Saturday, September 21, 2019

A CEMETERY FOR HOLES, poems by Tom Prime and Gary Barwin



YVR

I move to the Vancouver airport.
the plane is always one hour and forty-nine minutes late.

that hour and forty-nine minutes
because a room I build

out of a billion toothpicks.
the world changes with the shifting

of the magnetic poles. cigarettes smoked
by the rain, the fumes of forest fires.

inside my toothpick house, I’m a kind of joke
like fighting the war on drugs.

every thousand years,
a little bird flies over my toothpick house,

carries a phone charger in its beak.
am I a bag of toffee? Am I bark on a dead IV-tree?

the clouds evolve when they have occupations. (TP)

I’m always fascinated by literary works that exist in conversation and/or collaboration, from the straight collaboration, to poems that exist, whether combined or as separate projects, in conversation. One of the first titles through Gordon Hill Press is A CEMETERY FOR HOLES, poems by Tom Prime and Gary Barwin (Gordon Hill Press, 2019). This is a first trade collection for the London, Ontario poet Prime, but one of multiple collaborations that Hamilton, Ontario poet, composer, visual poet and fiction writer Barwin has been involved with over the years, with trade collaborations including Frogments from the Frag Pool (with derek beaulieu; Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2005), The Obvious Flap (with Gregory Betts; Toronto ON: BookThug, 2011), Franzlations: the Imaginary Kafka Parables (with Craig Conley and Hugh Thomas; Vancouver BC: New Star, 2011) [see my review of such here] and the collaborative novel The Mud Game (with Stuart Ross; The Mercury Press, 1995), as well as a recent chapbook-length collaboration with Alice Burdick, PLEASURE BRISTLES (Ottawa ON: above/ground press, 2018). I know that Barwin has a selected poems appearing this fall, but it would be interesting to possibly see either an extended critical study or a selected that focuses specifically on Barwin’s collaborative works, for the sake of both his range, and his potential evolution. As Barwin writes in his “Notes” at the end of this new collection:

One of the things that I love about collaboration is that an integral part of the process is defining what that process is, to consider what collaboration is, what it could be. Often, as in this book, it evolves as the work evolves. We wrote many of the poems as a dialogue. Tom wrote a poem and then I’d respond with another. Then Tom would respond, and so on. Finally, we wrote several poems together, connecting on Skype and, using a Google doc. We both wrote and revised in real time, often at the same time, discussing our thoughts as we wrote, and changed each other’s words.

Because Tom addresses intensely personal experiences both biographical and traumatic in these poems, I constantly considered my role as a collaborator. Collaboration is conversation, and I imagined myself entering into that dialogue as an ally, a listening, as someone paying close attention, thinking through, as someone considering the poetic, aesthetic, political and social aspects of Tom’s poems and trying to add something useful, authentic and interesting to the discussion. As someone trying to understand and hear, as a sensitive reader of the poems, but also as someone outside the experience. I also considered my own experiences with trauma, my own sense of how language responds, how language is complicit in power structures, how it breaks apart, reforms, fractures and, like water, always finds a way to flow through the cracks and fragmented places and find new possibilities. How we are in this language together.

What becomes interesting is seeing how the poems evolve throughout the collection. The poems begin as individual pieces that respond to each other, from Prime to Barwin (with author credits existing in the table of contents), but slowly turn into each other, becoming more difficult to distinguish (despite those credits), until the final few pieces are composed by both writers. On the surface, one might suggest that Prime leans into surreal imagery and Barwin leans into trauma, but the results are more complex than that. There is an intimate sense of dark and light that run throughout, from a dark humour to surreal twists. Throughout the collection, the poems begin to change physically as the two writers intertwine, poems that begin to pull apart physically, stretched across the canvas of the page. Given this is Prime’s first full-length publication (apparently the two met during Barwin’s tenure as writer-in-residence at Western, where Prime was, and still is, a student), I would be interested to see where Prime’s work continues, beyond A CEMETERY FOR HOLES, and how his experience collaborating on this collection might influence his further work. As Prime’s own “Notes” at the end of the collection read:

