The Gutter Series: Between Projects, Poetry Edition with Adam Sol
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Open Book: Toronto is running a new series — The Gutter Series: Between Books, Poetry Edition. (The gutter, as any good book geek knows, refers to the inner margins of two facing pages — literally, the in-between.)
Writing a book is a lengthy process and even the most prolific authors need time to work. We rarely have a chance to chat with writers who haven't published in the current season, and we're curious about life between launches.
Adam Sol is the author of three collections of poetry. His most recent book is a novel in poems, Jeremiah, Ohio (Anansi, 2008). Also a professor and a member of the Authors' Advisory Group and Board of Directors at the Writers' Trust of Canada, Adam won the Trillium Book Award for poetry in 2004.
Adam talks to Open Book about a summery first-book celebration, juggling a hefty day job while writing and the eternal appeal of the coffeeshop.
Where do you look for new project ideas? What is one of the most surprising places you've found inspiration?
Right now I’m not so much working on a “project.” I’m writing poems. As the poems start to reach a critical mass, I’ve started to think about how they fit together. It’s only then, sometimes, that I realize what I’ve been worrying about. But my last book, Jeremiah, Ohio, was a definite “project,” that came out of a bunch of different things. I don’t know if I have a reportable pattern to talk coherently about yet on this subject. Ask me again in 10 years.
Do you celebrate when your books come out? How did you celebrate the first time, with Jonah's Promise?
My first book won a contest in the States, and was published by a very small press, so there wasn’t any fanfare — just a box of books arriving on my doorstep. But that night Ken Babstock and Ray Robertson took me out to celebrate, and I have wonderful memories of a tipsy walk late that summer night all the way up Palmerston, from Queen to Bloor, goofily holding a copy of my new book.
Do you tend to overlap projects or wait until what you're working on is finished to start something new?
I tend to overlap. When I’m cookin’, I tend to work on a lot of things at once, and if some of them don’t get done, or if others feel close, then that’s fine. As long as I’m working.
Do you have a day job? If so, do you find it helping or hindering your writing? How do you balance writing with other professional pursuits?
I most definitely have a day job — I’m an English professor at Laurentian University’s campus in Barrie. I love teaching, and I love much of the material I teach, and so I find it enormously nourishing to my writing. But over the last few years my administrative load has grown, so I’ve become a sort of seasonal writer over the last few years, writing mostly during the spring and summer. Starting in July, though, I have a sabbatical coming, so I get a whole year to work, which is a real luxury. Don’t tell my students, but I’m counting down the days, because I have a lot of things I’m anxious to get to.
What would your ideal writing environment look like?
I get a lot of writing done in coffee shops. This started when my kids were born, and I needed to get out of the house in order to do anything of use. But I still like the white noise of public spaces, and the small tables that force you to concentrate on just one or two things at a time. And the caffeine of course — an essential fuel.
What's up next for you?
I have a book of poems that’s probably 2/3 finished, so that’s Project 1. But I have a few other things brewing that I hope to spend some real time on once all my marking is finished. We’ll see.