Friday, April 16, 2021

today is lady aoife's fifth birthday:

How did the young lady get so big? Her fourth birthday. Third. Her second. Her first. The day she was born.

Five years old today. Happy birthday.

She has been this whole year learning online, and doing pretty well. Junior kindergarten. Everyone is home. Although Rose does attempt to do extra learning with her every so often.

Here she is assisting with a banana bread, a week or so back.

And the other day, when she and Rose decided to dress up as us. Apparently Aoife thinks me some kind of pirate. I'm uncertain as to where Rose's saluting comes from.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Shannon McConnell

Shannon McConnell is a writer, educator and musician originally from Vancouver, BC. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in untethered, The Fieldstone Review, Louden Singletree, In Medias Res, Rat’s Ass Review, The Anti-Languorous Project, and more. She holds degrees in English Literature and Education from the University of the Fraser Valley and Simon Fraser University, respectively, and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s MFA in Writing program. In 2018, she won second place for the John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award for Poetry. She finished an MA in History at the University of Saskatchewan in 2020 and is now pursuing her PhD at Queens University in Kingston, ON. Her debut poetry collection is The Burden of Gravity.

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

The Burden of Gravity is my first book, and it’s been a really interesting process, especially with it coming out during a global pandemic. While I can’t say my life feels much different than prior to publication, the ability to hold my own book in my hands is pretty special. I think for most writers getting to see their work in print for the first time is completely surreal and that has definitely been my experience too.

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

I had dabbled with poetry in my youth, like many young people do to get through their teenage years. But even in my undergrad, fiction was my preferred genre as it just made sense to me. It wasn’t until doing my MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan that I really fell in love with poetry and decided to take it on as my thesis project. Poetry was by far my weaknesses genre but because the program included a six-month mentorship with a professional Saskatchewan writer, I thought it would be a good opportunity to really develop that genre. My six-months with Elizabeth Philips changed how I approached poetry and really helped me to hone my process which is key for approaching any genre.

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 love research and will spends months just researching a specific topic before even picking up a pen. The ideas for poems come pretty quick as I tend to write in snapshots trying to capture everything I can about that particular moment or image. The writing process on the other hand is lengthy, and I have to remind myself that my first draft is just that, the first. It tends to take three to four drafts to get a piece to a place where I can see the final shape. I’ve had to learn to trust my process and not get caught up on trying to get that first or second draft to being perfect.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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 poems tend to come from images as I love to dissect what I’m seeing and really focus on specifics. I want my writing to feel authentic, so I tend to really dig in on research so that I’m as accurate as possible since a lot of my writing tends to be based on historical events or people. I tend to take on the idea that every project is going to be a big one. With the historical topics I tend to focus on I know there’s a lot to unpack so I see the bigger goal and then have to step back and decide how to break it down into smaller pieces.

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

I think that public readings are always helpful to my writing. Being out in the community and talking about writing is always inspiring. Nerding out over writing with likeminded people is always fun and getting to share my work with others is always great. I’ve found that attending readings is a great way to get to know your local writing community and to hear how other people deal with the frustrations of staring down that first draft.

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?

With a lot of my work being focused around historical events or people I tend to be looking for the silences in history. I want to understand the experiences of people who have been forgotten from history and their voices have not been heard. Because so much of history has been written from the “dead white man” perspective I’m always asking what voices are missing? What is not being said in these texts? What was the experience of those who were marginalized and whose history was not considered important enough to be heavily documented during that time?

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 think the current global pandemic has shown the importance of the arts and the value of it. Not only as an escape, but also as a way to understand and document the emotional truth of the moment. I think creative works are directly tied to how we interpret major events and changes in society. And I’m really interested in seeing what kind of work emerges in a post-covid19 world.

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

I think it’s essential to have outside eyes look at your work simply to have a different perspective. As writers we get so tied to our words and it’s so helpful to have fresh eyes to give constructive feedback and guidance. I think writing groups are incredibly helpful and having a sense of community is really important to remind ourselves how powerful and magical writing can be, especially when a lot of it is done in isolation being dejected in front of a blank screen.

