Saturday 31 March 2018

Shannon Quinn : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A poem has to rest for a while after it has been written. I go through a few drafts, sometimes many. I’m pretty merciless with my editing process but at some point I begin to understand the truth of the piece. I ask myself…is it truthful, do I know it as such in my heart? This may be a response to the fact that I am a fan of magic realism so I need to make sure the piece has solid bones. I also need to read it out loud , ideally to more than just myself.

Friday 30 March 2018

Amanda Earl : part five

How does a poem begin?

In myriad ways. Of late, a poem begins out of a frustration with the confines of convention. I often feel trapped by expected grammar and syntax.

Penn Kemp : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Often when the title comes to me.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Kyle Flemmer : part one

Kyle Flemmer [photo credit: Dean McClelland] is an author, editor, and publisher from Calgary. He founded The Blasted Tree Publishing Company in 2014, a small press and community of emerging Canadian artists, and is presently the Managing Editor at filling Station Magazine. Kyle's most recent poetry chapbooks are Astral Projection (above/ground press, 2017), Lunar Flag Assembly Kit (no press, 2017), and PRAY/LEWD (The Blasted Tree, 2016).

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins as an itch or impulse that appears at some mental crossroads. For me, the first step toward scratching that itch involves identifying which specific lines of thinking are coming together. The poem is an attempt to explain why using language; why am I at this crossroads? What brought me here? Until I can answer that sufficiently (at least to myself), the itch doesn’t go away.

Aaron Tucker : part three

How does a poem begin?

For me, poems (and writing in general) begins in reading. I find the poems of mine that I like the most are in response to other texts; those texts are not always poems but include essays, novels, short stories, newspaper articles, Facebook posts. I would attach to this fine art: paintings, sculpture, installations. Other people’s ideas and arguments are always the most stimulating for me and then I am trying to write in conversation with those exciting ideas, add something to what they are writing and acknowledge where my thoughts came from. I am always aware that my writing exists in dense networks of other writing and I try to utilize those networks as best I can.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Emily Izsak : part five

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

Mina Loy. Mina Loy. Mina Loy.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

rob mclennan : part one

rob mclennan [photo credit: Stephen Brockwell] lives in Ottawa, where he runs a reading series three blocks away from where he was born. His latest titles include the full-length A perimeter (New Star Books, 2016), and the chapbook snow day (above/ground press, 2018). Household items, his second poetry title with Ireland’s Salmon Publishing, appears this spring. His author page exists at:

What are you working on?

I’m not sure. I just spent the past two months working on a poem called “snow day,” which I recently produced as a chapbook through above/ground press. I usually produce some kind of handout for my birthday party, so I gave myself a deadline of that, once I realized, early on, that the poem was moving in a particular direction. With that done, I’ve been poking at a couple of “seventeen word poems,” after being solicited for such. I’m not sure what will happen with “snow day” post-chapbook, if it evolves into a larger manuscript or not. Given the prose poem elements of the work, my immediate impulse is to move in an entirely different structural direction with whatever might be added as a further section to assist it into becoming a full-length manuscript. Perhaps I’m channelling Susan Howe, wanting my prose section to sit beside something torn apart and restructured. I’m not sure yet.

Really, now that I spent the bulk of last year starting and finishing the poetry manuscript “the book of smaller,” I really should be getting back to those three short stories I attempted to complete last fall. I’ve another gathering of small projects to get off my desk first, including a scattering of reviews for the blog, and two different anthology projects, as well as the literary walks I’ve been building for Arc Poetry Magazine.

I suppose the real answer is: reviews.

Sara Renee Marshall : part four

How does a poem begin?

Often, I’m ambushed by the recourse to write—a single phrase, notion, question, or feeling—and a poem begins in that minor crisis. That’s eros; that’s desire, I guess. In Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson writes, “Desire, then, is neither inhabitant nor ally to the desirer. Foreign to her will, it forces itself irresistibly upon her from without. Eros is an enemy.” Her characterization feels true to my experience of writing, a delicious anguish, an awareness of an absence I’m compelled to fill, even while knowing I can’t. Ideas come as a feeling of otherness that takes me over or carves out a space in my attention without permission. I’m inclined to offer myself to that otherness—to satisfy it out of fear or out of some desire to master it.

Monday 26 March 2018

Pearl Pirie : part three

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

Short Answer: Generally with a rhythm and a sense of blockage and nausea.

