1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Last year Nicole Markotic’s Wrinkle Press published my chapbook fist things first, a selection of (em)bod(ied) poems written in 2000 that proved to still have legs, ha ha.
My first book, called [sic] (Frontenac House 2010), came out in April of this year and is my first full-length publication, which I suppose has conferred all the legitimacies that a first book confers. As for being life-changing, I think it’s allowed me to let go of certain anxieties and just write, rather than remaining mired in angst about “being a writer.” Also, my publisher has been great to work with, and the book tour was terrific fun.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I didn’t come to poetry first, actually, though poetry was my first “serious” literary pursuit. I’ve written many stories and plays from childhood through to the teen years, and then switched to poetry to explore my teenage angst. Poetry stuck. (So did angst.)
At University of Calgary I studied poetry reading and writing with Nicole Markotic and Fred Wah. Lately I’ve been exploring a bit of fiction and non-fiction writing as well.
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?
I’m always working on too many things at once; I am prone to having a million little ideas that never make it beyond the incipient stage. I’ve had to try to rein myself in with ideas garnered from time management and project management books, which is anathema to my preferred bohemian way of living. I also tend to binge or not write at all, but when I am not writing, I’m usually soaking up ideas and influences and collecting bits and scraps of potential raw materials. Once I have a first draft, I usually edit pretty heavily, so the final piece is quite different from the initial one.
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?
My process is fairly intuitive, at least at the beginning. Once I’ve been noodling on something for a while I start thinking of it in terms of a project, then I try to structure the rest of the writing to align with the idea, though as soon as I have a limit or structure I seem to want to write away from it. i.e., there’s no way I could write an entire conceptual book, I just don’t seem to have the discipline, or the desire. I’m a proud dilettante.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Yes, much. I enjoy being on stage, and am grateful for the performance training I received as a youth from organized dance and music activities, which I think translates into my performance style, in that I’m attuned to my body and the rhythms of my speech. Audience reactions can be quite instructive as to whether a certain piece is “working” or not.
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?
I read somewhere that flarf vs. conceptualism is the question du jour, but I can’t say that it’s a pressing concern of mine. I think of my work as being closer to cultural criticism: I am an extremely sensitive, emotional, moody person and from day to day find much in the world that moves me to overwhelming sadness or rage. Cliché or saccharine though it may sound, I write because I have to, out of a response to my own anger, grief, or frustration at forces outside of my control. I’m interested in the lives of women, in spatiality and politics of space and urban planning, in bodies, and in daily quotidian things like how we move through our (corporatized, neo-liberalized, slated for mass-consumption) lives.
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?
To agitate, to inform, to provoke, to question, to seek, to inspire, to force the reader to pay attention. What is the current role? I dunno. I’m a depressive, a fatalist and a pessimist, and I wish I could be more hopeful about the potential role for critical, challenging, difficult, thoughtful, expressive writing in “today’s fractured multi-media landscape,” but I’m just not. I don’t know who is paying attention, and I don’t know why we (meaning “me”) spend so much of our inner/outer resources on an arguably dead, or at least marginal, art form.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both. I’ve not had much extensive outside editing on the work that has been published, but I’m fortunate to have a partner who is also an excellent writer, reader and editor, so I turn to him for first critical response on my work.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Mind your own game.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
I find it very hard, but I think it’s necessary for a writer to develop a critical position. I don’t consider myself a naturally critical writer, or thinker, and I’ve been trying to push myself more in this direction. The posts I write on Lemon Hound could be classed as pop cultural-colloquial-pseudo-intellectual-poetic hybrids. I try to be entertaining so no one notices my lack of critical acumen, although I suppose I’ve just outed myself.
11 - 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 have no typical day; perhaps I’d be more productive if I did. I’m currently living an entirely unsustainable bohemian fantasy, as I haven’t worked for regular pay in over a year. (Not for lack of sporadic, frenzied attempts to find work, mind you.) All this free time has been hard on my writing because I think I need a structure to write/rail against, and because I usually feel too guilty about all the free time to really be productive. (“Ohmigod, I can’t write, I should be doing something important! The laundry! My filing!”) Yes, I realize it’s neurotic. I’m sure when I have full-time work again I’ll look back on this period of time and hate myself for not being more productive.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I find it’s good to shelve it for a while and do other things, read other poetry, read criticism, talk to other writers.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Laundry and coffee.
14 - 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’m influenced by the way people use language in the marketplace and the social world. How is language used in the newspaper? Online? On the bus? For daily communication?
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I am fed, challenged and inspired by the writers who are my friends and the writers in my community, specifically my partner Jonathon Wilcke, the good folks at and around the Kootenay School of Writing (Donato Mancini, Michael Barnholden, Pauline Butling, Cris Costa, Nancy Gillespie, Jordan Scott, Jason Christie, et. al.) and also the many women writers I am privileged to know and work and discourse with, in particular Nicole Markotic, Sina Queyras, Jacqueline Turner, Larissa Lai, Rita Wong, Meredith Quartermain, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Renee Rodin, Alex Leslie, Jen Currin, Christine Leclerc, Helen Hajnockzy, Sonnett L’Abbe, Natalee Caple, and many other fine people in my community.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
That’s a tough question to answer at what is conceivably the “start” of my “career.” Let me get back to you in 30 years or so.
17 - 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?
Artist, photographer, town crier.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I can’t not write. I’ve tried; doesn’t work.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I just finished inhaling a pile of poetry books that I picked up from the wonderful Audrey’s Books in Edmonton: Ken Belford’s Decompositions, Frank Davey’s Bardy Google, derek beaulieu’s How to Write, Susan Holbrook’s Joy Is So Exhausting, Kyle Buckley’s The Laundromat Essay, Nancy Shaw & Catriona Strang’s Light Sweet Crude. Each books works with language differently, but each book inspired, entertained, amused and challenged me and inspired me to work with my own language.
I don’t see much film, but last year at the Pacific Cinematheque’s Frames of Mind mental health series I saw Bill Rose’s This Dust of Words, a documentary about a brilliant woman named Elizabeth Wiltsee with an alleged IQ of 200 who studied Beckett at Stanford, lived fiercely and independently, suffered mental illness, shunned normative society, slept in the doorway of a church in small town California, and died at the San Luis Reservoir. This particular part of the world where Wiltsee’s remains were found is peaceful and breathtaking. Should I be so blessed as to choose my final place of rest, I hope to die somewhere half as beautiful. This movie inspired a suite of crow poems in my current manuscript, dedicated to Wiltsee.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a few things intermittently at the moment. A poetry manuscript that explores notions of collectivity and antagonism and the language of disagreement. An experimental novel about women, mental illness and the ghost of Edie Sedgwick. A feminist, pornographic erasure art book based on a biography of Canadian Tire scion Martha Billes. And I’m trying to read more books than Ryan Fitzpatrick & Jonathan Ball and co. (http://95books.tumblr.com/)