20181217

Museum of Failures

Chris Banks


Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed
before America fell in love with the Model T. Cold
Fusion would be a great name for a night-club, or
a game-engine. In the Museum of Failures, uniformed
men panic as the Hindenburg bursts its small nova,
a piñata of fire, over a naval air-field in New Jersey.
Sky-cars and jet-packs never make it past design.
Frankenstein’s monster is fiction, unless, of course,
it is a metaphor for a viable pig-human embryo, or
nuclear deregulation. Chernobyl and Fukushima are
no one’s holiday destinations. A husband awakes
in restraints on a hospital gurney after deciding to go
for one beer. Another military operation goes horribly
wrong. In the Museum of Failures, there is a whole wing
dedicated to the human heart, its ability to self-detonate,
cause catastrophic loss. The story of the body is failure
amid evolution. Success is an algorithm sifted from many
defeats. Our lives are a landscape of small failures, but
we love to look at photo albums anyways. My inner
life fails to meet my expectations. Let’s stop pretending.
Be our authentic selves. Let’s stop failing to hear one
another. I’ve always wanted to write a poem called:
“The Care-taker of Loneliness Meets a Young Courtesan”.
which is either brilliant or a terrible title. Be honest,
but not too much. Emotions are okay, but keep out
the bodily fluids, unless it is blood. In the Museum of
Failures, this poem is written on a parchment of skin,
kept under glass, beside Creationism and the Avro Arrow,
adult baby food and vegetable-flavoured Jell-o.
If you are reading this, know you have failed to remain
undetected. The authorities are coming for you.



Chris Banks is the author of four previous collections of poems. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada.  His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.

 

20181210

An interview with Canisia Lubrin


Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, teacher and critic. She has contributed to Vallum, Brick, Quill & Quire among others and her poetry has been widely anthologised, including forthcoming translations into Spanish. She is the author of the poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis (Buckrider Books, 2017). Lubrin’s fiction is included in The Unpublished City: Volume I (Book*hug, 2017), finalist for the 2018 Toronto Book Award.

Photo credit: Anna Keenan

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

I'm not sure that I can offer a definitive memory. I do remember writing stories at five, maybe four. Mostly with drawings and mainly involving animals and the woods and apparitions. So very early. The joy and hard-won possibilities and discovery hoped or even promised in the act keep me writing. Writing is a great way of making sense of the world.

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

Not that I can tell. No.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Dionne Brand. Folk Singers in St. Lucia. My grandmother. Derek Walcott. Kamau Brathwaite. Aimé Césaire. Many others, I'm sure, though I think confluence and even dissonance are better ways to characterize them. There's a lot of value in knowing what you don't want.

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

I've always valued guidance. I've not always had it in writing because I didn't think of myself as a capital-W-writer for a very long time. I knew I loved writing and practiced it daily--in isolation. But life as a published writer always seemed a far-off impossibility. Still, I'd been blessed with very encouraging teachers: Mrs. Marshall in grade school, and in hight school English: Ms. Anthony (sharp-edged encouragement); very supportive, positive forces in others like Ms. Cappel (Social Studies) and Mr. Dasrat (who brought such fun to English Literature). Our principal, Mr. Egbert James, drew me back to math after a catastrophic 4 years in the same. In many ways, James's artistic sensibility about math led me to the interior rhythms of writing. In university, I had greatly encouraging professors in Jennifer Duncan, Rishma Dunlop and Priscila Uppal. Michael Helm also. The most impactful force and grace in my development through both her writings and mentorship in life is Dionne Brand. She's the best. And you will give her all her things.

You are currently the poetry editor for Humber Literary Review and a consulting editor for Buckrider Books/Wolsak and Wynn. Why do you feel this work is important, and what have you learned through the process?