Long Answer: I’ve led workshop groups on and off for 15 years. I’ve been in one workshop circle or another for most of the years since 1986. A few years ago I was in a few concurrent workshop groups, 1 online continuously, a couple seasonally, 1 face-to-face weekly. I have internalized the typical feedback of the aesthetics of each group, and the usual lessons each offers.  There were several people I sent poems to as first readers for clarity or editing checks.

Now there are a couple people I send the occasional poem thingee to but not for feedback, just as a way to communicate. I’m in a quarterly group of KaDo but as much for the social and seminars.

I suppose that change reflects a shift in proportion to output. I used to make 1-5 poems a day and now 1 or 2 a month, if that. Or it reflects that I have a growing sense of the effect(iveness) of my words. Socialized for a finer theory of mind? Everything is speculation.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Kim Goldberg : part four

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?
The best book on my shelf for getting me writing new poems is In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry, edited by Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve. The book contains great discussion, explanations and examples of various poetic forms. Within 20 minutes of opening that book, I find myself trying my hand at a pantoum or triolet or sonnet. Lately, I’ve had a good run with Sam Hamill’s magnum opus of collected poems Habitation as being a rich source of inspiration for me. I am very fond of prose poems, so opening almost any anthology of prose poems gets the words flowing.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Shannon Quinn : part one

Shannon Quinn is the author of poetry collection Questions for Wolf (Thistledown Press). Her work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, the US and Ireland.

Quinn has produced numerous radio documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She currently works for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Quinn's second poetry collection, Nightlight for Children of Insomniacs (Mansfield Press) is forthcoming this spring. More info can be found at

What are you working on?

I’m working on what will be my 3rd collection of poetry…I think it is an exploration of how equanimity manifests but it might take me somewhere else. I try not to impose expectations about content but once content starts to reveal itself I want to maximize the potential for the pieces to work together as a collection. My 2nd collection, Nightlight for Children of Insomniacs, comes out late spring of 2018. In that collection I am exploring how in Buddhism we believe that every sentient being has the potential to have been out mother in another life…that theme was so great to work with because regardless of your personal beliefs, most people don’t respond in a neutral manner to it.

Friday 23 March 2018

Amanda Earl : part four

Why is poetry important?

To help fellow misfits find one another, so that they know they are not alone.

Penn Kemp : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Listening to my Irish grandmothers recite poems and tell stories: I was enchanted by the other worlds they described and the lilt peculiar to the recitations.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Aaron Tucker : part two

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

For me, poetry is about density and compression and, as a form, I think the its greatest accomplishments have to do with moving away from the woolly excess of prose and the sentence as a unit of thought towards the line as the structural unit, and within the line, an ungrammatical freedom that owes far less to immediate semantic sense. Personally, I am drawn to poetry because it has a great deal of tolerance for juxtaposition and repetition: poetry fuses words together, then evolves those fusings by grafting them to the other components of other lines, stanzas, poems. It’s not to say that this can’t be done in prose, but I think it is more difficult and not as innate to the form.   

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Emily Izsak : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding the words. Literally finding them. I look through so many different kinds of dictionaries (reverse, rhyming, online, print) for words that I like the sound of. I have a running list of words at the bottom of every in-progress poetry document. I spend more time looking for words than I do arranging them. 

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sara Renee Marshall : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

As a younger student of literature, I wrongly invested in what others told me was hip or important, deeply afraid that I’d make some grave error from which I would never recover. That included being afraid to confess anything, to put myself and my heartbreaks and my failure and my EXPERIENCE into my writing. It was received avant “knowledge” (read: currency) at the time that nobody wanted to hear about any of that. That inherently racist, classist, ableist, sexist thinking, and the entire sway of certain insidious strains of academic poetry, took a long time to unlearn. I’m still trying to rinse that shit off.

Further, I’m less invested in “poet” as an identity—or any particular writerly identity. I’m more interested in writing as a community practice, a way to reach out and participate, and at the same time, a way to listen, to show up for others, and to learn.

I once thought I loved poetry above other genres, but I think that too was a wrong-headed fad I fell for. I study and I write because I am a searching person. I’m hungry and hard to satisfy, so something called “poetry” doesn’t house everything I need. Necessarily, I go to podcasts and visual art; I go to 18th century women’s fiction and the history of transportation. These days, poetry is just one name for an urge I follow or a set of associations I try on or take off.

Monday 19 March 2018

Pearl Pirie : part two

What are you working on?

Short Answer: Carleigh Baker on Feb 27 (follow her on twitter @CarleighBaker) captured it:

Sean: How's the writing?
Me: Good!
Sean: How's the writing?
Me: Good!
Sean: How's the writing?
Me: Bullshit, it's all bullshit, REVISING EVERYTHING.