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

Don’t write with your knees together. While not necessarily meant to be taken literally, it was said during a writing workshop and really emphasized that we as writers, especially women, need to be bold and brave, not conform to the standards of others and push back against the system.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?

My first love will always be fiction. I love growing attached to my characters and getting to know them as intimately as friends. I’ve been lucky to have a similar attachment in my poetry, especially with bigger projects. I think that each genre has a time and place, it’s just a matter of figuring out what genre best suits the project.

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 would love to say that I have a perfect writing routine. I get up at 6am every day and write for three hours. All of that would be a total lie. Right now I’m in my first year of a PhD program so there’s very little time for creative thought let alone creative writing. I daydream about a time when I can sit down and just write again, but am well aware that it’s unlikely to happen any time soon and that carving out time to work on my craft is going to be really important in the next few years.

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

I pick a poetry book off my shelve. It doesn’t matter who it is, just the act of reading poetry I think is incredibly helpful in getting those creative juices flowing. Reading poetry out loud is inspiring especially hearing how people have crafted their sentences with such keen attention to detail.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

I’m at a weird point in my life where I’m not sure where to call home. Having just moved to Ontario for my PhD after five years in Saskatchewan has really been an adjustment. I spent my first 32 years just outside of Vancouver in British Columbia, so that is ultimately home. I think the smell of a crisp Fall morning will always transport me back to my childhood and the excitement of the changing seasons.

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 really love using photographs whenever I can. There is an old antique shop in Fort Langley, B.C. and every time I go home to visit my family I love to stop by that shop and sift through boxes of photographs that they’ve acquired. I enjoy getting a brief glimpse into someone else’s life, especially if it’s from the early 1900s or includes writing on the back. They also have postcards that I like to look through, trying to build a backstory around what they’ve written, considering the picture on the front and where the card was going. I think it’s a great way to foster some curiosity.

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

I will always come back to Miriam Toews’ Swing Low as a book that came into my life exactly when I needed it. Having also lost a father to suicide, Swing Low showed me a different perspective on loss and writing, but also gave me a sense of closure I didn’t expect. Also, the writing is great, and I learned a lot about writing dialogue and voice through that book. I ended up meeting Toews years after reading Swing Low and of course her other books and just getting to hear her read and talk about writing was like getting to be in the presence of a rockstar. Her blend of humour, wit, and honesty is something I will endlessly be striving for in my writing.

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

I really want to write a novel. That was really my initial goal when I started writing. Poetry wasn’t something I was terribly interested in, but indeed things change. I do want to get back to the fiction side of my writing eventually, but right now I’m enjoying the complexity and change that poetry gives me.

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?

Writing is just one part of who I am. My main occupational goal is to teach, preferably at the university level, especially since I’m currently in a PhD program. I have learned that the plans I have made in the past never seem to go as planned so I’m just going to see where this takes me. I worked for almost 13 years in the deli section a grocery store back in B.C. so now being able to dedicate all my time to academics and writing is something I don’t take for granted. I made many sandwiches and salads to get to this point, and I’m grateful for the work ethic instilled in me during my time there. I can safely say that I don’t miss the customer service aspect of it though.

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

I was obsessed with books as a child and judging by my bookshelves this is still true of me today. I think like many writers they were captivated by the power of words at a young age and found solace in the written word. I’ve been scribbling in notebooks since I was a kid and it’s just been something that has always been part of my life. It wasn’t until my undergrad where I started taking creative writing classes that I felt like this might be something that I really wanted to pursue. As a youth I wrote as an outlet and a way to get all my feelings out of my body. Now I write to understand the world around me. I am really interested in historical narratives and so I write to understand the past through different perspectives.

