Ink Pad Poems

Sacha Archer

Sacha Archer lives in Burlington, Ontario with his wife and two daughters. He is the editor of Simulacrum Press (simulacrumpress.ca). His work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as ARC, filling Station, Matrix, Nöd, Politics/Letters Live, Utsanga, Otoliths, FIVE:2:ONE, Futures Trading, Timglaset and Touch the Donkey. Archer has two full-length collections of poetry, Detour (gradient books, 2017) and Zoning Cycle (Simulacrum Press, 2017). His most recent chapbooks are TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press, 2018), Contemporary Meat (The Blasted Tree, 2018) and Autopsy Report (above/ground press, 2018) with two forthcoming: Houses (no press) and Framing Poems (Timglaset). His visual poetry has been exhibited in the USA, Italy, and Canada. His website is sachaarcher.wordpress.com.


An interview with A.W. French

Andrew William (A.W.) French is a poet and academic who was born and raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia. French holds a BA in English from Huron University College at Western University, and is pursuing an MA in English at UBC. Andrew's poems and book reviews have recently appeared in Train: a poetry journal, PRISM International, The Lamp, and Cascadia Rising, in addition to a number of other literary journals across North America and the UK. Andrew interviews his favourite writers on Page Fright: A Literary Podcast.

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

I kind of fell into writing, especially poetry. I started writing poems for fun after listening to George Watsky’s rap albums in middle school, which then pushed me towards his spoken word. Watsky’s writing is beautiful, “Nothing Like the First Time” still sticks with me. I loved his blend of humour and seriousness, and I think that’s something I still value when I read poems that ‘stick’ with me. I gravitated towards Al Purdy’s story in 2015 and started to take writing seriously, that was kind of where my genuine attempts at sharing my work took off. Purdy and Wallace Stevens kind of ‘teamed-up’ and inspired me to drop out of business school, switch to writing, and fall in love with it.

I think I continue to write because it’s all I want to do. When I switched out of that business program, I promised myself I would stop doing what I felt pressured to do and start doing whatever sounded like it would be the most fun. I had the concrete goal of publishing a chapbook for a while, and I’d love to do that, but that aim has recently faded into the background as I try more broadly just to make friends in the writing community. At this stage people keep me going, I love meeting new writers and learning their stories, why they write, and what they’re writing through. I still have tons of stories myself to write through, and if that supply remains steady, I hope my writing output will as well.

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

I think the textbook answer is to say that you look for journals that match your style, that work with writers who you admire, and that are willing to take a chance on a new name. But to be honest, I think I’ve published in nine of every ten journals who have shown any interest in my work. I’m not particularly selective with where I publish because I see publishing as a real gift and love any chance to share the writing I’ve put work into with people. I do believe in submitting to journals you like, whatever that means for you. For me, I think if I pick up an issue of a journal and check out a few poems that really stick with me, I’ll probably be submitting there a lot. The truth, though, is that I’ll publish in most places that are kind enough to give my words a chance.

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

I seem to go through phases in terms of which themes my poetry expresses. Since I started writing I’ve been dealing with depression, and poetry has given me an avenue to explore this crazy thing that goes on in my head where I’m down more often than the average person. I write through my depression a lot, try to reclaim it and deal with the states it puts me in. I also (and I’m aware I sound like a real downer here) love to write about mortality and death. I think writing about death comes from a place of loving life so much, though, more than it does a fascination with the experience or inexperience of passing. I find the finitude of existence both beautiful and cruel, and I hope I can consider that a bit in my work. I’m twenty-two, though, so I’m sure I don’t have the wisest take on the subject. I also used to get told by a friend that I used the word ‘charcoal’ too much in my writing to describe something dark or stripped of its use… so “charcoal, charcoal, charcoal.” Enjoy that, Lauren.

