How did you first engage with poetry?
I’m not entirely sure. I remember seeing Dennis Lee on Mr. Dressup somewhere in the 1970s. I’ve always found the sounds and mechanics of words rather curious, and would play with sounds before I entered school. Discovering the word “me” in “home,” for example. I know I was a big reader, and somehow knew more French before I began kindergarten than I’ve ever managed since.
By the time I entered my pre-teens, I was attempting just about everything, from painting with acrylic and watercolours, to comic books (I sent a script attempt to Marvel at one point), to my years of piano lessons, and sketching out lines in notebooks. I had even entered the Kiwanis singing competitions, or whatever it is they were called, during middle school.
By the time I hit grade ten, I’d a social group that was engaged with writing, and I kinda fell into that, writing short stories and poems at a furious pace (some of that group included Clare Latremouille, Franco-Ontarian playwright Louis Patrick Leroux – we knew him only as Patrick back then – and musician Chris Page). During those high school years, my eventual partner and mother of my first child was also instrumental in supporting those early attempts at writing (as were others, but she was by far my most consistent supporter, even if she claimed she hated everything I was writing), offering me multiple books, and introducing me to works by Alice Munro, Margaret Lawrence, Al Purdy, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findlay, Robertson Davies, John Newlove, George Bowering, Michael Ondaatje, Elizabeth Smart, Margaret Atwood, Richard Brautigan and others. “If you’re going to write, you have to read,” she said.
By my final year of high school, I’d managed to place first in the Carleton University High School Writing Competition for a short story (I discovered years later that Ottawa writer Wes Smiderle, who I became friends with somewhere during our thirties, placed first in playwriting the same year).