Monday 30 April 2018

Anita Dolman : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I tend not to. I am an editor by trade and by instinct. Learning when to let a poem go is an ongoing struggle for me. I don’t believe a poem is ever finished, really. Not only may it eventually be adapted by the author again, it will certainly be adapted, in how it is seen and heard and interpreted, by every person who eventually reads or hears it.

Honestly, I don’t think any art is static as long as there is a person who may still stumble across it and bring it back to life by engaging with it.

Sunday 29 April 2018

Shannon Bramer : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I’ve been writing poems for decades, since I was a child. The hardest part is still just sitting down to do it. Writing involves sitting with my feelings, memories, ideas, fears—my confusion, my muddle. So it can be painful and exhausting! Also, finding the confidence to let the language loose, to let the poem off its leash and let it go where it needs to go. To let the poem be its own thing and somehow not mine anymore.

Saturday 28 April 2018

Friday 27 April 2018

Sanita Fejzić : part four

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

Poetry is a neighbour to thinking and language, according to Heidegger. He did not say prose; poetry is a neighbour to thinking and language—but why? It may be because poetry is heightened, experimental, musical prose—it is prose come to life, departing from the conventional, in the process of expanding our thinking and language. Poetry is the creative use of language. Poetry is always already in prose and other forms of writing such as playwriting. You recognize it in moments when prose becomes self-conscious or is no longer thinking about the traditional pillars of fiction such as narrative. When prose takes off into uncharted territories with words, punctuation, space and form, it enters the domain of poetry. I do not know if poetry wants to accomplish (or compete with) other forms; I would rather say that poetry is intimate with other forms.

Penn Kemp : part seven

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

Yes, books by friends who live far away but whose words I treasure. See above.  These are women writers I admire and share new poems with.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Kyle Flemmer : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m not sure that I ever know a poem is finished, as in “complete” (I can tell when a poem is finished as in “dead”), and I’m always ready to open up a poem for further tinkering. I resist the idea that a poem has an absolute terminal, a Nirvana at which it arrives perfect and whole. That said, I often define constraints or parameters for my writing. These help me decide when a poem is sufficiently developed to start sharing, itself an experience which almost always pushes the poem to grow further, beyond where I thought the conclusion should be based on its parameters.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Manahil Bandukwala : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I love reading chapbooks and books by people in my community, or people whom I’ve personally met. Readings and launches are a great place to find poetry books by people whose work you enjoy. Lately I’ve read Ayesha Chatterjee’s Bottles and Bones and Conyer Clayton’s For the Birds. For the Humans.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

rob mclennan : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

For years, my go-to was George Bowering, a poet I’d first encountered during my high school years. Influences were multiple during my twenties, from John Newlove, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood and Barry McKinnon to bpNichol, Artie Gold, Robert Kroetsch and Judith Fitzgerald, among so many, many others, but Bowering was always my anchor. From him, I learned a consideration of writing my local, and the importance of reading (and supporting) my contemporaries. Every time I read any of his essays, or picked up an anthology he’d edited, it sent me off into dozens of other directions in my reading, which I’ve very much appreciated. Through him, I discovered TISH, the Kootenay School of Writing, the Vehicule Poets, Coach House, Talon, Quebec writers in translation, etcetera. The field was ever-expanding, and seemingly had no limits.

Some of my staples over the past decade or so include Pattie McCarthy, Rosmarie Waldrop, Margaret Christakos, Sawako Nakayasu, Alice Notley, Julie Carr, Susan Howe, Jennifer Kronovet, Marcus McCann, Kate Greenstreet, Anna Gurton-Wachter, Erín Moure, Jordan Abel, derek beaulieu, Ryan Murphy, Cole Swensen, Gil McElroy, and pretty much anything translated by Norma Cole. Amelia Martins had a first book I couldn’t put down for a very long time. Layli Long Soldier should have won every award going for her first collection. There are far more names to list, but I suspect we haven’t infinite space.

Really, the way one thinks about writing is constantly mutable, and evolving, or at least should be. Just about anything can change the way one thinks about writing, even a poem I might not necessarily find terribly interesting, discovered in the middle of some literary journal, might have some small kernel of “oh, what’s that?” in it; something I might want to consider including in whatever I end up doing next.

