Trynne Delaney (b 1996) is a writer currently based in Tiohtiàh:ke (Montreal). They hold a Master of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Calgary. Their work appears in The Puritan, CV2, Carte Blanche, GUTS, WATCH YOUR HEAD, and the League of Canadian Poets’ chapbook These Lands: a collection of voices by Black Poets in Canada edited by Chelene Knight. In their spare time they like to garden. They grew up in the Maritimes. the half-drowned is their first book.
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 the half-drowned will be releasing a week after I wrote this in June 2022. I’m not sure how it will change my life once it’s out in the world. Writing it certainly changed my life—I have relationships to texts and people that I know I wouldn’t have without the work that went into this book.
Working on it has been one of the most rigorous processes of my life. It’s taught me a lot about what my own needs are as a writer. For example: I need to have a space dedicated to my writing outside of my house. I didn’t realize how much I was writing outside of my house before covid hit in cafes, parks, libraries, busses… about a year ago I managed to find a studio space. I’m super grateful for it.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I think I came to poetry simultaneously with other forms of writing. The first time I remember really connecting to a poem was with Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, the version illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat—ironically, life does frighten me very much. But the first time I think I understood how versatile poetry can be was in an American Lit course. I chose to write an essay on Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and it was like I’d unlocked a portal to another dimension. In terms of my work, most of it is hybrid form – I don’t think of poetry as separate from fiction or non-fiction or even other more visual genres like graphic novels or film/tv.
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?
I don’t know! I think of all of my projects as having been started from birth. In general, everything takes longer than expected for me, I am trying not to fight that so much anymore.
I took a lot of notes for the half-drowned. It’s the first time I’ve approached work through a lot of research. Most of the research was at the intersection of histories of Black Loyalist populations and personal experience/connection to those histories.
Writing only works for me if I’m hyperfocused in a quiet environment, or occasionally with background noise. For the half-drowned I listened to a lot of ocean wave white noise while I was writing so that the rhythm could imbue itself into me. When I can get to that state where I’m in a flow, often what I write will be a good skeleton of the final product. I tend to edit my poetic work very heavily as I write. I prefer to write by hand because I find it hard to read and connect with writing on a screen so I will make a first draft on paper then transcribe my work to the computer as part of the editing process.
4 - Where does a poem or work of fiction 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?
Most of my work begins with walking or journaling. When I have an idea that I feel good about I will commit to it and make a book. With individual poems I think of each one as a little book! If I publish a full book of poetry that’s longer than my little chapbook death of the author one day, I want it to be thought out and well conceptualized.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Public readings were an essential part of my creative process pre-covid. I feel nervous about submitting anything for publication that I haven’t read in public yet. They were also the place where I learned to have more confidence and push my limits—for a while I was using readings as a form of exposure therapy for social phobia which was an interesting experience—I learned a lot about generosity and humour from that period. I really feel like those readings made me into the writer I am today.
During the pandemic I’ve found it pretty difficult to engage online because the screen makes me feel lonely and outside community. I’ve been so drained and working on more fiction work that I haven’t been as present.
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 think a big concern behind my writing is how to find community and love in the ways that we need, especially for oppressed groups. Like, beyond chosen family, how do we build a world that is predicated on caring for and supporting the people and environments around us? How do we become a part of without being apart from our needs?
I’m also interested in mythologies of the Black Atlantic.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Hmmm this is a tough one. I wonder what is meant by The Writer. Some people are writing, some people are writers… I don’t know if I would define myself exclusively as a writer, though that has been a powerful word to claim at some points and made me feel more “professional.”
For a long time I thought the role of writing in society was social change. I think that can be the case, but isn’t necessarily. I think more often writers are simply documenting the movement of time, not necessarily linearly. Capturing an emotional process that reaches with tentacles and sometimes touches people.
I don’t know! Think it depends on the writer!
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I usually like working with an outside editor. It’s helpful to have a glimpse into how others are reading my work. In my opinion it’s impossible to write anything without collaboration. Sometimes your environment is your editor, which really brings another meaning to an “outside” editor. Other times, it’s just someone who is good at reading. When editing is done well it really enhances the work and the writer’s voice. I’ve learned maybe the most from editors.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
They don’t feel totally separate for me; they slip into each other easily. The appeal of poetry is more emotional and personal. I like that poetry doesn’t need a plot. Plots are very challenging and detail oriented and when I am writing I feel like I am transcribing a dream, so I’m not overly concerned with consistency, which means for prose fiction I have to go back and do a lot of reworking of the plot after it’s written. In the future if I write a book with a plot I will probably try to plan it out more! I prefer writing characters and emotional/natural landscapes.
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 don’t keep a routine… yet. I work full time during the day and have a chronic illness so I write when I am able to, usually in the evenings. If I’m lucky I get a good mid-morning writing session on the weekend after lounging around and sipping on tea or coffee.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Walking. Or back to the water.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Frying onions and garlic.
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 is a huge influence on me! I grew up playing music – cello – and when I was getting into poetry, rap and folk played a huge role in how I engaged with crafting before I really knew what to look for in written poetry.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Audre Lorde’s work came at a pivotal point in my life. Her essays recontextualized my life.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I want to write for TV at some point in the future. Good scripts are full of poetry.
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?
In an ideal world I would be a gardener. I think that’s my true purpose.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I don’t think it’s opposed for me, it’s just the one I’m public about. I want to try many more art forms in my life! One other one I like a lot is collage.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
This may seem out of left field but I recently watched Scream 1, 2, and 3 and there is a lot to be critiqued with them, especially in their racial politics, but I had a really good time watching them and I thought the way that they made fun of the horror genre while also showing the ways that trauma always comes back for ya was surprisingly a lot more thoughtful than I expected.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on resting! That’s my big theme this year. It’s not something I am very good at yet but it’s something I’ve been forced to do more recently so I’m trying to find ways of slowing down and making sure I’m giving my body what it wants and needs and seeing how poetry might sow itself into this new, quieter life.