I imagine editing is important to every editor who appreciates how this work fits into the broader ecosystem of writing. All of the things that necessitate this process--every microcosmic and macrocosmic factor--lead variously to the eventual life of a book and that magical interplay between its author and reader. No matter how I feel about it, editing is important for the ways it stems from our being in the world. It is a special focus on improvement. It is a form of sculpting that brings the world into sharper relief. As much a technical exercise as it is an exercise in insight: one you learn, and the other, you also learn--though some things make the grasp of the latter easier and necessarily complicated at once. I hope I'm learning on par with the authors I edit.

What are you currently working on?

Fiction: long and short. Nonfiction. Poetry. Exercising more frequently. Getting more sleep. Drinking more water. Mastering the jump rope.

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

Chimwemwe Undi. M. NourbeSe Philip. Though what is even better is a world in which the measure of poetry is greater felt in spite of its conflation with attention or reception. That a poem will always find its true home, which is its best reader.
 

20181203

immemoriam


Jeremy Stewart


I

cannot do nothing
in dreamland I spit
tase your fears
drive off
fall from the wheel
of seasons
with lists I wish I wrote
not even those
horsey medicine mix-up
if we had known
deciduous thoughts
a situationist art school
in remotest hinterland
haunted used bookstore
your ashes in twelve golden discs
becoming-gone
in green pourings
after the end where I began
in dreamland
on herringbone floor
awake in dreamland
with dreamlanders
alone among dreamlanders
after my death I was alive
grue and bleen pourings
invented a language in
which to talk to myself
while a rotary dial I
answer “hello,” you
snored roundly
over Strauss’ Metamorphosen
you know zero about
me and understand
less


II

grue violets burst and disperse their seeds
trace wire transfers branch to branch
arms flung around horse
we might as well all of us
be forgiven crimes
you in the back
think you are free of guilt
ushers will escort you out
what you hate in what you write takes
revenge on all you loved
singing saw sang songs
unface darkness in a lamp-out room
blank shirt or negative-coloured
bleen map of anthill
I should be happy I escaped
plans for a cathedral
shed or treefort
perfectly invisible or more so
becomings-what already
in logodaedaly
if I want to live
survive becomings-unaffordable
why did I not form healthy habits
want to live but now
judgement impends
somewhere else would I
I would have meant such else
that unchanges you
smooth seam with creased hand
how long can you deny
what fortress do you defend
not to change
the place it hurts
body is where it hurts
who is the smallest meteorite
interstellar mote


III

what music will they make
me listen in hell to
fans overhead in dreamland spin
describe a gidouille
when that else of life overwhelms writing
do you lose those poems
or are they stored somewhere
for your return to writing
in some form
does the loss of poems accumulate
as anti-matter writing
with own invisible gravity
calculable as mass
of unwritten time
in future writing
you would have loved my children so much
in dreamland



Jeremy Stewart is the author Hidden City (Invisible Publishing) and (flood basement (Caitlin Press). His work has appeared in Canadian Literature, Geist, Lemon Hound, Open Letter, and elsewhere. Stewart lives with his partner and children in unceded Coast Salish territory/Vancouver, BC.

20181126

The Eganville Healer’s Compound


Dominik Parisien



We went there as a family, once. Being secular, I believed
in salvation through the self or science, not charms or charlatans.

But when medicine failed me, my mother & father, devout 
followers of the church of parenthood, reached out to him

& God & anything they thought could help me. At his compound  
we found dollars drowning in his wishing well; a counter full of prayer

cards & chocolate bars; a wall of postcards proclaiming him a god
-ly man; & platters overburdened with bills, the marks of his charity.

In his office, I felt only emptiness at the miracle of his touch. And,
he promised, laying on hands was possible even at a distance

through the wonders of technology. Polaroids were the pictures
of faith. They were hung in his chapel like saints & shot

by those who ached with love for the affected. Later, my parents
captured me & my pain and mailed us to his compound packed

with their hopes & their money.