A lot of my poems have to do with sexual trauma, mainly from my early childhood, but also during my homeless life as a hitchhiker. Less interested in describing the sexual trauma in detail, my work seeks to undermine social conventions of what it means to be a survivor of sexual assault. People with sexual trauma are often portrayed as melancholic souls who should be pitied. A Cemetery for Holes posits a reimagining of what it means to be a victim of sexual abuse, suggesting there is no right way to process the experience. The poems are interested in finding alternative avenues to realistically live with trauma, knowing that the wound cannot be completely repaired, knowing that the power of writing is limited by imagination. And yet the imagination should not be underestimated: in addition to exploring the concept of victimhood in contemporary society, the book considers capitalism, religion, and other systems of oppression.


Friday, September 20, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Mark Laba

Mark Laba is an artist and writer living in Vancouver. He was once a restaurant reviewer for a daily newspaper. He’s also painted anatomical models and faux-finished artist wall tiles, been a darkroom technician, assembled cheap watches for crappy department stores, made nametags, vertical blinds and was a scriptwriter for Flash animations dealing with conflicts in the business workplace, a topic he was ill-equipped to write about. He has published sporadically these days. He’s reclusive, much like the naked mole rat.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Well, after my first poetry chapbook was published I was able to buy a Bentley. Then my career went into a tailspin and I was left driving a Gremlin. Then again, I didn’t learn to drive until I was fifty so I must have been on a bicycle back then. So probably my memory isn’t that good. Which makes me unable to answer the second question. But there were definitely some life-changing things in there somewhere although the chapbook’s role in it all I couldn’t really say but I’ve always loved the chapbook form and for certain poetry projects, believe it’s the only method of publishing.

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

I think they all arrived simultaneously. Along with comic books, hockey cards and Playboy and MAD magazines.

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 start a new writing project every day. I’ve got thousands of barely started writing projects that die out after a few days. I’m sustained by the endless pursuit of useless things, many of which I’ll never finish anyway. I do work slowly though. It takes me many years to fail at something. Sometimes I take copious notes, sometimes I just sit and think about my glory days. And then I remember I didn’t have any except for that time I found a free unopened and cold beer on the pitch’n’putt course while I was looking for my lost golf ball in the trees.

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’m reluctant to even start a poem. It’s like an affliction, like my psoriasis. Oh crap, not this again, I think and then launch into it. Because I don’t really want to do it but can think of no other way to relay this mix of confusion, idiocy, wordplay and half-baked ideas that don’t amount to a can of baked beans. Sometimes I have a whole project in mind but laziness and inertia soon take care of those ambitions.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I haven’t done a reading in three or more years. My last few attempts, as I recall, may not have been that good. One I know, definitely went down the drain. I used to like them and did many years ago. Again, glory days. Then I got saddled with a bad digestive tract and social anxiety but with the help of my emotional-support ventriloquist dummy, Mr. Puscle, I’m hoping to make a comeback. At least for a week or two.

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 wouldn’t even begin to hazard a guess.

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?
Again, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I think an outside editor is essential for some projects, others not so much if you’re just Xeroxing something on the fly to leave on subway trains or at the butcher shop.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Never flip a burger more than once on the barbeque. And on that note, never poke a sleeping porcupine with BBQ tongs.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to visual art to performance to food writing)? What do you see as the appeal?
As easy as a slug through shrubbery or a trash pile. I secrete a mucous coating that protects me from the sharper things. Perhaps that’s the appeal. Exploring with a protective mucous coating. The secretions are a little embarrassing in public.

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?

Well, at first I get up and seek out food which I then regurgitate for my young. Oops, sorry, wrong magazine. My typical day begins quietly with coffee finished with chaos and ranting. I have no writing routine. Somewhere in there, children are sent off to school and I find myself in a cinder-block janitor’s room listening to the hum and thrum of various pipes and machinery. It can be invigorating, or alternately, coma-inducing. Both are pleasurable and conducive to creativity.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I like to run a vacuum cleaner. Or eat a towering sandwich of smoked meat with a sour kosher Strubs pickle and a black cherry cola. Followed by an hour napping in front of a baseball game on TV. If that doesn’t work I turn to Bugs Bunny and trying to figure out European shoe sizing.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Schmaltz herring.