Long Answer: Ah the dreaded question. “What are you working on?” can be a jostling for status, a segue to humblebrags, an attempt to look professional. It might be a failure of any other common ground to make small talk. In rare hands (I can think of one case), it can be an ambush to take measure of a person.

Or, optimist shoved in front, it can be bonding shop talk with people who “get it”, the drive and struggle to be a maker in a genre that accumulates debt instead of income. It can be asking a real conversational question, formed because writing must be something that the person cares about, because no one writes poetry or attends events except by their own choice as a priority, taking an opportunity cost of what else they could do. It might even be an offering to let each other pick their brains about what to do with the newest ungainly creation that is taking shape.

I’m in a “fallow period”. I’ve been spending my energies trying to promote other writers since 2009, in one place or another, and to keep life balance. The desire to write is the lowest it’s been since I was 10 or 11 years old, when I was making my first chapbooks.

It’s a choice now, rather than artesian welling. Which is probably good nor bad, just a thing.

I am editing older poems, putting together a full-length collection of haiku and tanka — my first attempt to make a book of them. I’d put that ambition on the 10 year plan. Then did it a couple months later.  I figure do it to the best ability now, and again when given more time.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Kim Goldberg : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?
Jane Hirshfield – especially her collection of essays Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. And of that collection, it was particularly the final essay “Writing and the Threshold Life”. This essay changed my life. I couldn’t possibly do it justice with any recap or summary. People should go find the book and read that essay.

Friday 16 March 2018

Amanda Earl : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Music was the first poetry I engaged with. I used to sing the poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses when I first learned to read. Sound and rhythm are vital components of my poetry. I also make playlists for long poems and poem series either after I’ve written them or during. I’ve written book-length manuscripts in 48 hours while listening to Spinal Tap’s Ghost I-IV or The Downward Spiral. Music will often help support the tone and rhythm of the work.

Penn Kemp : part one

Poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has been celebrated as a trailblazer since her first publication of poetry by Coach House (1972), and a “one-woman literary industry”. She was London's inaugural Poet Laureate and Western’s Writer-in-Residence as well as the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Kemp has been a keen participant in Canada’s cultural life with thirty books of poetry, prose and drama; seven plays and ten CDs produced as well as several award-winning videopoems. See Her latest poetry is Local Heroes (Insomniac, 2018). New plays are out about local hero, Teresa Harris, as well as poetry, Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro): see Updates: and Follow her on Twitter (pennkemp) or

Photo credit: Mary McDonald

What are you working on?

My next project, LOCAL HEROES, Insomniac Press, 2018, celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. London’s literary and artistic heritage is documented, honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.

Landscape shapes us by its distinctive atmosphere. Southwestern Ontario (Souwesto) is a peninsula bordered by two Great Lakes and by the United States. Local Heroes examines the works of artists who have been influenced by the pervading spirit of Souwesto. In classical Rome, a genius loci was the protective spirit of the local, depicted as a figure holding a libation bowl. London is situated in a bowl scraped out from receding glaciers. This bowl teems over with the productions of its arts through time. Why? What has made London a creative centre? As a mid-sized county seat set in the fertile farmland of Middlesex County, London is in the middle, entre lacs, between two metropolises, Toronto and Detroit, at the edge of the Snow Belt. Because it is so surrounded, London began as a garrison, a fiercely conservative British enclave that held tight to tradition and conventional mores. Artists who lived here could rebel, conform or leave.

The collection present three sections, in historical order. It opens with an exploration of the exploits of Teresa Harris, who escaped her corsets along with her colonial upbringing in London’s Eldon House. Like me, this explorer travelled widely for decades before returning home with memories and mementoes. The poems devoted to Teresa consist of outtakes from my play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris, that were best expressed as poetry. The middle section is What the Heart Parts, also produced as a play and a Sound Opera. When the Heart Parts is based on the life and death of her father, Jim Kemp, London artist and mentor of artists in the 1950s. In my work, poetry and drama intersect, the way two branches of the Thames meet at the Forks.

The second half of the book is a tribute to local London creators. I was lucky enough to grow up in an artistic household and so was introduced to many of London’s cultural icons. Anecdotes abound. “London Local Heroes” recognizes several of those artists who broke through conservative conventions to create and celebrate their own community. Cultural activists had to develop their own vibrant and exciting arts scene or be pulled away to the larger metropolis east or west of London. Transformation happens in the local, through the intersection of culture, art and geography that defines the regional. Local Heroes offers an empowering vision of regionalism: we are at our own centre, our own gravitational field, where activism is most effective. We are at the centre of a cultural cauldron where opposites mingle and mix. Here the arts are cultivated and emerge as rich as the farmland surrounding London. The centre not only holds but opens up to the world, rippling out in concentric circles.