Annick MacAskill : part one

Annick MacAskill’s debut collection is No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Grain, Literary Review of Canada, Versal, Room, Arc, and The Fiddlehead. Originally from Ontario, she currently lives and writes in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Photo credit: Heather Kirk

How did you first engage with poetry?

As a child, with little awareness of what I was doing. I think my mother called my writing “poems” before I thought of it that way, but the word felt right immediately.

Monday 23 April 2018

Anita Dolman : part one

Anita Dolman’s poetry and fiction have appeared in journals and anthologies throughout North America, including Canadian Ginger, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Matrix Magazine, On Spec, Grain, PRISM international and Triangulation: Lost Voices. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, and was a finalist for the 2015 Alberta Magazine Award for fiction. Her debut short fiction collection, Lost Enough (Morning Rain Publishing) was released in 2017. Anita is a contributing editor for Arc Poetry Magazine, and co-editor of Motherhood in Precarious Times, an anthology of non-fiction, essays and poetry (Demeter Press, 2018).

Photo credit: John W. MacDonald

What are you working on?

Right now, I am expanding a short story that wants to be a novella, and am doing promotion for the Motherhood in Precarious Times anthology (Demeter Press, 2018), of which I am co-editor, along with U.S. professors Barbara Schwartz-Bechet and Dannielle Joy Davies.

I am also starting on a longer fiction project that may or may not grow to be a novel, and am searching for a publisher for a collection of my poetry. New poems still also seem to keep happening in between all of these things.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Shannon Bramer : part four

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

I’m not sure poems are meant to accomplish anything except to change how something is seen or understood or felt. Poems are meant to go around touching souls. In a tiny space a poem evokes a universe. The form is simultaneously direct and mysterious. You can’t tell a poem what to do; after you make it has to keep on moving, living, breathing, weeping on the page. Poems love the mundane world as much as they love beauty, horror, injustice, history, swans. Poems want to do everything and nothing at the same time.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Shannon Quinn : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Rhythm and sound are very important to me and the piece will dictate that on its own, I just need to follow.  If I catch myself defaulting to the same rhythm over a couple pieces I need to stop and have a long think.  In terms of actual music…not so important…I write in silence.

Friday 20 April 2018

Sanita Fejzić : 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 have a special relationship with the will to poetry, that is, with the creative linguistic drive to word new wor(l)ds. Poetry comes to me of its own free will, my job is to be receptive and radically open to it. When I channel the will to poetry, I try to be as unconditional about the process as possible. The more I try to control the writing process, the harder it becomes to hear the music, rhythm and essence of poetic will. I am very private about the process of writing and do not share my work ideas with others until I am ready (or forced to), either because I’m stuck or because I want feedback on my work-in-progress. Writing is rewriting; writing a collaborative act.

Penn Kemp : part six

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Daphne Marlatt’s Intertidal (Talonbooks, 2017) and her Reading Sveva.  All of Susan McCaslin and Sharon Thesen.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Kyle Flemmer : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Last year I completed the 95 books challenge, and in my hurry to fit in that many I read a bunch of slim volumes. This year my goal is to read thirty books 300 pages or longer, in hopes of committing myself to the practice of sustained reading. I’ve targeted several collected works and would like to revisit a few of the classics I skimmed through in university. Presently I’m embroiled with S O S, Amiri Baraka’s collected poems. It’s been extremely rewarding exploring his oeuvre more fully, especially in seeing how his politics develop and mesh with his art over time.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Manahil Bandukwala : 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?

The In/Words writer’s circle and the Emerging Writer’s Circle at Carleton have really helped shape my work as a writer. First drafts are usually bad, but I feel comfortable taking bad first drafts to these spaces. I’ve known some of these people for almost three years now and my writing has really grown thanks to them. My sister is also a great critic. If I’m writing a poem about growing up in Pakistan or being a person of colour, she’ll help me steer the poem away from clichés and such.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

rob mclennan : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Very much so. I’ve spent the past decade moving through the sentence very differently, having shifted from the line and breath break of the lyric staggering across the page (which made up the bulk of my poetry during my twenties and thirties) to the allure of the lyric sentence, working almost exclusively in the prose poem.

