An interview with Ariel Dawn

Ariel Dawn’s prose poetry recently appears or is forthcoming in Litro, Guest, Train, and talking about strawberries all of the time. She writes with Tarot cards and oracles and lives in Victoria, British Columbia. 

Photo credit: Sara Hembree

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I began writing to survive childhood, adolescence, and various mental disorders. Certain moments of dissociation in elementary school convinced me that life was just poetic material, and from this distance and mystery I could imagine living, in this half-light. Poetry is what keeps me going.

You’ve published in a number of journals. How do you decide which journals to send to?

I’m so grateful for the journals, the editors and other writers, and always delighted to publish poems in print and online. I submit to the ones I admire and where my work may fit. I’m attracted to name, manifesto, history, location. For the past seven years I’ve worked on a collection, a love story, with ghosts, and mostly sent these poems to areas our ancestors haunt. Submissions feel like notes in bottles, I’m grateful for any response.

Have you noticed any repeated themes or repeated subject matter in your work? What are you currently working towards?

I’ve noticed my obsessions: salvation through love and art, mental disorders, death, birth, liminality, the occult. My poems foretell and recall each other; some lines echo: I see the collection as a novella. I’m working towards the union of poetry with divination, to be a clearer channel, write closer with and about the invisible.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Early influences were WB Yeats, James Joyce, Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Susan Musgrave, Robin Skelton: poems as spells, folklore, confessions, secrets, revolutions. In university the Beat Generation, reading them with PC Vandall, writing poems together in bars below old hotels. Later it was Elizabeth Smart, Marie-Claire Blais, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Andre Breton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Dylan Thomas: they write from the borderlands of prose and poetry, neurosis and psychosis, reality and dream, a crowded room and solitude.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer? 

From my mentors I learn the essential art of revision. In Vancouver Island University it was Keith Harrison and Ron Smith and close circles of writers critiquing each other’s work. Then the Victoria School of Writing, workshops with Brian Brett and MAC Farrant and classes and correspondence with Margaret Dyment. In the last few years I was blessed with poems critiqued by Arc’s Poet-in-Residence Robyn Sarah, Amanda Earl, and Ann Creer.

What are you currently working on?

I’m beginning a collection of prose poems with the Tarot. The Fool now, so inspired and curious about how it will be. I recently finished my first collection and still feel rather obsessed with that story, so may continue writing it through the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana. Learning to read the cards made me want to write them, to immerse myself in that deep old symbolic world.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

I couldn’t really, I don’t think that way (attention seems rather frightening). Poetry is just this life-sustaining conversation, visions, breathing, the rise and fall of voices, loud, quiet, known, unknown. I imagine all the poets, the dead and the living, in some bar or salon above or below an old hotel writing this one poem that carries and transforms us.

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