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

While I’m not much of a film buff, the last great book I read was Sarah Ens’ debut poetry collection The World is Mostly Sky which besides having a killer title, is filled with brilliant poetry that makes me long for not only the vastness of the prairies, but also the wanderlust and endless possibilities of my twenties.

20 - What are you currently working on?

My main focus right now is my PhD, which will eventually include a creative portion. In my downtime I have been chipping away at a book length poetry collection based on the life of German chemist, Clara (Immerwahr) Haber, who against all odds got her PhD in the early 1900s. She was also the wife of Fritz Haber who was heavily involved in the creation of chemical warfare. She has a fascinating story and of course a tragic death to match. I’ve been doing research on her for a while and am fascinated with her life and accomplishments.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Ashley Farmer, The Women

 

Women Relax (And Be Yourselves)

Passionate women relax in a hotel bedroom. Steaming women relax in a natural hot spring. Pregnant women relax at a summer camp. Passive women relax in a dry sauna. Intimate women relax in the bathroom with cigarettes. Stock women relax in a spa stock photo. In Rio de Janeiro, women traveling on rush-hour trains find havens from harassment in single-sex cars and sun-beds. In societies where women are oppressed and harassed, enjoy is what they say. Eventually women relax is what they say. Be yourself: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, she finds it.” Float on the river with ease. Before that summer: I was at home in the world. My body, my prize. I was happy then.

I recently picked up Salt Lake City, Utah writer Ashley Farmer’s poetry title, The Women (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), a book that emerged out of a very specific set of prompts, as she writes in her opening “Author’s Note”:

I started The Women in 2011 when I began Googling various women-related phrases: “happy women,” “sad women,” “women say,” and so on. Knowing that my online habits, browser history, and geographical location would all shape my results, I wondered what might show up. The searches returned fragments that ran the gamut of media types and texts: advertisements, news headlines, celebrity gossip, feminist websites, beauty tips, and relationship advice all filled my screen. Also among the results: anti-women screeds, men’s rights activists’ propaganda, misogynistic ramblings, and tired tropes about women’s lives. Using the first seven pages of search results as raw material, I sought to collage and reconfigure what I found. While this project began with a concept, it is not conceptual. Instead, I found value in not simply copying-and-pasting these findings but in actively chopping up, stitching together, and writing through the texts. Through this process, the Google results that might have simply washed over me in the past acquired new meaning.

Even without knowing that Ashley Farmer is predominantly the author of works of prose—including the forthcoming essay collection Dear Damage (Sarabande Books, 2022), the chapbook Farm Town (Rust Belt Bindery, 2012), the short story collection Beside Myself (PANK/Tiny Hardcore Press, 2014) and the novella The Farmacist (Jellyfish Highway Press, Inc., 2015)—the pieces in The Women might suggest that. This isn’t a swipe or a complaint, but an acknowledgment that her poems are constructed very much out of sentences, allowing one to build upon another, and allowing that accumulation, or even that collision, to inform each piece’s short narrative. Sometimes the narrative is a collage of ideas around a particular phrase or thought, and other times, the narrative is more straightforward, allowing one foot to step directly in front of another, towards a conclusion.

The poems included here are constructed via selecting threads and phrases from Google searches. Through her searches, Farmer collects sequences of threads and interweaves those searches into poems that each sit beneath titles that one might suspect were lifted from her original search phrase, but for the acknowledgments that include that certain “of these pieces previously appeared, sometimes in slightly different forms, under slightly different titles.” It would suggest that the searches, however they were conducted, utilized an array of phrases and sentences, sorting the barrage into bins, and from each of those bins, crafting each poem from those materials. The Women plays with elements of exploring and documenting how women are seen, depicted and discussed, pulling at a variety of depictions of cultural space, worked neither as flarf nor conceptual, but shaped into poems that write of domestic labour, violence, home, love, fear, strength and community, body image, health, leadership, marriage, weathering storms and notions of being bad or inherent goodness.

