Nora Gould writes from east central Alberta where she ranches with her family. She graduated from the University of Guelph in 1984 with a degree in veterinary medicine. Her debut poetry collection, I see my love more clearly from a distance (Brick Books, 2012), was winner of the 2013 Robert Kroetsch Edmonton Book Prize and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry (Writers Guild of Alberta); it was also shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and was a finalist in the Poetry category for the High Plains Book Awards. Selah (Brick Books, 2016) is her second poetry collection.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I thought that my first book, I see my love more clearly from a distance (Brick Books, 2012), might change my life but I don’t think it did. My writing process continued, began again, the same but different.
My second book, Selah (Brick Books, 2016), is written from a different perspective, a new knowledge base, but that keeps shifting too. Both books stand alone but I feel that Selah reframes I see my love more clearly from a distance — I had more distance, so to speak, when it was written.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
It’s always been poetry, perhaps because of epigenesis, or my mother reading me poetry, throughout my gestation right up to shortly before her death. The last she read to me was Robert Kroetsch.
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?
For me, writing is a long, slow process. My first drafts come from copious notes and there is usually a scissors and tape stage after several drafts of several poems (or fragments towards a long poem) are written.
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 begins by insisting on itself. Notes are written wherever, often repeated in different forms. These notes might be on scraps of paper, on jeans or overalls depending on the weather, or in scribblers.
As to whether I’m working on a book from the beginning, it’s too early to tell (only 2 books to date) and I might never know at the beginning. As Theodore Roethke wrote in “The Waking”,
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
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 not part of my creative process. I do read/speak aloud while writing as long as there’s no one else around.
I enjoy hearing others read and have enjoyed reading but I’m not comfortable reading to a dark room. I like to be able to see the people I’m reading to.
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?
The question is often what is happening? I am interested in juxtaposition, line breaks, and, the sound of the poem.
I’m not convinced I’ve answered your question.
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?
I’m not qualified to comment on the larger culture. My living is far too isolated.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both, definitely both.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Keep writing. I quote Rick McNair, storyteller, actor, playwright, opera librettist, and so on.
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?
This is a seasonal question for me. Much depends on the farm work. When I’m not needed, I feed and water the hens, gather the eggs then make coffee, carry it to my east room, and, settle at my table for work. I prefer to write in the morning but if I’m busy with tractor work, I will take papers with me and work as I can throughout the day and sometimes into the evening. It’s a case of turning off the radio.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Sometimes I just put the page away and wait. Other times I will walk, run, or do repetitive physical work, depending what needs to be done. Scissors, shuffling, rearranging the pieces, can also help.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Baking and baled hay. Sounds clichéd, eh, but that’s how it is.
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?
Animals, Prairie, the quality of light, that big sky.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
That would be a long list. For now, I’ll just say Jane Kenyon.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d like to travel, particularly if I could do a lot of walking. The Camino.
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?
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I do lots of other things, particularly farm work. The writing has always seemed necessary though.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I don’t see many films but I recently enjoyed The Lady in the Van.
For a great book, I’ll say Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson.
19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m in the gathering phase now — writing notes, collecting artifacts, flora, stones — I’ll see where these take me.