Aaron Kreuter [photo credit: Rick O'Brien] is the author of the short story collection You and Me, Belonging (2018) and the poetry collection Arguments for Lawn Chairs (2016). His writing has appeared in places such as Grain Magazine, The Puritan, The Temz Review, and The Rusty Toque. Kreuter lives in Toronto and is a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University. Shifting Baseline Syndrome is his second book of poems.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I’d say the main way my first book changed my life is that I now had a book out in the world, not to be too tautological about it. It gave me the space and clean slate to being working on new poems, new books. The poems in Shifting Baseline Syndrome, my second collection of poems, are more energetic, more flippant, more desirous, and more frisky than my earlier work.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Poetry has been an annoying friend since earliest childhood. I couldn’t get away from it if I tried.
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?
As for many aspects of writing for me, it is entirely dependent on the project. Some poems take weeks, months, years, to germinate, root, stalk, and flower (if flower it ever does). Sometimes I write down a title for a poem, and come back to it years later (or not at all). Sometimes a poem falls out of me like a piece of blowdown in the forest. It could be years between poems, or minutes.
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?
Since the first book of poems (Arguments for Lawn Chairs, available in my basement), I have more or less written towards a project. This doesn’t mean anything more than the book is in mind as I write, out there, in the future.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I definitely enjoy readings. I remember the first time I read publicly—in Montreal, for one of my first publications, at Concordia’s undergraduate journal Soliloquies. I was terrifically nervous. But I went on stage, and I did it. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who could just go up on stage and perform, but apparently I can be, and I am. I’m looking forward to in-person readings starting up again, I enjoy the energy of, and interaction with, 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’d say that behind any one poem, story, or longer piece I write is a frothing ocean of idea, concern, rage, and love. Unless, of course, I’m just trying to be funny. An all-star list of some of the theoretical concerns of Shifting Baseline Syndrome would have to include: the metaphysics of television; the destruction of the world; what I enigmatically refer to as “Jewish stuff”; heritage, legacy, family; and acid trips in portapotties.
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, mostly, is here to make fun of the powerful, to disrupt, to shake up and shake off, to celebrate and complain. Or, you know, whatever.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both. Or one or the other, depending on the project, the editor, and the ebb and flow of my moods.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
To always take care of your shoes.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to short stories to creative non-fiction to the novella)? What do you see as the appeal?
I’ve never had much trouble moving between genres. For me, each project is its own genre.
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?
I write most days. But, that being said, I’m a firm believer in the fact that the mind is always working.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
The guitar. Music. The lake. The river. Alice Munro. Ursula Le Guin.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Bowties and kasha (though that’s really my grandmother’s 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?
Music, most definitely: rock, jazz, folk, classical, but most importantly improvisational rock and roll. The way a jam moves, changes, opens, builds, peaks, comes down.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Canoe a massive river. Like a fifty-day river.
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?
Canoe guide. Commune chef. Daycare teacher.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It’s never really seemed like a choice.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I recently reread The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, and it rewired my brain once again. Amazing how in each reading I focus on a different aspect. I also just read Matrix by Lauren Groff, which is absolutely, absolutely fantastic.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up a draft of a novel, called Lake Burntshore, that takes place at a Jewish summer camp in Ontario, and is about settler colonialism, Jewish stuff, and the land. There’s also a new batch of poems slowly working its way up from the deep.