Dominik Parisien’s work can be found in The Fiddlehead, Wordgathering, Plenitude, Exile: The Literary Quarterly, as well as other magazines and anthologies. His poetry chapbook, We, Old Young Ones, is forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press. He is also the co-editor, with Navah Wolfe, of The Starlit Wood, which won the Shirley Jackson Award, and Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction with Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual, French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

  

20181119

An interview with Rebecca Rustin


Rebecca Rustin is a freelance copywriter and translator in Montreal, Quebec.

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

Maybe it was, and still is, an effort to participate in and understand the world. It’s hard to keep going sometimes, like if there’s too much work or emotional overwhelm going on.

Has your work as a translator influenced the ways in which you approach your own work? How do you keep the two separate, or do you?

I do commercial translation for work. I did literary translations at school and tried to make an effort in that direction after but it’s hard to do your own work and translate at the same time. So far it hasn’t happened and the two activities remain quite separate.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

In truth it isn’t only poems that come to bear on how I write, there are plenty of novelists, short story writers, meme writers, tweeters, philosophers and rappers… And it isn’t only writers; it isn’t only language. Henri Meschonnic has written on language as a function of ethics, of human behaviour toward self and other. For a poem to work it has to arrive at language through an ethical process that somehow creates unity of purpose, meaning and form. I can’t be the only one surprised at how language seems to do that sometimes, almost on its own. But it takes looking past the supremacy of the sign to initiate the real work. (Sorry, my first answer had a list of like 25 poets.)

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

Mentorship is important because it forces you to come up with something. There are some gifted teachers out there. My poetry workshops: Barbara Barg and Larry Sawyer at Chicago School of Poetics, Hoa Nguyen online as often as possible, and one with Ariana Reines at SLS. I did a fiction workshop with Jami Attenberg at SLS. I also really count on friends who read my work and who offer feedback and support. Also my mom, she lets me read stuff over the phone. My British-born dad with his pithy economy of style.

What are you currently working on?

There’s a chapbook MS I abandoned last year from which I’m fishing out little things to rewrite. I have a sonnet about love and death. I just moved to a new apartment and don’t really know how to write here yet. I’m still trying to get used to the weird new sounds. The local McDonald’s has wifi, so I should probably go work there since all the sounds and smells are predictable.
  
Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

John Murillo. I love his book Up Jump the Boogie. If you grew up around more concrete than trees check him out.

There was a poem this week (August 6, 2018) in the Luther X. Hughes newsletter that blew my mind: “Mountain, Stone” by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. It’s on Poetry Foundation.
 

20181112

(Rive Gauche Pour Homme Eau de Toilette (Discontinued))

John Luna
 

(I.)

The parents were the first body to move. Like a muscle with bloodthis incredibly vital relationship with an audience, which was of course we few. Just calculating the ratios in the midst of their art was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Your body will eventually require the grace of the rooms in which you conceived its lives.

Each time I go down into the basement to let out the dog, I leaf through the books, scanning Perrault’s “Bluebeard” or the cover of Greene’s Power and the Glory. Imagine how much harder it would be if blindfolded by history’s being perceived in a line rather than as a staircase ending at a sagging pocket door where the wind is seeping in. Picture dark corridors coated in dulled white lead enamel & the plastic muskiness of containers for another life’s long irony & their aura; each page a quatrain, the best, the cream, condensed like those yearbooks in navy sleeves.

Geranium tang sings an exhausted carpet dusted with debris: a face awaiting the razor’s skipping-cricket gait; grit-scaping, sagacious, dryly whistling oneself clean; the whole scene the thesis of The School of Athens flashed as diminishing returns towards the three-fold bathroom cabinet mirror, seamed in steam; smooth equivocation of truth and beauty advertised with praiseworthy virtù disclosed to squinting light lately rising from still pines beyond our drive.

Belted into vintage trench coat static-electrical field’s sweeping fall of leaves, Baroque gestures suggestive of crimes against time. Flip-flops, wishes in the days’ shadows under airplanes, picketed with symmetry; robins, hums. What a strange thing to happen to a little boy. Heredity is a long game… Somebody has to put up a stake, and somebody has to take care how it’s paced; lest the lesser is more the morrow. Familiar caricature and truth-telling citation are both important in this sense, as kind regards, best wishes and yours truly. And must it mean if a star nestles into a night like a field of rustling ferns, dry as a pill, resting on the pile of newly-laundered cotton sheet, or a breeze attaching itself to the crown of nail-studded suede, of a freshly buzzed, untroubled head?