I can’t really say what I’ve been working towards lately, because I don’t even know what it is. A sense of community is my first thought, but on the page I’m unsure. I’d like to work more towards a chapbook and get that project going again but haven’t felt particularly inspired to do so lately. For now, I’m rolling through existing poems and giving them the attention that I feel they deserve, trying to find homes for some of my personal favourites. I want to write more through the trauma I’ve experienced in my life, but the words haven’t come to articulate most of that yet, so maybe it’s a matter of waiting…

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

The list of living poets I love is long, and there’s a lot I’ve learned from each of them. Matthew Walsh’s book recently made me fully rethink enjambment. Chris Bailey’s writing makes me think of the complexities we find by looking closer at the simple moments in our lives. I love everything that Shazia Hafiz Ramji has done and is doing, every time that I hear her read a new poem I go home and think of something new to write… she’s incredible. Aidan Chafe’s poetry makes me think about the cleverness and subsurface elements that can help us express trauma, I owe a lot of my recent creative work to inspiration I took from his book. Rob Taylor is someone I look up to a lot, whose poetry I love and continue to return to. I think I could make this paragraph too long if I sit here and keep listing people, but please know that there are so many folks who I read that influence how I write. Reading is a huge part of my process.

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

This is a great question, because I think community has had the largest influence on my writing as of late! I read Curtis LeBlanc’s first book Little Wild about a year ago, and it showed me that somebody is already writing the way that I wish I could… I really look up to Curtis and his work. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the influence Kevin Spenst has recently had on my work and writing life. I took a course of Kevin’s, and he reminded me immediately of how easy it can be to have fun writing poetry, that it’s not this big serious endeavour. Kevin got me playing with words and enjoying my relationship with the page again, and has connected me to other writers as well, so I really appreciate the support he has provided me. I should mention Shazia Hafiz Ramji as well, I’m really grateful for her kindness and the time she has given me in the past year or so. Shazia was one of the first writers I ever reached out to, and she took the time to speak with me when nobody else would. I’m very thankful for the role that Shazia has played in my writing so far, I really look up to her as well. I’ve also had a lot of English professors who have helped me as a poet and person.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working towards one day having a book of poems. That’s all I really want, just to hold a book (full-length or chapbook, I don’t care) of my own lines and be able to say that the thing I’m holding is a physical representation of who I am and what I’m curious about. I think that’s the greatest achievement for any aspiring writer, and I’d be so excited to have a collection some day. In the immediate present, though, I’m working on honing my skills until I’m ready to compile and publish something like that. I understand that it takes time, and I’m trying to remain patient until I find the right opportunity.

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

I love everything coming out of Vancouver right now. I think in terms of emerging writers without books I have to point to Carlie Blume, whose writing is awesome. Estlin McPhee has a chapbook of their poems out with Rahila’s Ghost that blew my mind, they should be getting looked at for sure. David Ly is awesome, and his work is super cool, so definitely check that out. Everybody I named in this interview is also worth looking at, so definitely take a look at their work, too!



Amritpal Singh Arora

My father once told me
of a pond
fed by willows weeping
where waterlilies refuse to float
and instead, mingle
with dreams of immigrants
that have come to drown

Once lumber has passed
through callused hands and
pills are taken
to put hammer to nail,
immigrants descend upon this pond
to cast their dreams and watch as they skip along its surface
until swallowed by the muddied waters
and ripples fade to stillness

My father once told me
of a pond
around which they sit and
fill their cups with thermos’d chai
and refill their will with thoughts
of those left behind

To whom they pen songs
with sweat and tears as ink
and sing them as
nightingales lament

Amritpal Singh Arora is a writer of poetry, working on his first collection. He is a family physician in Burnaby, British Columbia. His poetry is centered around themes of medicine, grief, domestic violence and navigating the world as a visible minority. His work has previously appeared in the Canadian Family Physician.



without sustaining

katie o’brien

katie o’brien is a poet, community worker, queer activist, and Netflix enthusiast originally from St. John’s, Ktaqamkuk, on unceded Beothuk land. a peal of thunder, a moment of (The Blasted Tree, 2019) is their third chapbook. katie dislikes lying, sings a lot, and doesn’t kill bugs.