Thursday 15 March 2018

Aaron Tucker : part one

Aaron Tucker [photo credit: Julia Polyck-O’Neill] is the author of the forthcoming novel Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos (Coach House Books) as well as two books of poetry, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Bookthug Press) and punchlines (Mansfield Press), and two scholarly cinema studies monographs, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Hollywood War Films and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both published by Palgrave Macmillan).

His current collaborative project, Loss Sets, translates poems into sculptures which are then 3D printed (; he is also the co-creator of The ChessBard, an app that transforms chess games into poems (

Currently, he is an uninvited guest on the Dish with One Spoon Territory, where he is a lecturer in the English department at Ryerson University (Toronto), teaching creative and academic writing. More at

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was introduced to poetry with The Cremation of Sam McGee in elementary school, which I loved and was givenfairly traditional texts in high school – I remember being given some Robert Frost poems and then the obligatory Shakespeare;

The first poem I remember being enthralled by was “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” by Sylvia Plath. Growing up in Lavington, a small community in the interior of B.C., I was struck by the poem’s frustration with banality, the yearning for the extraordinary that would be willing to make itself known. I also remember, during this time, taking Michael Ondaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler out of the Vernon Public Library. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I chose the book, but, looking back, it really shaped how I think about the scale of poetry – I tend to love working on larger scale works, multiple pages, poems that interlock and echo each other. This was further bolstered by the Canadian poetry class with Stephen Scobie I took during my University of Victoria undergrad: his passion and experience with Canadian poetry constructed a reading practice that sits deep in the core of me; too, it was the first class where I read bpNichol’s The Martyrology, Phyllis Webb, Gerry Shikatani, among others.

It terms of actually writing, the biggest initial influence was John Lent at Okanagan College and his creative writing classes there. Not only is John an incredible poet, but his generosity and intelligence in responding and mentoring taught me so much about writing and engaging in writing communities.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Emily Izsak : part three

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I do have a group. A few groups. All of my poems are read and edited by trusted friends before they end up in print (or online) anywhere.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Sara Renee Marshall : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Going to MFA school was the first chance I had as an adult to dedicate real study to writing. My graduate school mentor, Julie Carr, comes immediately to mind as a poet who taught me about risking something in your writing—risking vulnerability, leaving necessary space for uncertainty and intuition, which is another kind of risk or trust. She also taught me that every bit of our living is political, and you can write a book about that.

I keep learning from Fred Moten, whose mélange of music, vernacular, high theoretical thinking, and a deeply candid, personal writing thrills me. Reading Moten feels a lot more like dancing. I’m always brought back to my own body by Danielle Vogel’s physical and literal entanglement of ritual and composition. Lisa Robertson opened up whole new possibilities to me—that my research obsessions are welcome in any form, that form itself is radically plastic, and that’s the fun of it. Also, you can ask your reader to be rigorous.

Always: Claudia Rankine, Anne Carson, Bhanu Kapil, Elizabeth Willis, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Rosmarie Waldrop, Alice Notley. More recently: Farnoosh Fathi, Angel Nafis, Morgan Parker, Hannah Brooks-Motl.

Monday 12 March 2018

Pearl Pirie : part one

Pearl Pirie has 3 collections published and a bunch of chapbooks. Pirie was director of the Tree Reading Series and is president of regional haiku group KaDo, is on the organizing committee for VERSeFest and the board of Friends of Wakefield Library. or on twitter @pesbo.

How did you first engage with poetry?

Short Answer: Each moment is the start.

Long Answer: I always was around verses. I was reading the stuff in textbooks of the 1920s-1940s which I grew up on. It was in the antique books I collected, in the bible tracts that fell like plucked geese feathers around the house. In books given to me, the Fireside series from my father’s aunt.

The notion of Poetry is a weird one. Silence is poetry when well-timed. Jingles, songs, headlines, well-written dense prose, a well-phrased story or joke, all can have the same essence as poetry of dense musical ideas. Poetry constructs a need then meets it. A propaganda that soothes and/or stirs to action.

Poetry engages me when it stretch me with something I think I know, paired with something I think I don’t. It is something half-offered or fully offered that risks something that it doesn’t need to risk. Or offers a parable that needs reinforcing, such as: order or compassion or beauty are possible.

