Wednesday, October 07, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Joshua Trotter

Joshua Trotter recently moved to Montreal. His first book of poems, tentatively titled Prophets & Losses, will be published by Biblioasis in 2010.

1 - How did your first chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

I am tempted to say my first chapbook did not change my life.

Yet, it must have. Somehow. Changes so infinitesimal and numerous it would take a future race of resourceful anthropologist dwarves (assuming they would be interested) to find the changes and mine them for meaning.

My current poems seem a little looser, more porous and permeable than previous work.

On good days, this permeability is a sign of ingenuousness and increased poetic facility. On bad days, it’s a sign of complacency, weakness, decline, decay, and soon enough, my demise.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I have no gift for narrative, little descriptive power and an erratic attention span.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Sometimes poems come quick. Some take years. I take many notes. I rarely use them.

Shape (by which I mean form) is integral to my composition process. The shape of a final draft often retains the shape in which it began.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I rarely work on projects. When I try, projects morph into new projects, which morph again. Each poem is a project of its own.

The poems often begin as a rhythmic phrase. Sometimes as a response to poems I’m reading, as a kind of feedback.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

In front of an audience, a poem’s chaff becomes obvious. Public readings are an excellent threshing tool. All the dumb, boring, show-offy stuff becomes evident. During readings, I edit on the fly.

My enjoyment of a reading is in accordance with levels of lubricant in myself and in the audience.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

No particular theoretical concerns.

The poems themselves may ask questions and/or invent theoretical problems.

A poem (if it is working properly) may both question and answer.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

It’s in the name. Writers write.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Working with editors is difficult, pleasurable, and completely essential.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

This is at my first restaurant job: I am staggering and stumbling, struggling to lug a bin of dirty dishes to the kitchen. I must look terrible. Fabio, the owner, swoops-in to save me. He airlifts the bin from my embrace and raises it one-handed, high above his head. He places his other hand on my shoulder. He says, “Joshua, whatever you do, do it with style.” I quit the job not long after that.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I seem to change residences often. In each new home, my writing routine is different. My routine is context sensitive. What stays consistent is: a) I write mostly in the morning, and b) I drink lots of coffee.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I go for a walk. I make more coffee.

12 - What did your favourite teacher teach you?

“Joshua, whatever you do, do it with style.”

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I can’t think of anything that isn’t an influence.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Oscar Wilde, Wallace Stevens, Karen Solie, Don Paterson, Michael Palmer, Richard Outram, Alice Oswald, John Ondrovcik, Will Oldham, Joanna Newsom, Vladimir Nabokov, Paul Muldoon, Grant Morrison, Stephin Merritt, Cormac McCarthy, Leigh Kotsilidis, Mathias Kom, Charlie Kaufman, G. M. Hopkins, Seamus Heaney, William Gibson, William Gass, Robert Frost, Gabe Foreman, Mark Ford, R. W. Emerson, Jeramy Dodds, Don Delillo, Anne Carson, Robert Bringhurst, Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Barthelme, W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Simon Armitage

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Find a job that pays me to stay home and make poems.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Long before I started writing poetry, I wanted to be a computer programmer.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

No need for special equipment. I sometimes think of poems as computerless programs.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Last great book: All Star Superman vol. 1, by Grant Morrison.

Last great movie: Stalker, by Tarkovsky.

19 - What are you currently working on?

My resumé.

12 or 20 questions (second series);

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