One might argue that that is less of a change of consideration than simply an evolution of structure.

I’m far more aware, now, of many of the tools of poetry, from allusion and collision to breath and sound, yet there are still moments in my reading where I catch something that I hadn’t considered previously, something that I wish to consider incorporating into my own work (I presume every active writer goes through this process life-long, right?).

In certain ways, I am still writing what I have always written: poems that attempt to capture particular moments through condensed language; moments that contain meditations upon my immediate, including geography, family, friends, reading and thinking. Over the years, I’ve worked very deliberately to reduce the “I” in such poems, but I don’t know if it is possible to erase such completely, at least in certain types of poems. Even the invisible eye still remains.

And yet, I know I’ve been attempting to incorporate more political elements into my writing the past couple of years. One doesn’t wish to sound false by referencing something political, so the challenge becomes in how to speak of something in a way that is not only appropriate, but appropriate to the poem. I’ve always envied Milan Kundera for his equal considerations of social, political and personal throughout his fiction; one element doesn’t exist above any other. I’ve also been prompted by seeing particular works by Christine Leclerc, Jordan Abel, Stephen Collis, Layla Long Soldier, Eve L. Ewing, Shane McCrae, Morgan Parker and so many others that are doing absolutely incredible and essential writing (something I’ve been seeing far more over the past decade, as well), and I wonder how I can engage in my own ways. I think we are moving past the point where one can simply ignore the political when composing literary work.

Monday 16 April 2018

Pearl Pirie : coda

Coda Q: What do you need poetry for?

Short Answer: Writing poetry is a way to process. The constraints are tools and frames for seeing in manageable size bits.

Long Answer: With poetry as folk medicine it can try to treat many things. A need to connect, to speak up and out, to educate, to frustrate, to calm, to make beauty, to break beauty, to narrate differently, to sort out ideas, to make a thing, to make fame or immortality. (Though, I’ve never believed in the last 2.)

If delivered well, and the right randomness to the right moment, it may make a pattern discernible somewhere else or to someone else. It’s a way to publicly speak and build a like-minded community. It provides closure and control to state something which gives permission to let go. A book as a casket for thought and all that. Or poem as a urn.

But what do I need of it? Maybe nothing? “Necessity is an individual sport” said Matt Wiele. But an individual is in constant change. What do I need now?

And is poetry the best route or the practiced route? Real solutions can be self-talk, frank dialogue, direct action, following one line of thought deep and long, medicine, to retrain thinking to not gaslight oneself in solitude, to learn physical skills, exercise, listening instead of speaking, confronting issues within and without. Poetry can be like slacktivsm. Or a start, rather than an end. A way to question, not with answers in hand, or to question to question, but to get somewhere.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Shannon Bramer : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A poem is finished when it stops nagging at me to return to it. Sometimes this takes a very long time. I don’t finish every poem. Some fall apart while I’m working on them. For my last book I worked with an exceptional poet and editor, Jennifer LoveGrove, for several weeks before feeling satisfied with the final draft. Her eyes on the poems, her comments, her questions, all helped me grow and refine the manuscript in ways I could not have accomplished on my own.


Saturday 14 April 2018

Shannon Quinn : part four

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

There are a few poets and poems that I go to when I need to remember the amount of possibility available to this form.

Song by Bridget Pegeen Kelley, Washing the Elephants by Barbara Rass, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s collection Islands of Decolonial Love, work by Don Domanski, Patricia Smith, Jen Currin.

Friday 13 April 2018

Sanita Fejzić : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

The way I engage another human being, with humility, curiosity and care. Each word, line and poem has its own aura, living in its own country. Some poems are inviting, friendly and warm. Others are reserved, hermetic and extremely private—to enter into relation with them, you need time and space. There are poems will never give themselves to us, and that’s as valuable of an experience as encountering an open and generous poem we can return to over and over again for nourishment.

Penn Kemp : part five

Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

See below.

Thursday 12 April 2018

Kyle Flemmer : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

What decent poet doesn’t? I see that as part of the job description. That said, Douglas Kearney’s “Quantum Spit” was the poem which really brought my interest in experimental forms to the fore. From its use of typeface and dramatis personae in mounting a chorus on the page, to its publication as broadsheet liner notes in a record sleeve, every aspect of the poem challenges the boundary between image and sound. Many poets have blown my mind since then, and now that’s the poetry I seek out in particular.