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?
Well, that’s a very good quote and an excellent thought. All I can add is some strange lumpy thing you see from a distance late at night in a parkade when you’re walking to your car or pausing to watch some insects fight on the stucco wall of your condo balcony. Early in the morning though I do like listening to different bird songs. Their intricacy really unravels my brain.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Grocery lists. Odd notes I find in the garbage. The printed minutes of various strata councils meetings if you can get your mitts on them. The last will and testament of Bozo the Clown.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Wrestle an octopus. In front of an audience. And defeating it by wedging its tentacles into the straps of my flip-flops. But then like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, I would override the emperor and bring the crowd to its feet, letting the octopus live while humiliating the ruling class. Later I would eventually rise to become the ruler of an octopus kingdom but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m still not that great a swimmer.

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?
I don’t actually have an occupation. But I’ll pick heating and air duct cleaning. Or neurosurgery. No, deli platter arranging for celebrity shivas.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I had two opposable thumbs and the only tool they could seemingly use was pencil or pen. Then I failed math so I was doomed. On an opposable thumb note, please check out Stuart Ross’s new book, Motel of the Opposable Thumbs from Anvil Press. It’s quite amazing.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I think the last great film I saw was anything I saw in 3-D. I could watch someone stuffing a chicken or inflating a soccer ball or clearing raccoons out of an attic space in 3-D and not be disappointed. Also, any Columbo episode directed by Patrick McGoohan. As for a great book, take your pick. I’ve fallen asleep in the bathtub with so many. Now I can separate my great books from my trash reading due to the water-stains. Or maybe it’s the other way around and it’s the junky books bearing watermarks. Either way, my bathtub is littered with great books and once I dry them all out I’m going to get back to reading them.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Oh, this, that and the other. Oh, also critical mass theory in relation to stockholder pie-charts and toupee abuse amongst trailer park retirees and those effects on public boulevard shrubbery. Been a lifelong dream to finish this project.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sonnet L’Abbé, Sonnet’s Shakespeare



XXVII

When I arm myself with rationality, realism chastens me into myth. Disabused by the raced men arrested post-race, full-on reality numbs. White knights brave a world that I read about; they snob at begging, snub at journalists. Money remains my headmistress. Though I work my mind, a white-enough body’s work’s exponentially more valued, so for what share pen I my thoughts? Fair, seldom fair-wheeling, trade socializes bidders’ international dominance zeal. Our spills’ grim images don’t slow the jealous brands. Gatekeepers smugly redirect poop-seeing eyes to squalid things opponents wish to hide; I look with niggling soul on dark insides. So what? I’m chastened afresh. Race-blindness doesn’t see the somatic in the visible. The rational mind says soul is imaginary—but what insight presents itself clothed, styled, fashioned according to uptown admen? Why does light lessen the view? Why did lieblichs ever liken a Jewish girl to—An intelligence hunts, languaging, chastening. Lonely nights make subdued lacks dawn; bright blazes the author’s righteous candour. Her bold-face not-news plows through disabling pity, daily misogyny, life’s male bias. By knighting my mind I form a third person, pleasing gods. As for myself, I cannot quit Sonnet’s effing odds.