Her poems include shades of the works of Cindy Sherman and Francesca Stern Woodman, in that all three determined their gaze on and around the form and cultural ideas surrounding women, from the abstract, the absolute and the absurd to concurrently acknowledge and document as well as strip away those layers of overlaid determinations by a male-dominated culture; all three of these artists, in their own way, allowing the women they were viewing and/or discussing, their subjects, to determine the shape of their gaze, but also shaping that final result. “See two young women harvesting hope in Marion County, / 1944,” Farmer writes, in the poem “Women Land,” “cultivating new pathways to the boardroom.”

Stop Women

Sometimes one wonders if our nation is a public strip club. A mother and daughter who run a brothel for truckers fight back when the mafia tries to take over their operation. Men’s fragrances smell like excuses for getting home late. You will not stop women.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Touch the Donkey supplement: new interviews with Chernoff, Olsen, Barbour, Ballantyne, Novak, Paty + Fishman,

Anticipating the release later this week of the twenty-ninth issue of Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal], why not check out the interviews that have appeared over the past few weeks with contributors to the twenty-eighth issue: MLA Chernoff, Geoffrey Olsen, Douglas Barbour, Hamish Ballantyne, JoAnna Novak, Allyson Paty and Lisa Fishman.

Interviews with contributors to the first twenty-seven issues (over one hundred and eighty interviews to date) remain online, including:
Kate Feld, Isabel Sobral Campos, Jay MillAr, Lisa Samuels, Prathna Lor, George Bowering, natalie hanna, Jill Magi, Amelia Does, Orchid Tierney, katie o’brien, Lily Brown, Tessa Bolsover, émilie kneifel, Hasan Namir, Khashayar Mohammadi, Naomi Cohn, Tom Snarsky, Guy Birchard, Mark Cunningham, Lydia Unsworth, Zane Koss, Nicole Raziya Fong, Ben Robinson, Asher Ghaffar, Clara Daneri, Ava Hofmann, Robert R. Thurman, Alyse Knorr, Denise Newman, Shelly Harder, Franco Cortese, Dale Tracy, Biswamit Dwibedy, Emily Izsak, Aja Couchois Duncan, José Felipe Alvergue, Conyer Clayton, Roxanna Bennett, Julia Drescher, Michael Cavuto, Michael Sikkema, Bronwen Tate, Emilia Nielsen, Hailey Higdon, Trish Salah, Adam Strauss, Katy Lederer, Taryn Hubbard, Michael Boughn, David Dowker, Marie Larson, Lauren Haldeman, Kate Siklosi, robert majzels, Michael Robins, Rae Armantrout, Stephanie Strickland, Ken Hunt, Rob Manery, Ryan Eckes, Stephen Cain, Dani Spinosa, Samuel Ace, Howie Good, Rusty Morrison, Allison Cardon, Jon Boisvert, Laura Theobald, Suzanne Wise, Sean Braune, Dale Smith, Valerie Coulton, Phil Hall, Sarah MacDonell, Janet Kaplan, Kyle Flemmer, Julia Polyck-O’Neill, A.M. O’Malley, Catriona Strang, Anthony Etherin, Claire Lacey ,Sacha Archer, Michael e. Casteels, Harold Abramowitz, Cindy Savett, Tessy Ward, Christine Stewart, David James Miller, Jonathan Ball, Cody-Rose Clevidence, mwpm, Andrew McEwan, Brynne Rebele-Henry, Joseph Mosconi, Douglas Barbour and Sheila Murphy, Oliver Cusimano, Sue Landers, Marthe Reed, Colin Smith, Nathaniel G. Moore, David Buuck, Kate Greenstreet, Kate Hargreaves, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Erín Moure, Sarah Swan, Buck Downs, Kemeny Babineau, Ryan Murphy, Norma Cole, Lea Graham, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Oana Avasilichioaei, Meredith Quartermain, Amanda Earl, Luke Kennard, Shane Rhodes, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Sarah Cook, François Turcot, Gregory Betts, Eric Schmaltz, Paul Zits, Laura Sims, Stephen Collis, Mary Kasimor, Billy Mavreas, damian lopes, Pete Smith, Sonnet L’Abbé, Katie L. Price, a rawlings, Suzanne Zelazo, Helen Hajnoczky, Kathryn MacLeod, Shannon Maguire, Sarah Mangold, Amish Trivedi, Lola Lemire Tostevin, Aaron Tucker, Kayla Czaga, Jason Christie, Jennifer Kronovet, Jordan Abel, Deborah Poe, Edward Smallfield, ryan fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Robinson, nathan dueck, Paige Taggart, Christine McNair, Stan Rogal, Jessica Smith, Nikki Sheppy, Kirsten Kaschock, Lise Downe, Lisa Jarnot, Chris Turnbull, Gary Barwin, Susan Briante, derek beaulieu, Megan Kaminski, Roland Prevost, Emily Ursuliak, j/j hastain, Catherine Wagner, Susanne Dyckman, Susan Holbrook, Julie Carr, David Peter Clark, Pearl Pirie, Eric Baus, Pattie McCarthy, Camille Martin and Gil McElroy.

