Friday, 13 July 2018

Susan Gillis : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I’m told that as a baby I gurgled to the figures on the toile-covered sofa in the house I grew up in, probably re-telling the legends and folk tales that were read to me by my mother and aunties and grandmothers. My mother saved an early document, “Mrs. Gillis’s Birthday Poem”—so formal!—and in high school and college I would hand in “essays” that were written as poem sequences. (I could only get away with this once in each class, though.) Being accused of plagiarism in high school when I wrote a decent-enough actual essay on The Rape of the Lock, because my essays up to then, on short stories, had been very middling, forced me to recognize (and articulate) that there was something I really, really liked about poetry, even if I didn’t love certain poems. The key that unlocked poetry as something I might write myself was my tenth-grade teacher Tony Johnstone’s mid-term note on my “daily creative writing” assignment: “I think you need a bigger notebook.”

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