In the works for some time has been Vancouver poet, editor and critic Sonnet L’Abbé third full-length poetry title, Sonnet’s Shakespeare (Toronto ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2019). Given the comparatively more traditional lyrics of her first two collections—A Strange Relief (McClelland and Stewart, 2001) and Killarnoe (McClelland and Stewart, 2007)—the conceptual framework of Sonnet’s Shakespeare is quite a shift in approach, even in just the fact of her lyric not as an end, but as a means to open up an entire range of possibilities and considerations. The poems of Sonnet’s Shakespeare deliberately work to expose the limitations of the canon of English Literature (specifically one that doesn’t evolve), and the liabilities of leaning too heavily on such a single element. Expanding, overwriting and writing between and around Shakespeare’s lines (literally subverting Shakespeare’s intents and purposes), L’Abbé turns each of the immortal bard’s one hundred and fifty-four sonnets into something far more culturally relevant, subversive and explosive. As part of her “Spotlight,” posted in February 2017, she wrote as her statement on the project, then still a work-in-progress:

North American contemporary poetry has seen a recent surge in poets practicing erasure poetry, an approach in the avant-garde collage tradition, where the poet takes another writer’s text and “writes” by deleting words from the original until a new poem remains. The most pertinent example for the purposes of framing my work would be Jen Bervin’s 2004 book Nets, which she made by erasing words/letters from Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

The author in erasure practice has been compared to an editor, to the pruner of a shrub, and to one who “opens” the text to “ventilate” it. I think erasure practitioners can also be compared to censors, to deleters of authorly expression. Like-minded Canadian poets nourbeSe philip, Shane Rhodes and Jordan Abel have all used erasure (on legal documents as well as other writers’ texts) to allegorize the censorial practices of colonialism.

But another strategy colonizers have used, besides attempting to eradicate extant cultures, is to reframe the stories of colonized people, to “talk over” existing voices so loudly that the cultures are, at important levels of voice, silenced. Though colonizers often nearly destroy the legibility and foregrounding of the presence of original cultures, they are never fully successful at erasing the original cultures they mean to displace.

I am similarly successful and unsuccessful when I write, from the perspective of both colonizer and colonized, over the “traditional territory” of English literature and attempt to impose upon it my own descriptions of the world. This is a different mode of erasure, a palimpsestic mode, one that hides the original text in plain sight, and attempts a muted bivocality in the reading experience. The original poem exists in its entirety on the same page, but reading it requires a cultural knowledge that remembers what to look for.

Sonnet’s Shakespeare is expansive, playful and wonderfully vibrant, wholly ambitious and incredibly precise. Through writing out a process of expansion, L’Abbé subvert the erasure form (itself a process of subversion), working in the exact opposite direction, managing to breathe new life into a form that has seen many examples over the years, but few real advances or surprises. Works by M. NourbeSe Philip, Shane Rhodes and Jordan Abel, as she mentions, are obvious exceptions, and of course, American poet Caroline Knox did do a “reverse erasure” in her 2008 Wave Books title Quaker Guns, composing the poem “Source Text,” as though it the “source” from which E.E. Cummings might had built his poems “SONG VI” and “SONG VII.” (one could also speak of Gregory Betts, who developed term “plunder verse,” which is an erasure variant under a different name). L’Abbé, for her part, uses the expansive, “reverse erasure” form to explore matters of the canon, race, identity and colonialism (which Shakespeare’s work, taught throughout the world while ignoring home-grown literatures, has become impossibly intertwined). As she writes as part of her 2016 Touch the Donkey interview:

Its procedure is an allegory for colonialism: I write from the perspective of both colonizer and colonized, “over” the “traditional territory” of English literature (Shakespeare’s text) and attempt to impose upon it my own descriptions of the world. The process is a mode of erasure that works by overwhelming rather than excising, one that hides the original text in plain sight, and attempts a muted bivocality in the reading experience. The original poem exists in its entirety on the same page, but reading it requires a cultural knowledge that remembers what to look for.