Heavyweight the light between elements of doubt & sorcery mixed into Rothko’s suicide cocktail (outside: “yes” whispers of cars and trees, blurred & whirled.) Your unconscious life right now is informed by the movies: a veritable Valhalla of frozen-in-the-open fears, magazine flesh crawling over collaged moonscape floor: under the same night-light, blazing-white pillars of books bathed in sweat, pale parapets of lean and shadow; the strength of any dream being in the effective use of mixed metaphor commuted to thoughts in forespoken, doped-up prosody’s lore. In a mirror, for instance, you noted the writing on your mirror-right hand that read: “left handed gods”, the sign-off from a friend’s letter rendering protective blessing. The past will stay in the past, its aim is an imperfect tense. I’m going to ask you to stay out loud so I can live with myself. We are all so deep in dysfunction, a synthetic lubricant, in this particular winter transmission to be palpably endured by the generations in generous gradations, while the mirror-flexed eye of the shower knob stands as moving observer to my betraying and praying and ultimately staying, as though about to move away from something…fixedly contemplating… turned towards the past. And here we are (coming) back to where we stand; the knight always wins (cellphone message dings.)

(ii.)

If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt at all; become your own guardian. If there was another chance, the whole leftover game to play or one more day of conversations to mate, I’d glean. It could happen here, in the midst of the quiet summers you while away sweetly mapping, tracing, watching, reckoning – but won’t. The fridge crackles cool, consuming fuel. In the beginning, in the work-world of childhood-in-the-making, it was dark; picture people leaving the lights on in late summer evening. You can hear the lawn mowing sounds so you know it must still be warm; but these are means of egress, there are no machines to speak to this.

(But still, you know a Tuesday from a Saturday;) you are a natural as the absent-minded sky over the open-air theatre of asking why. See how much practice it takes the dog to wait out her silhouette on the floor? Gather up some laurels (would it kill you to try?) There, resting on the stove, see the tray for someone’s sick-day meal. Convalescence lasts and lasts, as some discomfort’s due, while a melancholy that never actually ceases getting started settles in to cause furniture to creak and the cat to stretch & shake. See now how with a freshly extinguished match held in your mouth, rolled over on the tongue and beginning to flake, you will taste the warmed wax from the candle knowing in your nose’s memory-banks what it objectively was, explained back by way of quoted soot & grit & bitter wood. Flowers flow uphill as we run from shadows as the sun’s carbonizing math melts pools of silver-grey snow between our worn-in hedge + house.

Erstwhile, you emerge in the doorway to ask if we are planning a vacation. My voice drops an octave, as this is the where and why of it, but idly. There are interesting things to pick out of the day’s accounts; so many to prolong conversation’s end until we’ve both become old men.

 

 

John Luna: I am a dual Canadian-American citizen born of Mexican + American expatriates. Besides writing, my practice is as a visual artist whose background includes painting, sculpture and installation, and a teacher working in the areas of art, design and art history. I currently reside on an island off of the west coast of N. America. Previous publication of written work in art criticism and poetry has appeared in Ditch, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, Canyon, Cordite, and Matrix, among others. A first collection of poems, Listing (Decoupage Publishing, 2015) was released through a small independent press with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. A second book-length manuscript was recently (2017) shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry.

 

20181105

An interview with Craig Santos Perez


Dr. Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is the author of four collections of poetry and two spoken word albums, editor of three anthologies, and co-founder of Ala Press, the only press in the U.S. dedicated to Pacific Islander poetry. He has received PEN Center USA Literary Award, the American Book Award, a Ford Foundation fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation literary fellowship. He holds an MFA from the U of San Francisco, and a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the U of California, Berkeley. He is an associate professor at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.