An interview with Chris Banks

Chris Banks is a Canadian poet and author of five collections of poems, most recently Midlife Action Figure by ECW Press 2019. 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.

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

I began writing poetry because I wanted to be creative. I tried playing guitar and was useless at it. I tried visual arts and was unsuccessful. I wrote poetry only after discovering Al Purdy’s “The Country North of Belleville” and realized he was talking about the land around Bancroft, ON where I spent a significant portion of my childhood. So that is where it started. I was sixteen. What keeps me going I suppose is the magic of image-making. Poetry still delights and surprises me.

Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem, now that you’ve published five full-length collections?

After five books I am less interested in mining my childhood memories, or in writing narrative poems, although they still crop up now and again. The real challenge for a poet is what happens when you run out of autobiographical material after a couple of books, what then? My poetic voice has shifted from deeply lyrial, meditative, narrative poems over the years to wildly associative, even surreal poems. I use to take a lot of time writing poems, weeks sometimes, counting syllables, etc. but now I’m much more in a hurry to get the feeling of spontaneity into a poem, that particular energy, which leads me stumbling forward.

How has the process of putting together a manuscript evolved? How do you decide on the shape and size of a manuscript?

In my first two books I did with Nightwood Editions, I relied heavily on my editors Carleton Wilson and Silas White for helping me decide which poems stayed in the manuscript, which poems would go first and in what sections, etc. but now I’m much more aware of how to put together a manuscript. I like a book to weigh in at about forty-five to fifty poems. Sometimes I use sections like I have for my new collection « Midlife Action Figure » out with ECW Press, but other times I will let the poems decide an appropriate batting order based on affinities between individual poems.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

This is a great question. For my first three books, the poets I most admired were Philip Levine, Larry Levis, Mark Strand, Dave Smith and Patrick Lane. Things shifted in my fourth book where I started to dapple with more associative writing so I would say Campell McGrath, Kim Addonizio, Bob Hicok and Dean Young became important to me and still are.

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

I received a Masters in Creative Writing from Concordia University and I have mixed feelings about it. The MFA workshop can be a tough proving ground. I was young and met many equally talented young people which was exciting but also intimidating. My thesis advisor was Gary Geddes and he treated me like a professional even though my poetry was not very good. He would calmly and carefully explain what parts of the poem were working and what parts should be thrown away. He did this with near clinical precision. I wrote a failed poetry book for my Master’s thesis and nearly stopped writing. After I picked myself back up off the floor and dusted myself off, I began writing much more seriously and fearlessly once outside the strictures of a creative writing program. My Masters experience taught me about failure and it was a useful lesson. I would say Gary Geddes absolutely instilled in me that I have to be my own worst editor. Always.

What are you currently working on?

I am just finishing another manuscript entitled « Deep Fake Serenade » which I hope to have completed this Fall. I am just writing the last few poems now. I try to have a manuscript completed before I have a new book launch so when the reviews come in they sting much less as those poems are much further away from me. I try to be writing all the time.

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

This is a difficult question. So many of us would love to be acknowledged for our craft. I always joke one day I will get to be the grand old man of Canadian poetry for six whole months and that would be fine. I received lots of attention for my first book and then very little for my subsequent books which are much better. Attention is strange. So many young people in Canada are writing better than I did in my twenties so it is hard to single people out. I like the American writer Dobby Gibson right now. In Canada, there are poets like Kayla Czaga, Matthew Henderson and Kevin Connolly that I enjoy reading.


from Barcode Poetry

Kyle Flemmer is an author, editor, publisher, and radish enthusiast. He founded The Blasted Tree Publishing Co. (theblastedtree.com), a platform for emerging Canadian authors and artists, in 2014, and is currently the Managing Editor of filling Station magazine (fillingstation.ca). Kyle works as an event coordinator for Shelf Life Books in Calgary, Alberta.