I’d already thought her lyric shifts from her debut to sophomore collections were more in line with what I was seeing in collections by publishers of more experimental works (over, say, the flavour of titles long published by McClelland and Stewart), as L’Abbé twisted and twirled the language in expressive and playful ways—less a lyric line than a pulsing reverberation—and this book continues that sense of lyric sound and movement, almost as though McClelland and Stewart, in part through bringing in Dionne Brand as poetry editor, had to catch up to what L’Abbé was already doing.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Vincent Pagé, This Is the Emergency Present



XX

Tonight for example
the verse revolves
in blue

Shivers kind of

To have lost my voice
and loved her
without stars

I have her in my arms
but do not have her

This nearer distance

I write
this the last
endless verse (“Veinte”)

After two very interesting chapbook releases—Veinte(Montreal QC: Vallum Chapbook Series, 2016) and IN A BURNING BUILDING THE AIR INSIDE IS HEATED BY FIRE AND SO BECOMES LIGHTER (Toronto ON: Desert Pets Press, 2016) [see my review of such here]—I’d been looking forward to seeing Toronto poet Vincent Pagé’s full-length poetry debut, This Is the Emergency Present (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2019). Built from, and even out of, those earlier releases, This Is the Emergency Present is an incredibly coherent assemblage, constructed in three sections: the erasure “Veinte,” the assemblage of shorter lyrics, “In a Burning Building the Air Inside is Heated By Fire and So Becomes Lighter,” and the extended sequence “Armistice.”

As he writes in his “NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS,” the incredibly-precise poems of his opening sequence/section is an erasure: “All of the text in this section was taken from a 1969 copy of Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, translated by W.S. Merwin. Each poem is composed with only words found in the original poem. The visual poem is the entire book typed out with no spaces, each page laid on top of the previous page.” I’m fascinated with Pagé’s use and utilization of borrowed material, even as he writes that most of the poem titles in the second section “are fragments of sentences taken directly from The Fire Service Manual Volume 1, Physics and Chemistry for Firefighters.” Some of those titles include “A TEMPERATURE IS REACHED WHEN THE / MOLECULES ARE VIBRATING SO MUCH THAT THEY / BREAK FREE OF THEIR RIGID FRAMEWORK,” “EXPAND, WHILE THE OTHER FACE REMAINS COOL,” “IMAGINE TWO SOLID RODS, BOTH THE SAME / LENGTH AND WIDTH, ONE MADE OF WOOD AND / ONE IRON,” and “THE ATTRACTIVE FORCE, OR FORCE OF / COHESION, TENDS TO BIND THEM TOGETHER,” that reads:


The toilet bowl chips like a tooth so
we’ll piss in the sink for a week

Hold the counter as if it’s a branch

high enough to hurt if you fell
Swing your bony legs

I want to see grass-stained knees
Fill my mouth with leaves

Vincent Pagé’s poems display a halting and exacting precision of rough edges, slants and slow accumulation, each of which build around elements of meditative anxiety, some of which seeks out solutions and answers, and some of which acknowledges that such solutions are impossible. “I’m trying everything I can,” he writes, to open the poem “WATER IS FOUND AS ICE,” “to stop giving off heat [.]” Later on, in the poem “DAISY BUCHANAN,” he seems to continue the thought, writing: “The heat tries / to get in / bed naked / reading pirated PDFS / about how life’s existence / can be explained / by thermodynamics / and equations that appear / written in sand / It all seems to be about / energy and communication – / even snowflakes can be / understood to be living [.]”

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Scott Nolan

Scott Nolan [photo credit: Mike Latschislaw] is a songwriter, poet, multi instrumentalist from Winnipeg, Manitoba Treaty One Territory. His songs have been recorded by Hayes Carll, Mary Gauthier, Watermelon Slim, and Corin Raymond among others. He has recently produced albums for William Prince, Lynne Hanson, and Watermelon Slim.

In January 2015 he started writing poetry, approximately three weeks after his 40th birthday. The plan was to replace smoking cigarettes with walking eight to ten kilometres a day. He is a songwriter by trade and often discovered melodies and rhythms in the shuffling of his feet. He spends most of his time thinking about words, music, and language. Nolan found myself writing short poems based on people and places in his neighbourhood, trying to capture a bit of what was happening around him.

An older cousin of his discovered a gift and passion for poetry while serving time in Folsom State Prison. He was an early influence on him, sending books and letters from prison and encouraging the younger Nolan to read and write as often as possible. This relationship was the subject of a documentary last year called Visiting Day, produced for the CBC by filmmaker Charles Konowal. He was invited to perform and host writing workshops in the very same prison library his cousin wrote to him from all those years ago.