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

I began writing in high school, but became more serious during my undergraduate and graduate studies in the United States. My storytelling is inspired by the oral stories I was surrounded with growing up on the Pacific island of Guam. As a native poet, I feel a responsibility to my ancestors, my community, and my descendants to continue writing our stories and experiences into existence.

Your full-length poetry collections to date appear to be part of a single, ongoing work. How did your writing evolve into working on such a large-scale project?

While working on my first book, I realized that the themes I was exploring (indigenous culture and identity, the politics and history of my homeland) could not be fully written about in a single book, so I conceived of an ongoing book series, the fourth of which was published in 2017.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Poets like William Carlos Williams, HD, Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Nathaniel Mackey, Robert Duncan, and Louis Zukofsky have all influenced my approached to the long poem and serial book. Many native writers have also influenced me, including Joy Harjo, Simon Ortiz, N. Scott Momaday, Allison Hedge Coke, and Leslie Marmon Silko. As a Pacific poet, I am deeply influence by Pacific writers, including Albert Wendt, Hone Tuwhare, Haunani-Kay Trask, Brandy Nalani McDougall, John Pule, Konai Helu Thaman, and Robert Sullivan.

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

Mentorship has been very important. As a high school student, I had two wonderful literature teachers, Thomas Seaton and Kami Tomberlain. As an undergraduate, I studied with Joy Manesiotis and Leslie Brody. As an MFA student, I was mentored by Aaron Shurin, DA Powell, Truong Tran, Rob Halpern, Barbara Jane Reyes, and Rusty Morrison. Rusty Morrison has also been my main editor, mentor, and publisher over the past decade.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on the fifth book of my ongoing series, as well as a separate collection of environmental and political poetry.

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

Everyone should read Hawaiian poet Brandy Nalani McDougall. 



20181029

Redemption


Isabella Wang


He didn’t want another mouthful
of boiled tree bark. Nothing
his grandmother did
or said could calm him.

She tried caressing him,
beating him, stripping him naked
and leaving him out to bask
in the snow.

She dug out the jar of meat
curing underground
for the New Year’s, scooped
marinated veal from the salty brine,

mixed it with braised cabbage
and the last of their rice for the winter,
served it to him head bowed— a peace
offering to an angry god.

One year before she died,
my father bought her train tickets
to the city, presented her
with roasted duck,

lamb stew, ginseng tea.
No more teeth left, she sucked
on shards of greasy skin
dipped in oyster sauce,

drawing flavour before spitting
the gloopy chunks.
He sat and watched
as she wrapped

what she had spat
in bits of tissue, stuffing
them down her pant leg pockets
to save for later.




Isabella Wang: I am an emerging Chinese-Canadian writer living in Vancouver B.C. My poetry and prose have appeared previously in The New Quarterly and Looseleaf Magazine. At 17, I am the youngest writer to be shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s 2017 Edna Staebler Essay Contest. I will be studying English at SFU in the fall of 2018, while serving as an intern for Room Magazine.

20181022

Who Besides Me?


Allison Chisholm


You at the helm - 
 
windblown and wayward
 
a dark sky observer. 
 
 
Below these decks
 
address these hands -
  
disorderly and ungloved. 
 
 
Heavy-handed but
 
adrift, afoot, abreast
 
a sacker of cities.
 
 
Capsized or baptized
 
I take the fall.
 
Aye Aye  
 
 
Allison Chisholm is an award-winning pie baker. She lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario. She played glockenspiel in the Hawaiian-Dream-Pop band SCUB. Her poetry has appeared in The Northern Testicle Review (Proper Tales Press) and The Dollhouse (Puddles of Sky Press). Her chapbook, On the Count of One, was published in 2017 (Proper Tales Press). Her forthcoming book of poetry, On the Count of None, will be released this fall through Anvil Press. She is the curator of The Museum of Tiny Objects.

