The Questionless Books Interview: Poet Susan Musgrave
In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.
Susan Musgrave’s most recent collection of poetry is Origami Dove (M&S, 2011). She lives on Haida Gwaii and teaches in the University of British Columbia's Optional- Residency MFA in Creative Writing Programme.
A Toronto bookseller writes, “The ultimate combination of books for Anarchist Grade Nine (to 12) girls: “Story of O” and “Things That Keep and Do Not Change” (poetry) by Susan Musgrave. Someone should offer those two books as a package deal; Susan would become rich off poetry royalties.” Her all-time favourite review of her poetry came from a high school student after she gave a reading of her work: “Susan Musgrave has made me hate poetry a little less.”
I am...nobody going nowhere. (Okay, it’s three-quarters of a book title, (Being Nobody, Going Nowhere) but it is a state I aspire to, if I haven’t already arrived.
I am known to...dip Graham Crackers in my morning cup of tea.
I do this in...when I think I am alone.
I do this because...tears are the lot of the world.
I do this when I...am wasting my imagination by worrying.
The way I do this is...pathological.
At his/her core, a Writer is...full of doubt. “Fear ringed by doubt is my eternal moon,” Malcolm Lowry wrote. I think it could be every writer’s motto.
As opposed to an Author, who is...someone who smokes a pipe.
A Writer is responsible for...upsetting the status quo.
As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for...maintaining the status quo.
At its core, Publishing is...about product, not process.
As opposed to Editing, which is...about process.
A Publisher should always...take her writers out for expensive boozy lunches and dinners like they used to in the 70s, and then drink-drive home. (I went to see a therapist once who said never (sic) say “never” “should” or “always”. I never went back because as I was listening to her it occurred to me that “therapist” is “the” and “rapist”.)
As opposed to an Editor, who should always...cross out words like “should” and “always” and “never”.
A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is...ready to be edited.
As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others, which is...hmmm, typo here? Ready to be Ready? That’s like the picture on the Camp Coffee bottle: “Ready aye Ready”. I suppose I should answer the(edited) question “As opposed to a Book that's ready to be read by others, which is...a hostage to fortune.
A Manuscript should always...never be handwritten.
As opposed to a Book, which should always...be printed on Ancient Forest Friendly paper and have a title that has sex, power and travel in it.
At its core, Bookselling is...akin to starting a career in typewriter repairs.
As opposed to Book Marketing, which is...something of a mystery. I only know that when I have intensely disliked a cover of one of my books, my editor will say, “The marketing people love it and think it will do well.”
The smallest unit of narrative is...God Lay Dying. The shortest story (three words) I’ve ever read.
The biggest reason to anticipate the future is...that it never comes.
The biggest reason to be scared of the future is...I might run out of Graham Crackers if the ferry doesn’t arrive from the mainland.
In the future we will all...fornicate and read the newspapers, online.
At his/her core, a Reader is…someone who makes frequent trips to the library.
However, the ideal Reader is...someone who admits to carrying your first slim volume of sorrows across the country in the bottom of her knapsack when she was seventeen.