The forthcoming twenty-ninth issue features new writing by: Bill Carty, Michael Turner, Nina Vega-Westhoff, Sarah Alcaide-Escue, Colby Clair Stolson, Robert Hogg, Elizabeth Robinson, Tom Prime and Simina Banu.

And of course, copies of the first twenty-seven issues are still very much available. Why not subscribe? Included, as well, as part of the above/ground press 2021 subscriptions! We even have our own Facebook group. It’s remarkably easy.

Monday, April 12, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Ash Winters

Ash Winters is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Genderqueer and sober, their work navigates complex and colourful emotional landscapes. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010. Their poetry has recently appeared in; Existere, Open Minds Quarterly, and The White Wall Review. Their first collection of poetry, Run Riot, came out with Caitlin Press in January 2021.

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

It feels big! Run Riot has opened up some possibilities for sure. Having a book published allows for me to make more room in my world for writing. I can apply for grants and residencies that were previously out of reach. It gives me chances to meet writers and create a supportive community. I think honestly one of the biggest things that it has done is allow me to take myself and my writing more seriously. Well, seriously seems like the wrong word. I think perhaps it lets me treat my writing more passionately.

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

I suppose you could say that poetry came to me more than I came to poetry. Poetry is something that I have always written. Whether in the margins of note books in school or on the back of unused missed delivery notices when working for UPS I have always found space for poetry. When I got sober and started writing every day it was no surprise to me that poetry came out first. Though I am not quite sure I could tell you why.

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?

Writing projects usually have a slow start for me. I approach a collection of poems or a group of short stories and work away at them slowly. This could be in part because I haven’t had big chunks of time in my life I could dedicate to writing. I am always trying to fit in as much time for writing as I can around my other obligations. Once I do get the first draft in front of me there is much editing to be done. I am always tweaking and rethinking how things sound or feel. Someone once said writing is rewriting and I seem to have taken it to heart.

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?

This depends a bit on the project. Run Riot was a very unintentional book. I was writing poetry every day in rehab simply because it felt good. Writing every day made me feel as though I was building up the good parts of myself. I think it still does feel that way. I didn’t think of putting the poems together into a collection until I was almost finished my stay in treatment. The projects that I am working on now are far more intentional. I have a book of poems based on Tarot cards that I am editing and a short story collection that has a clear theme of homecoming and family.

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

I am hoping that public reading becomes a part of my creative process.  Due to Covid-19 I have not had many opportunities to do public readings. Although the opportunities I have had  to read give me a lot of energy. I really love the feeling of reading aloud to someone. I think it is a really neat way of connecting, to each other and to poetry. I do find it somewhat terrifying but still worth it.