20181015

An interview with Aaron Tucker


Aaron Tucker is the author of the novel Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos (Coach House Books) as well as two books of poetry, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Bookthug Press) and punchlines (Mansfield Press), and two scholarly cinema studies monographs, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Hollywood War Films and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both published by Palgrave Macmillan). His current collaborative project, Loss Sets, translates poems into sculptures which are then 3D printed (http://aarontucker.ca/3-d-poems/); he is also the co-creator of The ChessBard, an app that transforms chess games into poems (http://chesspoetry.com). Currently, he lives on the Dish with One Spoon Territory, where he is a lecturer in the English department at Ryerson University (Toronto), teaching creative and academic writing. He will be beginning his doctorate as an Elia Scholar in the Cinema and Media Studies Department at York University. You can reach him atucker[at]ryerson[dot]ca

How easy was it to put together your latest collection?

My latest, Irresponsible Mediums (https://bookthug.ca/shop/books/irresponsible-mediums-the-chess-games-of-marcel-duchamp-by-aaron-tucker/), translates the chess games of Marcel Duchamp into poems. It was built from the work that Jody Miller and I did creating The ChessBard (chesspoetry.com), an app that translates old chess games into poems, that also includes a playable version. In terms of “writing” the book, since I translate, rather than wrote, the poems of the text, it involved a lot of other types of writing: there was the code we (mostly Jody) wrote; the 12 source poems I wrote; the language templates I wrote; the poetic statement (http://chesspoetry.com/poetics/); the grant applications; the social media posts promoting and explaining; the emails to Jay and Hazel at Book*hug; the emails to Jennifer Shahade, who wrote the excellent introduction to the collection; the emails to Derek Beaulieu to make sure I got his own visual translations of Duchamp’s poems in the book. I don’t think this web of writing is that unusual for any one book, but the putting together of the disparate parts borne of that writing, all the games in translation, the introduction, the poems was a large, exhilarating process.

By contrast, the book I’m working on now, tentatively titled Catalogue d’oiseaux after Olivier Messiaen’s solo piano piece of the same name, involved actually writing the poetry part and not just handing it off to my computer co-author. But in much the same ways, I did find myself putting the different parts together: ostensively, it’s a long lyrical poem, stitched together by travel, art, sex, birds, growing older and into love outside your twenties, with all the events of two lives combining. While I’ve just finished the first draft, and it’s messy, beyond messy, I was happy to polish a small part of it from rob mclennan at above/ground for a chapbook (http://abovegroundpress.blogspot.com/2018/04/new-from-aboveground-press-catalogue.html).

Your first novel appeared recently. Are you able to work on poetry at all during the composition of a novel?

I was! Typically, I’m the type of person that likes to have parallel problems that I am working through, and most often when I shift into the editing and revision stage of a manuscript, I find myself starting something new to balance that a bit. So, as I moved into editing of Y (https://chbooks.com/Books/Y/Y2), a novel about Robert Oppenheimer’s leadership at Los Alamos of the Manhattan Project, I began to write Catalogue d’oiseaux. For me though, I need to work steadily, daily if I can, on things, and having two writing acts in parallel helps me to stay sane, but also helps remind me that they are interconnected, and that the two feed each other, mutate the other in strange and lovely ways. With Y, I think working on the poetry forced the novel, at the scale of the book, out of a more traditional, straightforward bit of historical fiction and into something more a-chronological and weirder; at the scale of the sentence, of the word, the poetry work demanded a smaller focus, pushed the sentences past a lot of their more natural breaking points, that tended to morph the facts of Oppenheimer’s life into an amalgam of metaphor and those facts. Likewise, editing the prose, extended the lines of my poems – they are by far the longest, shaggiest lines I’ve written – but also encouraged me to write one long poem, a continuing narrative, a poem closer to the scale of a novel.

How is the process of writing a novel different than writing a collection of poetry?

