The Word on the Street interview series: Kathryn Mockler
Kathryn will be reading from her debut collection of poetry, Onion Man (Tightrope Books). The collection is narrated by a young factory worker, and the titular onion man is a co-worker of the narrator's who is tormented by his fellow employees.
Kathryn talks with us about student days, stumbling across great poetry and her upcoming project.
Tell us a about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent.
I will be reading from my poetry collection Onion Man, which is a series of linked poems about an eighteen-year-old girl working in a corn-canning factory outside of London, Ontario in the late 1980s. It’s a coming-of-age story that could be described as a poem-novel because of its narrative structure and prose style. I’m hoping that what makes the book relevant to readers is that some of the economic conditions at play today existed during the time in which the book takes place.
Have you attended The Word On The Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?
The first Word on the Street I attended was either in 1997 or 98 when I lived in Vancouver. I remember coming home with stacks of free magazines and journals and books. I was a student at the time, and it felt like winning the lottery. I don’t think they still give away all that stuff for free anymore, but you can certainly get great deals.
The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book.
Recently I was browsing through the poetry section of Book City and I discovered a lovely book called Found by Souvankham Thammavongsa, published by Pedlar Press in 2007. The concept of the book is compelling. It’s comprised of parts of a notebook that the author’s father kept during a time he spent in a Lao refugee camp in 1978. It’s minimal, poignant and beautifully designed. This book was also adapted into a short film.
What’s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?
Keep it short and never go over your allotted time. Also I find funny generally goes over better with audiences than sad.
Word on the Street is happening simultaneously in Toronto, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Halifax this year as well as in Vancouver from September 28-30. If you could be in two places at once, which WOTS festival (in addition to Toronto) would you attend?
I would like to go to all of them, but if I had to choose I’d say Halifax because I have friends who live in and around Halifax, and it’s the kind of event that’s fun to go to with friends.
What can you tell us about your next project?
In December 2012, I’ll be launching my second poetry collection The Saddest Place on Earth with DC Books. Despite the title and some of the serious issues that the book addresses, the overall tone of the book is comedic.
When I started writing these poems in 2004, they were a reaction to the Invasion of Iraq and the disorientation I felt watching the news because there was a disconnect between what I believed to be true and what was being disseminated through the media and the American government. It felt like someone telling you over and over that black is white until you start to wonder — is black white? But now, I’m afraid, I relate the poems to how I feel about what’s happening in Canada — particularly in terms of the government’s position on the environment. The attempt to equate environmentalism with terrorism is just one example of a disconnection that leads me once again to feelings of disorientation and deep despair.
In the poems, I try to capture these feelings and address these issues with humour.