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 think my main theoretical concern is to point to, through storytelling, the paradoxes that we live in. This makes me think of intersectional feminism and how the crossroads of identity give structure to our understanding of each other. I am interested in those parts of ourselves that cross each other in ways that seem impossible and yet define us. I think Run Riot does this in moments where reflections on the hopelessness of a situation bring strength. Or when attempting to be gentle and careful with the emotions of those around you is an almost violent act of self denial. With my writing I want to bring these contradictions in ourselves to the forefront and cherish them. I want to show that we are impossibly complex emotional creatures and it is the best and worst thing about us. I think the biggest question right now is who are we? This choice could be heavily influenced by the fact that the biggest question I am asking myself right now is who am I?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I am not sure about “should be” but I think there is lots of room for what the role of a writer could be. Right now the role of a writer could be to tell stories. More specifically to tell the stories that you are surrounded by. In this big world with an ever growing ability to accept diversity, stories are how we reach across vast differences to understand each other. I think the role of the writer could be one of representation. That is representation of your own community out into a bigger mosaic of stories.

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

Essential. I find so much value in hearing what other people think of my writing. Every time I share a piece of writing with an editor ,whether that be a friend or a professional, I feel it grows stronger.

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

I think one of the best pieces of advice I have been given came from a prof who said “Show don’t tell”. She was talking about writing and it has been very valuable in that area but surprisingly useful in other arenas too. Living a life of action rather than one filled with hopes and promises has probably done more for me than any other single piece of guidance has.

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 start my day at five thirty A.M. I grab a cup of coffee and head to my desk every morning. On weekdays I get about an hour and a half there to write a few poems and get a little bit of editing done then I head off to my job as a carpenter. On the weekend I spend long expanses of time at my desk working on writing or at least thinking that I am going to at any moment start to work on writing.

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

I tend to get involved in my physical world a bit more. Go for a long walk with the dog. Pick a project around the house I have been meaning to finish. Cook a nice dinner for my partner. I may even clean the house from top to bottom. I find digging back into the more creative aspects of my physical day to day feeds my creative fire. Before I know it I am back at my desk with ideas flowing with a lot more ease.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Sandalwood incense or sawdust. I burn a lot of the incense. I grew up burning it and it has always smelt like home. The sawdust is because my dad is a furniture maker and so is my partner.

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 think nature has a pretty big impact on my work. I spent many summers of my youth working in the woods in Northern Ontario. There is a special quality to the silences in nature that I am particularly interested in. The entirely perfect way in which these pauses start and end is something I clumsily try to mimic in my writing. I also find endless inspiration in people watching. I find nothing more interesting than a person that I do not know yet, who I will, probably, never know.

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

Anne Carson and Jeanette Winterson are two writers who really shaped my ideas about what words can be and what prose can do. I hope that their writing has heavily impacted the way that I write. My dad introduced Leonard Cohen to me at a very young age and my mom introduced Nikki Giovanni to me at a slightly less young age. I will always be grateful for these introductions because they are where I began reading poetry and have had a great impact on me.

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

I have been threatening for a while now that I am going to write a memoir. This is in part inspired by having read some phenomenal memoirs recently: Heart Berrie by Terese Marie, A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Bellcourt, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado… and in part because I have always wanted to tell the story of growing up queer in small town Ontario.

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?

I loved drama as a kid. I was in community theater outside of school and musical theater in school. I think maybe there is a chance I could have been sucked into at least trying to become an actor.  I could also see myself working behind the scenes in some capacity.

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

I have always loved stories, written one especially. I was slow learning to read due to some conspiring learning disabilities but even before I could read I was carrying around a book with me everywhere I went. I remember the book, it was a choose your own adventure about dinosaurs. I carried it around with me until finally one day I could read it. I also have numerous attempts at writing novels when I was very young. Having just barely mastered the art of writing in a way that was half legible I felt it was time for a novel. I can remember climbing a tree in the back yard with one of these first attempts and spending what felt like the whole day up there but getting hardly any writing done. Not a ton has changed. I guess you could say writing for me is more of a compulsion than a choice in some ways.

