Friday, July 23, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Tara Borin

Tara Borin is a queer, nonbinary settler poet living and writing in the traditional territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Dawson City, Yukon. Their debut poetry collection, The Pit, came out with Nightwood Editions in March 2021. Tara also has work forthcoming in Resistance (U of R Press). Their chapbook, Thick, won Quattro's Best New Poets in Canada 2018 and appears in an anthology by the same name. Their poems have been published in Prism International, Prairie Fire, and elsewhere online. Tara is a recent graduate of Simon Fraser's The Writers Studio Online. You can find out more at

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?

My chapbook was published by Quattro as part of an anthology called Best New Poets in Canada 2018, alongside two other poets. That publication really helped me to feel like a "real" writer. It felt like a foot in the door, and pushed me to do more public readings and just generally promote myself as a professional writer. Both my chapbook and my full-length explore aspects of life in the North and of mental health. The chapbook, Thick, is about my experience with postpartum depression and of raising children off-grid. The Pit is set in a sub-arctic dive bar and explores themes of addiction and community.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I remember writing short stories when I was a kid, but I've always felt the strongest pull towards poetry. It just seems to be the way that the words come out on the page. I love how poetry can contain so much in such a short space. I love line breaks, and how a poem moves and makes leaps in a way that's so different from longer forms.
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?

It really depends. There are those rare times when the poem comes at me almost fully formed, and I just try to get it down as fast as I can. Then there are times when it feels like getting ready to jump into a cold lake, like I really have to pump myself up to even sit down in front of a blank page. And then there are times where I know I want to write a poem about a certain thing, but I have no clue where to begin, so I just free write until I find a useful starting point.  Very rarely, my first draft is pretty close to the final. But most often, a single poem can go through anywhere from four to ten drafts. Because I tend to be so economical with words right from the beginning, it's not usually more than that.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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?
My last two manuscripts have started off as three or four poems on a particular subject, and then at some point I think "hm, I wonder if I could make this a book," and I start to write around that idea and explore all the offshoots more fully. With The Pit, I knew before I started that I wanted to write a book about the place, but honestly I thought it would be non-fiction, more of a collection of oral histories.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I do enjoy public readings. I love seeing people react to my work in real time, I love the chance to hear how it was received, what works, what doesn't. It's not necessarily an integral part of my creative process, and living where I do, the opportunities don't present very often, but I'll take almost any chance I can get to read.
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?
Part of me feels like I'm still in my infancy as a writer, and that I'm still figuring out what kinds of questions I'm even asking with my work. I suppose one of the central concerns is how do people persist in a hostile world? How do they survive when faced with mental health challenges, or a shitty hand dealt? How might they begin to thrive?

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 a writer's role is multifaceted. To entertain, provide comfort, reflect what we see happening around us, inform, speak truth to can be one of these things or all of these things!

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I've always really enjoyed working with an outside editor, and I learn something new every time. It's interesting to me to see how someone else reads and edits a poem. I also think it's essential to have someone else look at something that I've spent so long looking at, because eventually I can't see it anymore. That fresh, outside take is so important, even if it's just to say "yep, this works."

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

That you don't have to write every day to be a writer. There's so much out there that says a writer must write every day. That simple acknowledgement that for most of us, it's just not possible, is very empowering for me.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to essays/non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
I don't do much of this! I'd like to try fiction more, but I'm generally held back by the fear of it not being immediately perfect. It seems like it would be fun to develop characters more fully though, rather than the snapshots I achieve in a poem.

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?
Since having kids, I feel like as soon as I get a routine down, someone drops a nap or I lose childcare or something and then it changes again. I've been in a real writing slump for awhile now, and I've had to just give in to that. I'm currently at a point where I'm trying to rebuild my writing practice, but it's slow going. My ideal would be to be awake and clear-headed enough to write after the kids go to bed, and then on days they're with their dad, write either before or after work.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Reading, always. Going for an aimless walk or taking a long shower are also good ways to get things flowing again.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

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?
Not so much other art forms, but people and place are big influences on my work.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I try to read a lot of poetry. I love to see what other poets are doing, how they may be innovating with form, how they use language. Lately I've also been reading a lot of novels that play with form, too.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Paragliding! Or write a novel, I guess.

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?
Well, writing definitely doesn't support me financially. I currently work in marketing and events for a non-profit destination marketing organization. I've always wanted to have my own bookstore, though.

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

I write because I can't not write.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The last great book I read was Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. I don't watch a lot of films, mostly kids movies and cheesy horror.  Howl's Moving Castle was pretty amazing.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I'm currently researching a queer goldrush novel, which I think will be in verse.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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