Men Falling into Debt

Mark Russell

About war, they say, there is nothing new to increase the quality of the housing stock. It is as common to massage one’s figures, as it is to massage one’s inner thigh. It is the rise in spending on food and healthcare, and by equal turns, the reduction in the infant mortality rate, that may obscure the level of discontent from the inspectors. A man active in local affairs may be delighted to include the Alderman and his wife as his close friends, or be raiding the church charity box late at night. Two men active in local affairs may prefer directing to acting in the amateur dramatic society pantomime, or persistently request the emails of their colleagues through the Freedom of Information Act to mount claims for unfair dismissal and compensation on the grounds of bullying and intimidation within the workplace.

Mark Russell’s publications include Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock), (the book of moose) (Kattywompus), and ا (the book of seals) (Red Ceilings). Poems have appeared in various journals, including Stand, Shearsman, Prelude, Atticus Review, The Manchester Review, and elsewhere


An interview with David Bradford

David Bradford is a founding editor of House House Press and the author of Nell Zink Is Damn Free (Blank Cheque Press, 2017), Call Out (knife | fork | book, 2017) and The Plot (House House Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Prairie Fire, Vallum, Poetry Is Dead, The Capilano Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Verdun, Qc, on the traditional and unceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation, and his first book, Dream of No One but Myself, is forthcoming from Brick Books.

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

I started writing in the definitively solipsistic way as a lot of people do, I think—out of desperation. I wasn't one of these kids reading and writing lots (or at all) at an early age. I was 17, entering CEGEP, my first ever English school, commuting in from the farther-off suburbs on the South Shore of Montréal, feeling uniquely misunderstood, woefully under-appreciated, and generally angry and depressed, and had tons of multi-hour breaks to let all of it take me over between classes. And writing suddenly became this hyper-spacious place to grow through all that stuff and time. The way I remember settling into having faith in what writing would do for me (and in a lot of ways did do for me), was hours spent, most days of the week, at an all-day breakfast place across from the mall across from the school, and misusing words learned in a bad romanticism-and-the-novel class to scrawl on about isolation, fleeting affections and affectations, and the usual late teenage life and death stuff. Lots of beatific clouds and hermitic wanderer fantasies at my earliest. Largely misinformed by old literature I find mostly bad now, which was the only stuff being put in front of me for a while. Which is when I started sneaking around the library stacks, mostly unsuccessfully. And picking over the remaindered books table at the mall.

Happy to say my approaches, concerns and mannerisms have evolved, but what keeps me going is a bit of the same: it mostly works. It's an old adage, but writing keeps me sort of sane, as long as it's working to keep me challenged, or painfully engaged. With the way I work, every new project I'm finding I have to reach in that same desperate way for a means to cohabitate with particular impasses. Sometimes it feels like nerves fraying. Sometimes it feels like whole days, or weeks, most of a month, lost. But it always looks like dogmatically, irreversibly stubborn belief that I can make writing my means and ends, which it somehow continues to be.

Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing now that you’ve published a couple of chapbooks? Do you feel your process of putting together a manuscript has evolved?

I think my approach is much more geared toward the project or inquiry, as opposed to the individual poem or unit, than it used to be. I think I saw that coming about in a smaller way with Call Out (k | f | b, 2017), and particularly fell into how natural it could feel to let the project tension my day-to-day writing work when I was first working intently on a first full-length book, Dream of No One but Myself, the book that The Plot (House House Press, 2018) is pulled and arranged from. If the first chapbook had a glimmer of a revelation about how I might work around the whole rather than the part, the first book was the kind of project that made that kind of process inescapable.

Now at the beginning (ish) stages of a couple of new projects, I'm realizing there's a different set of problems in my prioritizing the big over the small at every turn. I've been giving the individual bit the attention, but I need to get back to giving the smaller unit its due. I want to get back into basking in what the one-line-at-a-time tunnel vision can sometimes open up for me, at a process and project level. I want to let the smaller bit tell me its piece about what might become the bigger thing.

I think I'm starting to figure out that the kind of writer I am—like a lot of poets—every book will be figuring out how to write that book, starting from not knowing at all, studying every dead-end turn. I'm just getting started with figuring out how to engage that experience more than I let it fuck with me. 

