Tuesday, January 26, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with M. Travis Lane

M. Travis Lane has published eighteen books of poetry and essays, and has won numerous awards and prizes, among them the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in the Literary Arts in 2017. She was short-listed for the Governor Award in 2015. Educated at Vassar and Cornell she and her family came to New Brunswick in 1960 and became Canadian citizens in 1973. She is an Honorary Research Associate with the English department at the University of New Brunswick.

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

My first book did not change my life. It came out in 1969. In those days I was not 86, and the world was not burning down. Every day has its difference, every year.

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

I like writing poetry more than I like writing prose.    

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?

Slow. Lots of revision.

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 have written long poems that knew they were going to be long, and short poems that did not plan to be parts of anything else. Poems begin differently: a phrase, a rhythm, an image, a situation— I have to see where they go as I write.

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

I like readings. 

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?

The concerns or questions are in the poem, not behind it. Why should a poem be an answer?    

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's "role" depends on the writer and varies according to circumstances. My own job is to do as well as I can whatever I'm up to.

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

The outside editor is a unique person; some have been very helpful and some have not grasped what  my poems were doing. Tastes and intentions vary.

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

Phyllis Gotlieb told me I didn't have to load every rift with ore.

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?

No routine.  Feed and pill and medicate the cat. Get dressed. Cook breakfast. Whatever.

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

When stalled, I do something else.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

What is "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?

Books come from life— the whole of it.

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

Anything influences. Everything influences.

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

During covid, at 86, with bad arthritis and a weak heart, I'm not sure what I could do that I would like to do but have not yet done.

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 have a PhD in English literature and would have taught contemporary poetry.

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

Genes? The Creator?              

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

Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.  I prefer opera to film. Have no favorites.

19 - What are you currently working on?

Small poems of various sorts.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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