Saturday, November 23, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lisa Baird

Lisa Baird is a writer, a performance poet, a community acupuncturist and a queer white settler living on Attawandaron/Mississaugas of the New Credit territory (Guelph ON). Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in various journals including Arc, Rattle, CV2, Plenitude and Grain, and her debut full-length collection is Winter’s Cold Girls (Dagger Editions, an imprint of Caitlin Press, 2019). She is a contributor to the Lambda-award winning anthology The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Healthcare (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) and to GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for our Times (Frontenac House, 2018).

[note: this interview was conducted in September 2019; her debut collection is now very much available]

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

As of today, my first book isn’t published yet, so I can’t fully report on how it’s changed my life. I can say that reading the blurbs from authors I hugely respect has helped with imposter syndrome.

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

I didn’t come to poetry first! I wrote short stories (and long stories) as a child. I came to poetry in my teens going to poetry readings in Kingston in the 90s. Attending a PK Page reading at Chez Piggy was a formative experience.

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?

There are always poems waiting for me to write them. It’s a matter of sitting down to pay attention to them. Sometimes they come quickly and sometimes it’s a much slower process. I haven’t figured out why yet. First drafts are sometimes almost done and other times the editing process is very involved.

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 begin with an unmistakable a-ha about an image or idea or feeling. This is my first book, so I’d say that up til now, I’ve been an author of short pieces that combine into a larger project.

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 very important! They’re often a key step in the editing process for me. The parts of the poem that still need work often become evident as I share the poem with a room full of people.

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 don’t know that I’m trying to answer any questions in my work. More like pointing to questions. At times I attempt to use poetry to draw attention to daily violences, recognizing them not as isolated events, but manifestations of broader systems. I appreciate how poetry lets us express the brutally complex in wrenching and accessible way.

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?

This is a complicated question to respond to. I think that it’s important to allow ourselves to approach writing loosely, without any particular agenda, because if we demand that our writing always be Useful and Serve A Purpose that can feed the internal editor who says What is the point of this crap. That being said, there is no such thing as apolitical art. The freedom to be indifferent or “neutral” is political, and if you’re a writer with any kind of a platform, then you have power. So I’d say the role of the writer in larger culture is to make conscious choices about what to do with that power.

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

It’s absolutely essential, and almost always very satisfying.

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

When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

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?

A typical day begins with getting up early to a) get ready to go to work outside the home or b) change and feed the baby. I don’t have much of a writing routine since become a parent.

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

I move, go for a walk, then return to it. That usually works.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

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?

Probably everything I encounter is an influence on my work, including nature, sounds, art, and other people.

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

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

Write riveting essays.

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?

In a parallel universe I’m a marine biologist and spend most of my days at sea.

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

I actually do do something else. I run a small business as a community acupuncturist, and I love it. But if I wasn’t also writing I’d be miserable.

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

Last great book: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Last great film: Moonlight (... in 2016. Apparently I don’t see good movies very often)

19 - What are you currently working on?

My second book of poetry.

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