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Saturday, February 13, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Tara Azzopardi

Tara Azzopardi grew up in Etobicoke, Ontario. She has worked as a clerk in a costume shop, a walking courier, a contract archaeologist, a property manager, an independent video store clerk, an organic farmer, as well as in construction and as a historical interpreter in a pioneer village. She currently lives in eastern Ontario and occasionally makes art and music there. Last Stop, Lonesome Town, is her first book of poetry.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book came out about a month ago [October 2015], so I guess I’m still adjusting to actually considering myself seriously as a writer.

My recent work is way more funny, and less mopey and sad. I’m trying to incorporate more contemporary pop culture (as opposed to the old stuff--where my references made me sound like I grew up in Coney Island in 1933).

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I’ve been making compilation zines of my poetry since I was 16 years old. But prior to that, I was writing fiction and non-fiction. I like poetry because it’s generally considered an esoteric and “lost” art. A lot of people think it’s dated, whereas I think it’s perfect for our short attention spans, and it’s ideal for someone too lazy to try to write a novel (such as myself). I can create a scene or a story  in a few paragraphs. It’s perfect.

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 not sure what to say. It took (my editor/friend/mentor) Stuart Ross roughly 15 years to convince me that I should be writing, and that I was a good enough writer to have a book. So I guess this book is what would be considered a lengthy writing project.

The poems themselves come really fast, and they don’t seem to deviate very far from their original forms.

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?
A poem usually originates from an intense feeling or emotional response to something. It’s more therapy than anything else and I’m writing from purely selfish motivations.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Public readings are a part of my creative process in the sense that I like connecting with people. The audience will tell me if they’ve connected, if they’re engaged. I enjoy doing readings, even when they aren’t always “positive” experiences. They make me appreciate what stand-up comedians are doing even more.

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?
My writing is kind of simple in the sense that it’s trying to make sense of our world: our history, the way we’ve treated other life on this earth, the way we currently treat life on this earth. The occult, astrology, archaeology and anthropology. Ethics (or lack thereof). Fleeting moments of happiness. The death of loved ones, and trying to come to terms with loss.

The current questions surround denial and the human brain: how we do the things we do that can be hurtful and damaging and how the brain can block it out/excuse our actions. I get really depressed thinking about a lot of it, but then I write and feel a little more at peace with the despair. Having a bit a humor and an appreciation for surrealism/surrealistic moments helps.

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?
The writer is, in most cases, the primary story-teller. I love a lot of film and (current) writing in television. It’s always inspiring to remind myself that a lot of that originated with a novel/short-story or manuscript.

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

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves” - Carl Jung

“A writer, or any artist, can’t expect to be embraced by the people [but] you just keep doing your work — because you have to, because it’s your calling.” - Patti Smith

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (music to visual art to poetry)? What do you see as the appeal?
It’s easy in the sense that when I go through phases of wanting to make art and music, I can focus on different genres. It’s interesting to challenge myself with different genres (that I don’t practice daily). The problem is I end up becoming a “jack of all trades and master of none”. The appeal to moving between genres is that I don’t ever get bored.

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 don’t keep a routine, but writing is always in the background of my mind. The ideas for poems and stories are constantly filed away, and I usually keep notes or photographs to remember them. When I’m feeling pretty intensely or reactive to something/someone, the poem spills out.

A typical day normally begins with some coffee and procrastination, listening to some of my favourite tunes of the moment.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
The library is a huge source of inspiration. I usually find what I’m looking for in the history and occult sections. Films usually inspire me.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Sometimes the scent of those aerosol-spray air fresheners remind me of how my Mom would enter a room and “agent-Orange” us daily.

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 would say that other writers (“books come from books”) are probably second to all the other elements that influence my work: life/love/loss, travel, history, nature, film, the occult, archaeology, anthropology, music, science, philosophy, visual art/comics all have a major role influencing my work.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
All poetry by Gwendolyn MacEwen and Richard Brautigan, Harmony Korine’s A Crack-up at the Race Riots, Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God and Alice Munro’s The Lives of Girls and Women have all had a major impact on my life.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d like to live in the desert for awhile, somewhere in the American Southwest and write a volume of poetry and music to accompany it. I’d also like to be completely self-sufficient and homestead on some land.

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?
As you can see from my bio, I’ve tried to be a bunch of things. I don’t consider writing my occupation, it sustains my mental and emotional health and helps me make sense of the world.

I still dream about being an archaeologist and a Civil War historian.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It was just something that came naturally, and people seemed to respond to it. In that sense, instead of feeling disconnected and alienated, I was connecting with others. And as I said before, it actually makes me feel better about life and the world to get this shit out there.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Last great books were Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. The last great film was Jodorowsky’s Dune.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m writing more music on the electric bass and working on some poems inspired by the tv show “Cops.”

And more poetry for a second book.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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