Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


The Unscripted Idle

I spent this past Saturday at Books & Company in Picton, under the auspices of Authors for Indies, and I came away feeling happy, but with a top note of frustration, because I passed the afternoon mostly talking to people, and by the time it occurred to me to browse a bit, I had to begin the two hour drive back to Peterborough, a town with much to recommend it, but which is without a bookstore of the size and quality of Books & Company.

Some of the Best Books I Ever Read Weren't Books at All

I am on the record—somewhere, or perhaps multiple somewheres—as having said that one of the stories in my first collection, What You Need, represented an effort on my part to capture the feel of a Neko Case song.

Well, insofar as I understand blogging, I gather there's supposed to be a confessional aspect or tone to it. So here's one: I routinely steal material from music. Like, all the time. Sometimes it's an image or a feeling or the bones of a story; sometimes I peel line fragments off verses and drop them into a story (and no, I won't tell you which ones, or where they appear).

By Way of Introduction

If, as I am given to understand, the point of a writer-in-residence, whether virtual or actual, is in part to hold forth on the mechanics and practice of writing, then let me start by laying bare my understanding of the subject: I believe that you should do whatever works. Which is to say that I think trial and error is essential. Which is to further say that I don't think there are any easy or quick answers. Meaning: any advice or pointers I might inadvertently let slip over the next month or thereabouts should be seen to be highly subjective, if not downright flawed. They will be, in other words, basically worth the paper they're printed on.

On Back and Forth

Much like how poetry and fiction can give perspective on inner dialogue—the stuff of conscious thought—and how it works, interviews can be displays of outer thought—the stuff of collaboration and conversation: the bricks and mortar of society. In the best cases what we witness in an interview is an exercise in empathy, two minds tossing language back and forth, trying to get at a point, and working to get at that point together. Whether that goal, that conclusion of thought, is reached is not important, and not why we play audience to the exchange. It’s the exchange itself that is significant.

"We're All Teachers," an Interview With Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser is a high school teacher and author of two collections of poetry, The Serenity of Stone, and, most recently, To Greet Yourself Arriving. If you attended NOW Magazine’s Battle of the Bards this year at IFOA, then you had the pleasure of seeing his powerful reading of a selection of poems from his latest collection, a portrait series of significant figures in black history, from Harriet Tubman to Oprah to Basquiat. I wanted to ask him about how he picked these individuals and the relationship between poetry and teaching.

"Obsession Looks Different on Everyone," an Interview With Emma Healey

Emma Healey is the poetry critic for the Globe and Mail. Her book, Begin With the End in Mind, is a witty collection of prose poetry, a sort of Young Urbanist’s Guide to being Canadian, a 21st century Lunch Poems. Breezy and conversational, her work is able to touch on national politics and intimate relationships in close motions. I wanted to ask her about poetry criticism and how the Internet has affected it.

James Lindsay: What is it about a book of poetry that draws you to write about it? And how do you start? What's your entry point to writing about poetry?

“I Imagine the Mind Like a Cleared Field,” an Interview with Chad Campbell

Chad Campbell’s Laws & Locks is an ambitious debut collection of poetry that is part family history and part memoir. Charting the Campbell family's emigration to Canada in 1827 and shifting to the present, Laws & Locks is an unwavering look at mental health, addiction, and the immigrant experience. Using plainspoken, but moving language, Campbell uses long form sequences to paint a complex picture of the wraithlike way past generations of family affect the future. I wanted to ask him about writing habits and what he’s been working on recently.

James Lindsay: What kind of music do you listen to when you write and do you think it affects your writing?

“I am Not Not Romantic,” an Interview with Andy McGuire

In a 2011 interview with Guernica Magazine, poet Timothy Donnelly, in response to a question about the influences he had just named (Keats and Shelley) and whether he considered his work in the tradition of the Romantics, replied that he though of himself as a “post-romantic.” If we take Donnelly’s work as an example of what post-romanticism might be, then this is a poetry where the vehicle is the sound and image, is pleasure and liberation, but also something darker as well, something heart broken, watching from the shadows.

"Instead of Throwing up Our Hands . . . We Asked Ourselves Hard Questions," an Interview With Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson is author of the poetry collection Galaxy and an editor at Room , Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women. We both attended Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio program at the same time, where the very compassionate Miranda Pearson mentored our poetry, and Rachel was one of the first poets I ever met.

“There are lots of good non-poetry things to assign your time to,” an Interview with Jacob McArthur Mooney

Jacob McArthur Mooney is an author of three collections of poetry, an occasional critic, and the current host of the Pivot reading series. His latest, Don’t be Interesting, explores the cult of personality and spectacle as ritual at the end of history Don’t be Interesting is already one of my favorite books of the year, so I had a few question for Jacob about criticism, spectacle and routine.

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