On Writing, with Chris Hutchinson

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On Writing, with Chris Hutchinson

Chris Hutchinson's latest collection of poetry is Other People's Lives (Brick Books). He will be reading in London on May 23rd at 2 p.m. at Mykonos Restaurant (572 Adelaide Road), in Toronto on May 25 at 8 p.m. at Clinton's (693 Bloor Street West), in Ottawa on May 28th at 7:30 p.m. at Collected Works Bookstore (1242 Wellington Street West) and in Montreal on May 30 at 8 p.m. at The Sparrow (5322 St. Laurent Blvd).

Open Book: Toronto:

When did you first start writing?

Chris Hutchinson:

In grade eight or nine I began writing poems in a small notebook which I kept secret from my friends and family. I can't remember what inspired me to do this. In my late teens and early twenties, in addition to keeping a sketch book, I picked up the solipsistic habit of journaling.

OBT:

What did you first write?

CH:

At one point in the early '90s, I attempted a novel along the lines of Burgess's A Clockwork Orange about a clan of skateboarders living in some dystopian future. But my characters were not the skinhead prototypes of Clockwork; they were good guys, and more philosophical, like Gnostic street punks. I invented a belief system, a code of behaviour, an argot of slang and a whole little world based mostly on the slacker subculture that was happening in Victoria at this time. I never finished the book. What I did write, I lost long ago.

OBT:

Where do you gather your inspiration from?

CH:

Life, unfortunately.

OBT:

Do you keep a journal or notebook?

CH:

Yes, but not regularly.

OBT:

Do you spend much time revising your work?

CH:

It usually takes me a couple of hours to write a first draft of a poem. Then it can take me three or four years to get it right. So yes, I spend a lot of time revising. I suspect most poets do.

OBT:

What Canadian writers do you admire? Why?

CH:

I especially admire those writers who are more devoted to the art of writing than to the building of a career or reputation, those writers who have a vision of an audience beyond the next grant or contest jury.

OBT:

As a poet, do you feel your writing is generally accepted in the literary world? Why or why not?

CH:

My work has a life in the world of the minds of individual readers. To me the idea of a "literary world" is a little ridiculous.

OBT:

What are some of the problems you deal with often in your writing? Do you expect to deal with them in the future?

CH:

Other than sex and death? I seem to be preoccupied with the limits of language and its ability to impart truth. I can't decide who to listen to – W.H. Auden who said, "Poetry makes nothing happen" or Czeslaw Milosz who asked, "What is poetry which does not save nations or people?" or Gertrude Stein who boldly proclaimed, "Successions of words are so agreeable!" I expect I'll be stuck on this for awhile.

OBT:

Tell us about your most recent collection of poetry, Other People's Lives.

CH:

Flawed as it is, it's the best thing I've written to date. There are secret messages embedded in some of the poems. The collection circles around the idea of "otherness" and locates it, strangely enough, deep within ourselves.

OBT:

Finally, do you have any upcoming projects in mind?

CH:

Yes. But you'll have to wait.


Chris Hutchinson was born in Montreal and has lived in Victoria, Edmonton, Nelson, Vancouver and Phoenix, Arizona. He now resides in Kelowna, where he teaches English at Okanagan College. The author of two books - Other People's Lives, Brick Books, 2009 and Unfamiliar Weather, Muses' Company, 2005 - his poems have been translated into Chinese and have appeared in numerous Canadian and U.S. publications. He is moving to Toronto in May.

Want to know more about Chris Hutchinson's work? He was recently interviewed by Alessandro Porco for Open Book.

In fall 2009, Chris Hutchinson was the first person interviewed for Sean Cranbury's excellent Books on the Radio project.

Buy Other People's Lives from the Brick Books website or from your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

1 comment

Great answer, Chris: "I especially admire those writers who are more devoted to the art of writing than to the building of a career or reputation, those writers who have a vision of an audience beyond the next grant or contest jury"-- but where are the names?!
I'm also a reader of Czeslaw Milosz. His question, "What is poetry which does not save nations or people?" is from his maverick work, The Land of Ulro, no? If only poetry could save nations... I don't think Milosz himself believed that poetry could save more than individuals-- at most.

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