Aaron Tucker : part five

What are you working on?

I’m launching my first novel Y ( in the spring of 2018 and so I’ve been occupied with that. But I’ve been really fortunate to move around the world a fair bit over the last two years with a woman I love dearly and see incredible art object after incredible art object, so I’ve been writing a long poem, about half way done (I think) about that. There is a through line of birds and I recently discovered Olivier Messiaen’s long piano piece “Catalogue d'Oiseaux” and so I have been playing it on repeat as I move through it, from Porto to Berlin to Toronto, back and forth. It is so different than my last book, Irresponsible Mediums ( which is a computer generated collection that translates the chess games of Marcel Duchamp into poems – this poem I’m actually writing!

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Manahil Bandukwala : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I used to consider myself primarily a prose writer, and wrote poems on the side. When I moved to Ottawa, I discovered a vibrant poetry community. Around the same time, in a first year university class, we studied Modernist poets. Reading Leonard Cohen alongside poetry on Bywords, in In/Words and in presses around Ottawa, I started to shape my own work. Reading or listening to other poets’ work has always been my biggest influence.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Monday 9 April 2018

Pearl Pirie : part five

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

Short Answer: The joke of the same $15 making its way around the small circle and trade economy of small press fairs across Canada seems to fit here. I read what falls across my path.

Long Answer: I generally have a few dozen books on the go— science, essays, architecture books, novels (on a Catherine Asaro kick). Currently, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca Letters to a Stoic, and a few poetry collections, Shake Loose my Skin by Sonia Sanchez, Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, 89 Objects of Happiness Arrayed in Ascending Order by Mike Finley (Kraken Press, St. Paul, 2017), The Deep End of the Sky by Chad Lee Robinson (Turtle Press, 2015), Different Conversations: Short Poems and Literary Fragments by Alexis Rotella (on Kindle), Nobody Move by Susan Stenson, The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry ed by Valerie Mason-John and Kevan Anthony Cameron (Frontenac, 2013). Upcoming: This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt, Mêmewars by Adeena Karasick, and The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Also on tap, Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit by Lynn Gehl, No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe, The Inner Life of Animals: Grief, Love and Compassion by Peter Wohlleben, Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (Simon & Schuster, 2015). The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, and What is Architecture and 100 other questions by Rasmus Waern and Gert Wingårdh, trans John Krause. Sample of the last “Uniformity can be incomparably handsome, but it has a kind of built-in insensitivity.”

Sunday 8 April 2018

Shannon Bramer : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

This is a favourite question of mine because it comes with a funny story. When I was in grade six we did a poetry unit in school that introduced me to the work of Canadian poet, Irving Layton. It was a poem called Song for Naomi, and this poem made me feel wild inside. We learned about literary devices using that poem and I vividly recall how I felt, trying to understand how it all worked, discovering how exciting language could be. But I was also really moved by the images in that poem too. I identified with the growing child; I was amazed by the combination of love and sorrow inside it. I wanted the poem to be mine so badly that I copied it down into a notebook and changed the title to Song for Shannon. I told my mother I was the author. It was after telling this lie that I started to try and write my own poems.

Saturday 7 April 2018

Shannon Quinn : part three

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

Poetry can evoke so many surprises. It can capture voice, sound and image in a unique way. Something happens in a poem, something unexpected and it can only have happened that one way the author chose…it’s not that other forms don’t do this but more that poetry has to have this pulsing throughout it. It asks us to be economical with our words but also to open up new places…it’s a magical contradiction sometimes.

Friday 6 April 2018

Sanita Fejzić : part one

Sanita Fejzić is an Ottawa-based author, poet, playwright and scholar. Her novella, Psychomachia, Latin for battle of the soul, was published by Quattro Books. The Blissful State of Surrender, her first play, was workshopped by the National Arts Centre in March 2018. Fejzić has published numerous short stories and poems in literary journals and magazines across Canada. In the Nothing Left of Me, her first translation from French to English from Quebecois poet Sylvie Nicholas’s collection of poems, Le plus rien de moi, was launched on March 10, 2018.