Sunday 11 March 2018

Kim Goldberg : part two

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?
Creative expression is empowering and inspiring. One of my books, Red Zone, is a poetic chronicle of homelessness in downtown Nanaimo, BC, where I live. People have grown somewhat apathetic to the systemic problem of homelessness because they feel helpless to do anything about it when they are reading headline after headline, statistic after statistic. But I found that by documenting it creatively, poetically, instead of journalistically, people became very interested in discussing and devising strategies to address homelessness locally. In other words, creative energy inspires people to tap into their own creative energy, to think differently, solve problems. Creative energy is ultimately energy of hope (regardless of the subject) because creativity is the counterweight to inertia.

Friday 9 March 2018

Amanda Earl : part two

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

I revisit Lorca’s Theory and Play of the Duende.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Emily Izsak : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When there is at least one “special” grouping of words in it, by which I mean a phrase I’ve never heard before that makes me laugh or feel something. A punch line, I guess. If a poem is all set up and no punch line, it’s not finished.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Sara Renee Marshall : part one

Sara Renee Marshall is the author of a few chapbooks, two of which are forthcoming this year from above/ground press. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, OmniVerse, jubilat, Jellyfish, in anthologies, and elsewhere. She has two degrees from University of Colorado, and she's working on a PhD at University of Georgia. With Thomas and her daughter Rosa Bernadette, she lives in Atlanta, Ga.

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

I want to follow Nathanaël here, who said they distrust “any genre delineation,” but to be more specific, poetry is, for me, only a chronicle of associations, attachments, and limits that I remember as I practice them, transgress them, subvert them, or ignore them. For me, composing is bodily, affective, ambient, and anti-singular. I read while I write. I walk while I write. I parent and pee and half-sleep while I write. Its urges and impulses emerge from so many sources and forms that I can’t always say what I am writing is a poem or that what I have written is certainly a poem. Or maybe I am less interested in the provenance or jurisdiction of poetry than I am in the affective experience of generating writing in a broader sense.

So: I remain a bit ambivalent about what poetry can accomplish, but I feel certain that writing can move us, can be a space of communion, politics, music, pleasure, pain, and solidarity.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Kim Goldberg : part one

Kim Goldberg is the author of seven books of poetry and nonfiction including Red Zone, poems of homelessness, and Undetectable, her haibun poetry journey through Hepatitis C and cure. She organized the Women’s Eco-Poetry Workshop and Panel at the inaugural Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle. Kim’s poems have recently appeared in Literary Review of Canada, The Capilano Review, Augur, Big Smoke Poetry, Poetry is Dead and elsewhere. She lives and speculates in Nanaimo, BC, and on twitter: @KimPigSquash
How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?
Normally a poem of mine leaves the nest by getting published in a magazine or anthology. But that is a very slow process. It can be easily take two years from the time I write a poem until it appears in a magazine or antho. And even then, most people I know will never actually read it (the sad fate of lit mags). I have recently come to feel the whole prolonged publication process was causing me enormous blockage of creative energy and robbing me of interactions/engagement with my audience and literary community. So I changed my policy and started posting some of my new poems directly to Facebook. That has felt very freeing. Of course, those poems cannot go on to be published elsewhere in most cases. I also perform new poems at open mic events around town (which let’s you know pretty damn quick whether you’ve got a page poem or a stage poem!)
As for writing groups where members share and critique each others’ work, these are incompatible with my creative process, although I realize they are very nourishing for many poets and writers. In my case, I really do not want other people’s creative energies or preferences influencing or skewing my choices on a piece. It feels contaminating. So I do not share work until I feel it is complete. In other words, I never offer it for feedback or suggestions. I don’t attend writing retreats or workshops or courses for this reason, although I have supported myself from my writing for 40 years.

Friday 2 March 2018

Amanda Earl : part one

Amanda Earl is a Canadian writer, editor, publisher and visual poet whose goals are whimsy, exploration and connection. She’s the managing editor of Ottawa-based and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress. With a.m. kozak, she co-hosts the podcast, the Small Machine Talks. Most recent poetry chapbook is wintered by shreeking violet press. Last poem published was Jo Ego (1) on Queen Mob’s Teahouse as part of the Videogames and Loneliness series. For more info, visit or connect with Amanda on Twitter @KikiFolle.

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

Because poetry is such a vast field for form, exploration, theme and content, there aren’t any limits to what a poem can be. Pedants will insist that a poem should be this way or that way, but it really can be anything the creator’s imagination and skill can make. I see poetry as a form of art and as art it has the potential to confuse, irritate and get under the skin, for me anyway, more than other forms. I read somewhere that art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. This is what I want out of poetry.