Jude Neale is a master educator, a Canadian poet, vocalist, spoken word performer, workshop facilitator, and mentor. Jude has written eleven books, to date. Her book, A Quiet Coming of Light, A Poetic Memoir (Leaf Press) was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, which is in a national recognition of Canadian female poets. One of Jude's poems from her book, Splendid in its Silence, was chosen by Britain's Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, to ride with other winners around the Channel Islands on public transit for a year, and she was a featured reader at the Guernsey International Literary Festival. This book was an SPM Prize winner and was published in the UK.
Some of these poems can be heard on Jude’s collaborative (viola/spoken word) EP, Places Beyond with the renowned composer and viola player, Thomas Beckman, Jude and Thomas completed a successful collaboration for the world premiere of their St. Roch Suite, with the Prince George Symphony Orchestra.
Jude and Bonnie Nish started an online collaboration which lead them to write Cantata in Two Voices (Ekstasis Editions), A Blooming, (Ekstasis Editions) and We Sing Ourselves Back, which were published in 2019.
Impromptu, launched in Spring 2020, The River Answers, was published in the winter 2021. As was Inside the Pearl (Guernica Editions). The Flaw (Ekstasis Editions) is her most articulate collection, she believes. Her vocal and poetry CDs will be launched in Spring 2023, a distillation spanning over 50 years.
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 first book, The Perfect Word Collapses, allowed me entrance to readings which gave me the opportunity to connect deeply with each other, which is my main goal in writing. This eleventh book is a Legacy book, meaning I think it will be read long after I’m dead. It is a collection of 125 pages ranging from form poetry to haiku, a couple of rhyming poems and mainly free verse. The one from last year, Inside the Pearl (Guernica Editions) was written while in residence at Joy Kogawa House and told of this controversial house in both photos and haiku.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I’ve always written poetry. So did my grandfather. He memorized and orated all of Robert Service to me before I was five. I won my first poetry contest at eight with BC CBC contest for young people.
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 takes me two months to write a book. I deliberately write for two months using my own prompts so I can complete a manuscript of 100 poems. I learned how to edit for two years at Humber college with the acclaimed writer Elisabeth Harvor. She always sits on my shoulder when I write so I never have to go back and edit. I have written 8 books on my phone.
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?
I am working on a book from the very beginning, usually having already chosen the title and cover. One or two poems a day for two months and I have a completed manuscript.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I am an opera singer who loves to perform, so readings are an extension of that. I’m not happy until someone is in tears!
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 write about the news a lot. In this book I have genocide poems, political poems and societal reflection poems. I feel very strongly it’s my job to lay bare what is going on. I’m very concerned with the Canadian perpetration of injustice visited on our First Nations people. My last book dealt with the Japanese internment 1942-1946 of which my book reflected upon. I think in these wildly spinning global and national times it is a writer’s duty to address the issues facing us all.
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?
See last answer
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
No one has ever edited my books but me. I am pretty firm on each word choice or line break. Each book is a product of my mind only.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
When Rachel Rose, ex Vancouver Poet Laureate told me “to find the golden thread” when ordering my many poems into a book. I totally understood her meaning which has always helped me since. Elisabeth Harvor told me to never be sentimental and maudlin—which I stick to.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to short/flash fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
I write flash fiction as well, which has been well received in the UK and Canada.
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 on my phone between midnight and 4:00 am. I like the stillness and this otherworldly way it feels then.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I am one of the lucky ones who has never had writer’s block! It all comes pouring out of me like a conduit.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Baking bread because my mom baked it everyday and passed it on to me!
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 my biggest influence, both lyrically and cadence wise. I always read each poem out loud as I write so I can feel the silence and internal rhythm.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I’m a huge fan of the American writer Mark Doty, particularly for his beautiful use of imagery and visceral but tender subject matters.
Since I’ve become a grandmother this has opened up my vast capacity to reflect on them, my daughter and my own mothering.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’ve written a long piece of poetic narrative prose in a collaboration with Thomas Beckmann when we created a three movement suite based on the St Roch's navigation through the Northwest Passage. It was performed by the Prince George Symphony. I’ve also written songs, but my secret desire would be to write an opera!
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?
I taught writing in the schools for 25 years and sang. I think I’d be a singer if the pull towards writing had not been so great.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It is how I’ve always expressed myself from a very early age. I wanted to do what my Grandfather had done. I recognized early the power of language.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Best book for me was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. She is my favourite author because she knows her subject so well and is able to write about it in a powerful and poetic manner.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I am working on my next book with well known artist, Nick Jens, about Bowen Island, called Home to Stay. Each painting has or will have my poetic response. It will be four line poems and will tell the story of this island today.
My poetic collaboration with renowned textile artist Jane Kenyon will open at CityScapes Gallery in February.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;