What are you working on?

A hybrid text, The Encyclopedia of Eccentric Suffering and Sublime Ecstasies, which includes new words framed as encyclopedia entries on suffering and ecstasies alongside narrative prose poems, photographs, old letters and other media. The narrative poems tell the story of a young poet who has found a manuscript titled The Encyclopedia of Eccentric Suffering and Sublime Ecstasies from her diseased great-grandmother, a Bosnian woman who fled a violent husband during WWII and settled in Prague, where she died typing the unfinished text. As the young poet tries to understand who her great-grandmother was, she travels to Sarajevo and Prague to finish the encyclopedia and find the missing pieces of her ancestor’s mysterious life.

I’m also working on my first book of non-fiction titled The Will Of Poetry and The Will To Poetry for McGill & Queen’s University Press. This book of philosophic-poetic thoughts on the creative drive of language defines my concept of the will of poetry as the particular lexicon a writer is born into and is temporally related to writing the present and past, whereas the will to poetry is a future-oriented linguistic drive concerned with wording new wor(l)ds. This text emerges from the question: how can we create new wor(l)ds within a language, such as English, that is steeped in the syntax of heteropatriarchy, neo-colonialism and phallagocentrism?

Amanda Earl : coda

I become disheartened when I read negative comments from editors or renowned poets about what they feel poetry is or should be. I don’t think personal aesthetics have any place in an editor or an influencer’s role. One long-term editor of a literary journal recently said they didn’t like poems that they felt were cold and clever. This, to me, reflects a lack of a sense of adventure when it comes to the type of writing that the journal would be open to publishing and doesn’t really serve readers very well. A well-respected writer and thinker dismissed word play as not important. What these kinds of flippant comments do, in my mind, is to place limits on experimentation and exploration.

In my opinion, an editor should be open to all types of poetry, including forms they have themselves never made as a poet or dreamt of. They should be willing to expose readers of poetry to all kinds of variety and risk. If not on a printed page, then where?

Word play can be a way of mining the subconscious to reveal what has long been buried in the psyche. Also, not every poem has to make an important statement about the state of the world. A humble, playful poem by one person might inspire another person to create something and so on. I treat the derision and narrow-minded attitudes I hear about poetry as a challenge. Defiance of the status quo is one of the reasons that I need poetry, both as a reader/viewer/listener and as an artist.

Penn Kemp : part four

How does your work first enter the world?

Often through social media and my facebook groups like Gathering Voices/Pendas Productions.  I’m delighted to have poems published by online magazines, because they put up new and pertinent work so quickly.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Kyle Flemmer : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I first started writing poetry I thought it must be a sort of rhyming sing-song about love or flowers or jabberwocks. A whimsical limerick was my idea of excellent poetry; metrical without being stuffy or sappy. Not that that isn’t poetry, but it took a long time for me to realize how poetry proper encompasses a vast territory of literary possibility, a territory that expands along with us as we discover new ways of thinking and being. I’m now interested in poetry that grapples with our understanding of the universe, experiments with form and material, or challenges socially accepted norms about what literature can and should be.

Aaron Tucker : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

As I write at the beginning of March, spring launches are fast approaching and so I’m thrilled to be reading a number of works: Eric Schmaltz’s Surfaces (, Shannon Webb Campell’s Who Took My Sister? (,  Adam Dickinson’s Anatomic (, David Brock’s Ten-Headed Alien (, Susan Zelazo’s Lances All Alike (, Dani Couture’s Listen Before Transmit (,  Cameron Anstee’s Book of Annotations ( and Shannon McGuire’s Zip’s File (

In terms of recently read, I loved Billy Ray-Belcourt’s This Wound is a World ( and Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds ( They are two young poets that absolutely blow me away with their work. Beyond this, one of my favourite things is going to Knife Fork Books in Kensignton Market, Toronto, and asking Kirby to pull out a book or two for me – the store is amazing and he always has the best taste!

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Manahil Bandukwala : part one

Manahil Bandukwala is a writer and artist currently living in Ottawa. Her work has appeared in In/Words, Bywords, re:asian and ottawater, among other places, and she has work forthcoming in Room Magazine, The Puritan and Ricepaper. She is currently an editor for In/Words magazine & Press. Visit her website at

What are you working on?