The late Winnipeg poet Patrick O’Connell was also a dear friend and mentor. Patrick is one of his favourite contemporary Canadian poets. His was a lyrical style that had a strong impact on his early songwriting. One of the many benefits of working in the arts community in Winnipeg is the quality of work of his peers. It’s consistently encouraging and inspiring. After more than a decade of relentless touring, he decided to take a year or so away from the road to collaborate, produce records, and enjoy his life in Winnipeg. A play was produced through Manitoba Theatre Projects based on the nine albums he has released since 2003. The play, I Dream of Diesel, enjoyed a two week run of sold-out shows and critical praise from both the community and critics.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
This is my first book so while I don’t have anything to compare it to directly is has certainly changed my life. The poems started coming to me while walking, as I was dealing with tobacco withdrawal. The added gift of creativity while aiming for a healthier lifestyle was incredibly encouraging. The practice has taught me to stay available to ideas all the time.

2 - How did you come to songwriting first, as opposed to, say, poetry, fiction or non-fiction?
I suppose I just started writing, whether it was songs or adolescent angst masquerading as poetry I’m not entirely sure, however this when on for many years before it yielded any legitimate results. I followed Samuel Beckett model, “try again, fail better.”

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 write everyday, even just small edits, I just keep a steady practice. There is always something that requires attention. I have creative bursts where inspiration runs high, but I work just as consistently when it’s low. Here I follow Chuck Close’s example. “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

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?
Poetry is still a new practice for me so I have no frame of reference just yet. Most of the poems in my book were typed into my phone, like quick snapshots from around the neighbourhood. I did have a sense of the primary theme and almost all the poems made the collection.

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

As a performing songwriter I’ve begun reciting short poems throughout my sets. I’ve written a new collection of songs that are connected to the poems and work well together. Reading without musical accompaniment is still new for me but I enjoy it. The voice can add a lot depending on the material.

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?
So far it feels like I’m taking some inventory or perhaps leaving a trail for myself. A lot of the poems are an appreciation of nature, and the life affirming peace that may be found there.

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 authenticity is mandatory, speaking clearly and truthfully while saying something about the era we live in here. Does the work deserve to outlive us, does it offer something genuine, that’s a good goal I think.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I was lucky here, Catherine Hunter graciously offered me some notes and my brilliant wife Rachael Searle applied them for me. I struggled in school and didn’t graduate high school so my punctuation and grammar isn’t perfect. The editor was primarily focused on sequencing and breaking the poems into sections.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
If you can hum it, you can play it is the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. It’s changed everything for me.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (songwriting to poetry)? What do you see as the appeal?
Patrick Nolan and Patrick O’Connell we’re both poets who had an influence on me as I began writing songs in earnest. I tend not to edit as much with poems but rather keep them intact as they arrive. Trying to capture a moment the way you might with a photo or painting. What do I see around me, how does it make me feel, how something smells or the light versus shadow. Trying to share imagery while still leaving space.

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 try to write in the early part of the day, motion helps so I’m usually walking within a few hours of rising.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Nature is always inspiring, and four distinct seasons doesn’t hurt either. I simply just stay available to ideas all the time, there are no holidays from being present.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Lilac trees

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?
Art comes from life, no one has bettered Mother Nature’s work from what I’ve experienced.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
There is some incredible poetry to be found within the prison system, I try to stay in touch whenever possible. It’s a way forward for many, for my late cousin, at the end of violence was poetry.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’ve resisted working overseas all these years, even passing up wonderful opportunities. I wanted some mileage on me before I crossed the ocean. I’ve wanted to be ready.

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?
My first job after my paper route was working with my late grandfather as an associate private investigator, when I was eleven . I would love to go back to my roots.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I think I’ve just always been doing it, making up stories, I’m a professional exaggerator.

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

Catherine Hunter’s After Light.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m meeting my father later this week in Toronto’s “Cabbagetown.” I have a feeling I’ll be writing about the old neighbourhood and my family.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;