I’m not sure if my next novel will be similar, but Y, being historical fiction, required a fair bit of research, ranging from biographies of Oppenheimer, histories of the atomic bomb, writing on New Mexico, the poetry that he read and loved, biographies of the women in his life etc. As such, I felt like I was charging up for a much longer time, building all sorts of different images and scenes and narratives, and mentally seeing how they might fit, then actually planning out at least the first few chapters with broad signposts. It was work start-and-stop than I was used to, and often the writing and editing of it would be interrupted by my wanting to ensure the facts and timelines were correct.

The poetry, while also involving a lot of outside reading and thinking, in contrast, was something that poured out a little faster, with a little less self-consciousness. I hesitate to say it was easier, but it was definitely smoother, and I think it helped that it was all one piece, with a series of movements, rather than a collection of parts I would have to put together, like my previous punchlines (http://mansfieldpress.net/2015/03/punchlines-2/)

You seem to approach poetry collections as projects. How did this process emerge?

That’s funny, yes, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I think part of this stems from my tendency to start with big questions and then work to answer them with some poetic gesture. For Irresponsible Mediums, it was “How can I merge chess and poetry in some way?” For Loss Sets (http://aarontucker.ca/3-d-poems/), an ongoing collaborative project with Jordan Scott, Namir Ahmed and Tiffany Cheung, Jordan actually asked “Could we translate poems into 3D printed sculptures?” These lead to smaller questions, and it’s usually in answering those smaller questions or problems that the actual work gets produced. But I think working backwards from a large, semi-impossible looking question, works best for me.

I think for Catalogue d’oiseaux, the beginning question was “What would a love poem, at this stage of my life, look like?” Looking back, I can see myself asking this because I did want to write something that looked a little more what I used to write, something lyrical, less conceptual and more emotional; I wanted to make a pretty thing, rather than sort out some sort of intellectual concept.

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

I have been lucky to have so many mentors and great writers as peers, am still lucky to be able to have nourishing conversations, often not about writing at all. In particular, I think of John Lent, who lead my first creative writing workshop when I was in first year at college; he taught me so much about sensitivity and kindness in reading and writing, and then layering analysis and feedback on top of that. I was also lucky to have Margaret Christakos as the writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor when I was there doing my MA, and am lucky still get talk with her; she encouraged me to look at language as operating on different levels (as syllabus, as words, as lines, as stanzas, as poems, as books), and that poetry can/should work on all simultaneously.

I have only recently completed a French proficiency certificate at Ryerson, and I think my instructors over the last few years have really taught me a lot about how language works. Once I got over being the worst student in the room (and often having my former students in the class, far exceeding my baby French), I found it eye opening. Sounding like a child when speaking French, the frustration of that, pushed my writing in English to actually be leaner, something I could have done without understanding, in a semi-mechanical way, how a sentence works.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished the first draft of Catalogue d’oiseaux and am excited to move forward with it with an editor – it needs it! I am also gathering things for a second novel, set in Toronto and playing off the John Wayne movie The Searchers. The most immediate thing I have been working on is a screenplay adaptation of Y. I’ve never written a screenplay before and who knows if it will ever amount to anything, but I gave myself the challenge and I am finding it really wild and energizing.

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

There is a lot of energy in Toronto right now, and it’s great to in the middle of it!

I am excited to see a full work from K.B Thors in 2019. In the meantime, her translations are excellent! Stormwarning: http://www.phonememedia.org/stormwarning/!

I really enjoyed Khashayar Mohammadi’s chapbook Moe’s Skin (https://zedpress.bigcartel.com/product/moe-s-skin-by-khashayar-mohammadi).

Jeff Kirby is the saint of Knife Fork Book, and does everything there, including publishing really lovely books. But! He’s also a great poet! (https://knifeforkbook.com)

Michelle Brown’s Safe Words is quite a good book, and I think the folks at Palimpsest make great books (http://palimpsestpress.ca/books/safe-words/)!

I also recently met Kyle Flemmer, who writes and makes in Calgary, as founder of The Blasted Tree, including his work with star arrangements (http://www.theblastedtree.com/-19-54-12-53)!