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

The last great book I read was Maria Dahvana Headly’s translation of Beowulf. I knew I loved Beowulf. I just needed Headly to show me how much I loved Beowulf.  The last good film that I saw was I Am Divine, wow! What a queen. Her last words in the movie that “anything was possible” really hit home for me. What an incredible life to have lived. I find learning the stories of queers who paved the way for my generation incredibly inspiring. It fills me with energy to make art for my community. For the community that comes after me.

19 - What are you currently working on?

Right now I am getting ready for Run Riot to come out next month which is incredibly exciting. I am also working on a collection of short stories centred around homecoming and family. This collection is pretty personal because I have just moved back to Ontario after living in BC for nine years. There is also a collection of poems based on Tarot cards being edited and I am keeping up with a little instagram page where I post some poetry too.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Spotlight series #60 : Carleen Tibbetts

The sixtieth in my monthly "spotlight" series, each featuring a different poet with a short statement and a new poem or two, is now online, featuring American poet and editor Carleen Tibbetts.

The first eleven in the series were attached to the Drunken Boat blog, and the series has so far featured poets including Seattle, Washington poet Sarah Mangold, Colborne, Ontario poet Gil McElroy, Vancouver poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Ottawa poet Jason Christie, Montreal poet and performer Kaie Kellough, Ottawa poet Amanda Earl, American poet Elizabeth Robinson, American poet Jennifer Kronovet, Ottawa poet Michael Dennis, Vancouver poet Sonnet L’Abbé, Montreal writer Sarah Burgoyne, Fredericton poet Joe Blades, American poet Genève Chao, Northampton MA poet Brittany Billmeyer-Finn, Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer from Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1 territory) poet, critic and editor Joshua Whitehead, American expat/Barcelona poet, editor and publisher Edward Smallfield, Kentucky poet Amelia Martens, Ottawa poet Pearl Pirie, Burlington, Ontario poet Sacha Archer, Washington DC poet Buck Downs, Toronto poet Shannon Bramer, Vancouver poet and editor Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Vancouver poet Geoffrey Nilson, Oakland, California poets and editors Rusty Morrison and Jamie Townsend, Ottawa poet and editor Manahil Bandukwala, Toronto poet and editor Dani Spinosa, Kingston writer and editor Trish Salah, Calgary poet, editor and publisher Kyle Flemmer, Vancouver poet Adrienne Gruber, California poet and editor Susanne Dyckman, Brooklyn poet-filmmaker Stephanie Gray, Vernon, BC poet Kerry Gilbert, South Carolina poet and translator Lindsay Turner, Vancouver poet and editor Adèle Barclay, Thorold, Ontario poet Franco Cortese, Ottawa poet Conyer Clayton, Lawrence, Kansas poet Megan Kaminski, Ottawa poet and fiction writer Frances Boyle, Ithica, NY poet, editor and publisher Marty Cain, New York City poet Amanda Deutch, Iranian-born and Toronto-based writer/translator Khashayar Mohammadi, Mendocino County writer, librarian, and a visual artist Melissa Eleftherion, Ottawa poet and editor Sarah MacDonell, Montreal poet Simina Banu, Canadian-born UK-based artist, writer, and practice-led researcher J. R. Carpenter, Toronto poet MLA Chernoff, Boise, Idaho poet and critic Martin Corless-Smith, Canadian poet and fiction writer Erin Emily Ann Vance, Toronto poet, editor and publisher Kate Siklosi, Fredericton poet Matthew Gwathmey, Canadian poet Peter Jaeger, Birmingham, Alabama poet and editor Alina Stefanescu, Waterloo, Ontario poet Chris Banks, Chicago poet and editor Carrie Olivia Adams, Vancouver poet and editor Danielle Lafrance, Toronto-based poet and literary critic Dale Martin Smith, American poet, scholar and book-maker Genevieve Kaplan and Toronto-based poet, editor and critic ryan fitzpatrick.

The whole series can be found online here.