1 - How did your first book change your life?
My life changed, and then I wrote a book. The writing process that I currently call Air Salt began June 28, 2008 when I, high on psilocybin, jumped off from a seven storey balcony.
As a result of the fall, I shattered my right tibia (requiring 7 titanium screws and 2 plates to stabilize), I crushed my lower vertebrae (requiring 4 screws and 2 plates to restore), I lacerated my right kidney, and endured traumatic brain injury to the bifrontal and right temporal lobes (this put me in a coma for close to a month). I continue to manage pain, memory loss, and other results of the fall, including symptoms related to post traumatic stress. Writing Air Salt has been very much a part of my recovery process, which is ongoing.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
During my Undergrad at the U of C, I applied to study Creative Writing in the Department of English. I had more poems to include in my portfolio than works of prose, and so I registered in Poetry Writing Workshops with Christian Bök. Christian challenges his students to write in ways that they had never before considered, and he taught me more about language than any single lecture, podcast or book. As I learn more about the distinctions between fiction, non-fiction and poetry, they feel decidedly structural and rooted in conventions around narrative and form. I plan to learn how to write; as I work towards this goal, some call the result poetry —some call it prose-poetry— others call it writing.
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?
any particular writing project takes as long to start as its written particulars. if a project takes, then a process offers and explores. my writing initially comes quickly; and yes, it is a process. Air Salt has over 121 versions: I tend to knit notes into poems.
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?
yes/no. I have so many beginnings, I start to worry when the poem begins. I’m not worried, I just hope that it goes away. I want to write the poem from the beginning, but I know that no, I’m sorry. I don’t know. what did I miss? I write Air Salt as a series of beginnings, but it does not begin: we begin again. the fatal errors that you take in occur in a photo, inpatient admission: June 28, 2008.
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 essential to my creative process.
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?
Theories concerning Trauma inform my writing. Trauma evokes a narrative subject that is multiple and protean. Posttraumatic writing internalizes the disruption and explores the possibilities of postmodernism as a liberating, if not therapeutic, aesthetic practice - if indeed postmodernism can be described in such terms. Despite the transient nature of the proposed category, and in the absence of a previously published example, Air Salt: a Trauma Mémoire as a Result of the Fall shall serve as a prototype for posttraumatic writing.
how many more poems can I breathe w/ you?
& how much more will I yawn into the bit?
& for what purpose & how much
longer does this ache invite access?
& how much more do you see the word
give the conscious distinction of things?
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?
in the process of narrating bewilderment in society, in
which we re-invent syntax, oppose and question grammar,
and so on, we open language, and thereby society, to
new organizational alternatives. I graduated language.
afterwords, there's nothing that cannot be called "writing"
no matter how much it might not look like "writing". the
detached "eye" poetry draws attention both to the non-
representational capacities of language as material, and
to the political power inherent in writing; in creating that
very connection to a world, poetry can be revolutionary.
that connection for me is that we all share an interest in
modernity. we share common texts. we share the textual
stage with connective, collective, and absorptive forms.
poetry no longer expresses our attitudes so much as it
processes our databanks. poetry offers craft to all the
levels of linguistic ex-change.
(To better respond to your question, I wrote the poem
above using found material from ubuweb's collection
of essays, "After Language Poetry")
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential. My Editor, Helen Hajnoczky offers incredible editorial advice. Her input, presence, and feedback throughout my recovery, as well the revisions that she recommended for Air Salt, have been formative in this current step
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
"Listen deeply enough to let what you hear change you."
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 work as the Caretaker in the building where I live. When I'm not cleaning, my typical day involves bicycling or transiting to the U of C campus where I spend my time writing in the French Centre, volunteering as a copy-editor for the student-run newspaper, hanging out at the Faith and Spirituality Centre, and serve as a Marshal during Convocation. My daily routine is (roughly) as follows:
- Up @ 10:30 PM - coffee/email/breakfast/prep - bike/transit to campus @ 12ish - coffee/email/write - volunteer - meditate/stretch in the steam room - transit home @ 6ish - dinner - clean apartment - waste time on the internet/write - bed @ 2 AM
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Facebook and other social media.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The smell of my favourite afgan wrapped around my face/head in bed.
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?
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Whatever I find on Facebook and other social media.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Tour my debut book of poetry, Air Salt, across Canada, and publish more as I pursue doctoral studies at University.
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?
On the Kainai territory between Lethbridge and Vulcan, on Treaty 7 Land, I occasionally host artist retreats at my family’s net-zero homestead, Kinnship House. My parents currently live there, but I'd like to one day turn Kinnship House into a full-time Retreat Centre.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I recently read and very much enjoyed Limbinal by Oana Avasilichioaei (Talon Books 2015).
The last great film that I saw was Pontypool (2008), directed by Bruce McDonald and written by Tony Burgess.
19 - What are you currently working on?
I'm still (re/un)writing Air Salt, but I have also embarked on a very special project — the assembled preparation of language that I encounter on social media, unwritten and presented as poetic collage. This collection — tentatively entitled "Of Ash" brings together, cut-ups and fragments of the poetry that I find online. In "Of Ash", I present a local sketching of our current collective's expression.\
12 or 20 (second series) questions;