My goal for 2018 is to put out a chapbook, or at least have a chapbook manuscript in the works. Earlier in 2017, I toyed with the idea of a themed chapbook and writing poems around that theme. I didn’t accomplish that, beyond producing a few regurgitated poems. I realize now that attempting to place those limits curbed my creative thought. Now I have enough good poems to go in a manuscript, and although I didn’t write any of those with the hopes of them fitting into a ‘theme,’ I find the poems do have a sense of connectivity (although not one I had previously planned).

Tuesday 3 April 2018

rob mclennan : part two

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).

Sara Renee Marshall : part five

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

I’m not sure I go to poetry for renewal, unless renewal is activation. Literature doesn’t tend to soothe me; it stirs me. Agitates me, even. I guess those are renewals from boredom or complacency. Not all of these things could strictly be called poetry, but they are to me: I return over and over to Inger Christensen’s alphabet, the first line of which is scrawled permanently on my leg, Rosmarie Waldrop’s Lawn of Excluded Middle and Reluctant Gravities, Fred Moten’s B Jenkins, all of Lisa Robertson’s books but especially Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture and R’s Boat, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, the paintings of Helen Frankenthaler, L.V. Thomas and Geeshie Wiley’s version of “Pick Poor Robin Clean”, Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, and Barbara Guest’s poems “Safe Flights” and “A Reason”, both of which are perfect.

Monday 2 April 2018

Pearl Pirie : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Short Answer: The editing is harder than the writing but it isn’t the main difficulty. It is hearing the pen or inner voice out respectfully and curiously.

Long Answer: One difficulty is finding new parts of world and self to observe more keenly, more compassionately and understand more deeply and then convey in a way that can be felt rather than giving a lecture of summary notes, but to be with the reader as an equal. Part of putting process over elevating self as an authority is trusting that readers will engage with what you express, to listen loosely when you speak loosely, to listen carefully when you speak with care.

It is difficult to express oneself in words but it is harder to live optimally for yourself and for community and for wider social duties. That is the hardest part and the part that matters. As Leonard Cohen put it, “I’m grateful to get a poem. I don’t question the sources too carefully. For me poetry is the evidence of a life and not the life itself. It is the ashes of something burning well. And sometimes you confuse yourself and try to make ashes instead of fire.” (15:00, Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen)

Sunday 1 April 2018

Shannon Bramer : part one

Shannon Bramer (photo credit: Linda Marie Stella) is a poet and playwright. Precious Energy (BookThug, September 2017) is her fourth book of poetry. Her plays (Monarita, The Collectors and The Hungriest Woman in the World) have appeared in juried festivals across the country, among them: New Ideas (Toronto) The Women’s Work Festival (St.John’s) and Sarasvati FemFest (Winnipeg).  A full production of The Hungriest Woman in the World premiered at Theatre Passe Muraille in December 2017, with PENCIL KIT PRODUCTIONS. Shannon also conducts poetry workshops in schools and is the editor of Think City: The Poems of Gracefield Public School. An illustrated collection of poems for young children, entitled Climbing Shadows, is forthcoming from Groundwood Books in 2019.

What are you working on?

I am rewriting an important section of a play (The Hungriest Woman in the World) that was recently produced at Theatre Passe Muraille with Pencil Kit Productions. Even though the show has been work-shopped and produced I still don’t feel finished with it. It involves the central metaphor of the play, a depressed octopus. It is like having a giant puzzle in front of me and there’s one large piece that just isn’t sitting inside it properly. I am also working on new poems and another play.

Kim Goldberg : part five

How does a poem begin?
With an instigating line, or an image, maybe a sound, a dream even. Or witnessing something so bizarre it begs for the slantwise approach of poetry to make sense of it. This morning I read an article (on the heels of another horrific school shooting) about a religious congregation in Pennsylvania coming to church in the hundreds for a mass wedding of all congregants. And they were toting their AR-15 rifles because they believe the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the biblical Book of Revelation. How can this not be the basis of a poem?
I often discover after I have written a poem that the reason I wrote it, the motivating force, was to try to understand or make some sense of the incomprehensible. Fortunately, I don’t see that when I start writing, or it would probably wreck the poem.