll have to look for it quite hard, and in other things it’s pretty straightforward. But every object, person, or image can be turned into poetry, so I don’t just have one concept of what poetry is, I have many.
What is it about poetry that you love the most? What do you connect with most in poetry?
I love any kind of writing because it’s a form of self expression that I’ve found works best for me. When I was seventeen I was constantly in a dilemma about either writing prose or songs, when I discovered the perfect middle ground: poetry. It’s not as stern and lengthy as prose, yet it does carry the freedom and the lack of rules. It doesn’t have the same amount of set patterns and the difficulty of writing music, yet it does still have the musical aspect and the heavy emotion that I wanted to convey. It is the straightforwardness and the brevity of poetry that I like the most, so many things can be said in such little words. You don’t need a novel to tell a story, you can do it in only a few lines, or a page.
What is your favorite topic to write on and are there any topics that are off limits for you? Have any pieces of yours made you question sharing on social media due to discomfort of your own or of your audiences?
My personal favourite topic to write about is my struggle with my eating disorder. They are the hardest and the most challenging to write, but it’s very therapeutic as well. And those are also the pieces I rarely ever post or share. They are often far too personal, and I’m often afraid that others who have suffered from this as well might be triggered because of them.
Describe your writing style. Do you tend to write about more lighthearted and positive things or dark and painful? Do you prefer long form or short form? Why?
I think the most important thing to me as a writer is the balance I try to keep. Sometimes my poems are lovey-dovey and sometimes gut wrenchingly horrible, sometimes long and sometimes short. It’s the balance and the diversity that keeps me entertained and challenged.
Name one poet that has influenced you as a writer and who you admire and describe why.
The Greek poetess Sappho influences me every day. She is my all time favourite poet and at times I wish I could sit down with her and have a nice chat.
What is your favorite mood to be in when you sit down to write?
Anger, my best and personal favourite poems are always written in anger, even though it’s a feeling I rarely experience.
What is writing like in your town/city/community? Is there a big population of creative souls or a lot of artists? Are spoken word events held? Do you feel where you are from helps you creatively or hinders you?
It both hinders me and helps me. I live in a very small town in a rural area and I have yet to meet another poet that isn’t already in my friend group. There are no poetry slams, spoken word events, and especially none that aren’t focused on my mother tongue (Frisian). Yet, I am born here and this place has always felt like my home, and in recent months- especially after living abroad for a while and deciding to start writing in my native language too- it has become a huge source of inspiration.
You recently spent some time in Australia. How was that for your creative space? Did it inspire you to write more or less? Did you find it easier or harder to write being away from home? Since you’ve been home, have you felt a shift in your writing? Do you think environment is even a factor in one’s ability to create?
I can write in any setting, at any time. What I did notice was that while I was in Australia, I wrote quite some poems about home, homesickness, and the country I was born in. Before I went to Australia a lot of my poems were about the sense of not feeling at home even though I was home, and about wanting to leave and spread my wings for once. So my trip has definitely influenced my writing, but not necessarily for better or worse.
When did you first join the IG poetry community and how long did it take you to grow your following? Was it overnight or was it a gradual process?
I started my Instagram account a little over a year ago. For about 6 months I gained absolutely zero followers, staying at around 500 the entire time. Then in June/July I started to steadily gain and reached up to 10K around November which is the number I’ve stayed at since then. I’m not quite sure what determines success on Instagram these days, and how to start growing my followers again, but for now I’m just enjoying the community side of it more than the exposure side.
What do you think are the biggest pro and the biggest con within the poetry community as well as on Instagram as a whole?
The biggest pro is definitely that it is so easy to meet fellow writers, to get immediate feedback on your poetry, and to reach a huge audience. The downside to this is that at some point, to a lot of instapoets at least, the big audience becomes the focus, and not the poetry. It’s so easy to get caught in the number game that the Instagram algorithm brings and to totally lose yourself and your authenticity because of it.
How have you managed to persevere through the ever-changing algorithm’s and what advice would you give someone who is struggling with growing their account?
I am really struggling with the algorithm these days myself. My following has been slowly declining since December and my posts get about a fifth of the engagement they used to get. The only advice I really have is to not focus on the numbers too much and to just let it be.
Do you think having a set theme on IG is important? Do you think that attracts more people to your page or do you think it doesn’t so much matter the theme but more the content? How have you decided on a theme? What is your personal experience with IG themes?
I think that having a clean IG feed is very important, an actual theme a bit less. It’s important that all aspects of your account stand out so that people are more likely to follow you. I personally have experimented quite a bit with different themes, and never manage to settle on one for long because I like variety.
What advice would you give someone who is new to IG and the community and beginning to put their work out there? Think about when you were new and what you would have wanted someone to say to you.
The number of followers you have shouldn’t influence your writing. Write what you want to write, not what your followers want to read. Don’t be too number oriented. Be poetry oriented and nothing but that. Don’t fuss too much about your account, it’s the writing that matters.
If you are not working or going to school or writing - what could one find you doing? What other things do you enjoy doing besides writing or being on social media?
I enjoy quite a lot of activities. I naturally love reading, I like to just go out on my own or hang out with friends. I play the piano and listen to lots of music. I like making pancakes and my favourite thing to do is probably just to lie in bed.
Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What personal goals have you set for yourself to achieve in the long term?
I hope that within the next 5 years I have finished college (which I will be starting in September) and I would like to have finished at least one full length novel. Other than that I just hope to be a better and happier version of myself.
What do you want people to take away from your writing? What is it that you hope people feel when they read your words?
I hope they feel less alone. I hope they can somehow find themselves in my words. I hope they know that they are not the only one feeling whatever it is they are feeling. I hope that sometimes people shed a tear or start to smile when they read my words.
stayed tuned to tomorrow for part two of the Author Spotlight Interview where Emma discusses the release of her sophomore poetry collection, Chaos and Catastrophe.
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love & light,