An interview with Matthew Walsh

Matthew Walsh is a queer poet from Nova Scotia whose debut collection of poems was released with Goose Lane/Ice House, titled These are not the potatoes of my youth. Their work was recently published in The Malahat Review, Plenitude, and Train.

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

I started writing at an early age. I remember being in grade two with Mrs. Ruck and always getting high marks in spelling tests and I really liked words, and then we were given this assignment where we had to write out own stories about travelling to space, and mine ended up being thirteen pages on this kind of stationary shaped like space ships—we had to read them to the class so I kept adding pages to get out of presenting the story, but the teacher was clear that I had to get up and read but I wouldn’t I just stood there, I remember, until the teacher was like « all right, read one page » and eventually I read the page.

What keeps me wanting to write and having the urge to write is reading, and seeing things happen around the city or where I happen to be, for better or for worse. The other day, I walked into a room where someone had freshly peeled an orange so now I am trying to write a poem that ends like a line about a freshly peeled orange. I think I can make it work!

Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing now that you’ve published a full-length collection?

Now that I got that first book out of me, I feel like I can be more confident in my approach to writing and more relaxed. I`m having more fun writing in a weird way because I`m not working towards a book now, I`m just writing poems that will hopefully and eventually be turned into a book.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

I really admire Ali Blythe’s books, Twoism and Hymnswitch, just so good. Frances Ponge for his views on things and his weird angle of everyday life. I really love the creativity and voices of Erin Moure—Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person is still one of my all-time favourite books. Amber Dawn for the dynamite poems I have seen her read on stage, she is just so good at deliveries. I got to see her read in Toronto recently, and this new poem of hers was just so well written and thought-provoking. Also, Hana Shafi is a very great reader, so if you get the chance, catch them read.

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

It’s good to have a place to be alone to write, but is also important to have people to share ideas with, tell jokes with and who you can just be yourself around and share details about your projects in confidence. Keith Maillard really helped me in the short story department, and Sheryda Warrener, who guided a few of my MFA classes and helped me with my first book was an amazing person to talk with about poetry. I still have all their notes and I read them from time to time when I get down on myself.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my second book, it’s about bodies, bodies in the media, homophobia, internalized homophobia, and problematic depictions of queer people in television and movies, at least right now. There are a couple of poems about the beach as well which might be a completely different thing. Who knows, it’s in the gestation process.

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

I really like the poetry by David Ly, from Vancouver, who has a new book coming out called Mythical Man, and I just finished reading a chapbook by Jason Purcell, A Place More Hospitable, and have you read Hana Shafi’s It Begins with the Body?

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