Thursday, September 17, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Kemeny Babineau

Kemeny Babineau lives outside Brantford Ontario with his wife and two daughters. He edits an independent literary wag called The New Chief Tongue that appears courtesy of Laurel Reed Books. Babineau’s most recent work is After the 6ix O’Clock News published by BookThug.

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

It became apparent that publication didn’t depend upon others. My recent work is as tentative and hopeful as the first but now I feel I understand better how it is I write my best work.

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

I think through song lyrics, wanting to emulate that.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing intitially 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 don’t write through projects. I have learned to distrust such intentionality in my work. The original draft often resembles the final product as what one must keep alive in the poem, whether it be long or short, is the initial flush of creativity, the original intent. My work does not come out of copious notes but it does arrive from the persistent study of a subject that interests me.

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?

Poems are made one after another, and often on far ranging themes and ideas. The job of compiling a book is in pulling together similar elements from the seemingly scattered poems. Often a poem can have a companion piece that was written several years before with various other concerns lumped in between.

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

I value readings because often afterwards you can a hone a piece down to what you felt worked when reading it in front of an audience.

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 am not pre-occupied by theory at all. I approach language as a toy but not a frivolous one. For me it’s a question of how far can you bend the language and still engage, or where does the construction of narrative end and for how long can it be strung out, if even upon falsified grounds. And when it does end, narrative, can you still be engaging, entertaining and provocative.

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 has a diminished role in larger culture but I think the writer will always have the providence of the sage. Writers have many responsibilities, as chronicler, entertainer, prophet, provocateur, bacchant.

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


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

Al Purdy said (or something like it) “there aren’t any themes, only one poem after another.”

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

I don’t consider myself much of a fiction writer, although I have a few short stories to my credit and do work on them from time to time, but in moving from poetry to fiction I find I like to pull fiction into the poetry camp somewhat and make it an exercise in economy.

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?

No routine for writing, I set time aside and use that, often when I’m very busy doing other things, especially manual tasks, that is when a poem will burst upon me.

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

Read, read, read.

13 - What was your most recent Hallowe'en costume?

Aircraft carrier.

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?


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

Charles Olson I find fascinating, but as for opening up the poetic veins I turn to writers like Gerry Gilbert and bill bissett.

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

Write a book I didn’t write, in other words compile a book of erasure.

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?


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


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

The selected work of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Inland Empire by David Lynch.

20 - What are you currently working on?

20 questions from rob mclennan, and a handful of recent poems.

12 or 20 questions (second series);

1 comment:

sandra said...

thanks rob and kemeny. Kemeny is the master of economy and precision, writes like a yogi. Out of the resulting ambiguity, humour.