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

A varied bunch of writers come to mind that have given me a jolt in one direction or another who I can't quite pass up namedropping: Danielle Pafunda, Heather Christle, Allison Titus, Paul Beatty, Nell Zink, Tyrone Williams, David Markson, Rachel Blau Duplessis, to name a few. Reading Fred Moten for the first time five or so years ago, particularly his poetry and lectures, got me feeling there was a place for me to start thinking about and writing poetry again, after years away from all that.

But thinking about where I've come to the last couple of years, I think about reading C.S. Giscombe, and the kind of rigorous shamble of a form he tends to prefer. That had a big impact. Same with Haryette Mullen, same with Renee Gladman. Anne Boyer, Stacey Szymaszek and Mary Ruefle's work have left a similar impression, but getting it from black folks—with Giscombe, Mullen and Gladman, especially, in such idiosyncratic ways, and in ways that so complicated black engagement with identity stuff—that was huge for me. I see how much that informed the way I tear away at form now. Something I could have used a decade and a bit ago when I was starting out.

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

I learned a lot about how far out my limits might be pushed, and about being an editor, from Dionne Brand, who was my teacher and advisor in the MFA program at University of Guelph. I got to see and feel what putting just enough pressure on a project could do—what rigour might come out of giving a writer big questions, problems, and projects to tackle while also giving them tons of purview to figure it out in their own way. And never more pressure than that.

You are the co-editor/founder of the chapbook publisher House House Press. Why do you feel this work is important, and what did you learn through the process?

There are some complicated answers I've given this question before, but I'm figuring out the main, main reason is by far getting stuff out there no one else can be bothered to get out there. At the outset that means Anahita Jamali Rad and I giving each of our writers somewhere to place the project, and the reassurance sometimes require to make it realer for themselves. At launch time, that means kind of ever-so-softly daring other publishers, editors and writers by just plainly following our noses, leaving the usual professionalized metrics out of it as best we can.

I don't think of the projects we put out as risky, but I was looking back at our first two seasons of titles and: not a single writer had published a poetry chapbook, and only three had ever published poetry in a journal. The endgame for us wasn't so much getting pat on the head for being bold, but just giving this stuff legs. Saying, "See, you can just print it!" And the greater part has been seeing young, weird, queer, mostly non-white poets rethinking what they do and can do, and grow the space they give themselves to be writers, particularly unusual writers.

Now we've got one writer pursuing a book-length project based on the out-of-thin-air project I developed with them. We've got another who had NEVER PUBLISHED anywhere who then started sending out to presses and has gotten a first book deal with a very well respected publisher. Successfully helping to make things happen for people we want better supported is the proof of this concept for us. I've been learning that's important enough.

What are you currently working on?

I'm trying to keep it all in my notes and in my head for a change, but I'll just say I'm working on my own off, odd attempts at decolonial pastoral poetry, and a project around my coming to terms with certain limitations of my own black radical viewpoint I need to better map, codify, and blow up. A kind of personal inquiry into and foreclosure on a "Talented Tenth" brand of intellectualism and politics, my part in both included.

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

I feel like half of the poets I mentioned here received next to none outside of their particular cubbyholes. Danielle Pafunda and Allison Titus I will repeat forever. But I'd add Ralph Kolewe to that list, as well as Nicole Raziya Fong and Dawn Lundy Martin, and Cecily Nicholson anywhere east of Banff.


Birth of Venus

Razielle Aigen

Razielle is a Montreal-born writer and artist. She is author of the forthcoming chapbook, Light Waves The Leaves (above/ground press 2020). Her poems appear in Entropy, Deluge, Contemporary Verse 2, Bad Dog Review, Dovecote Magazine, Half a Grapefruit, Sewer Lid, Fresh Voices, Five:2:One, California Quarterly, and elsewhere. Razielle holds a B.A. in History and Contemporary Studies from Dalhousie/King’s University, and is an alumna of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. More of Razielle’s work can be found at razielleaigen.com and through Twitter @ohthepoetry.



Amritpal Singh Arora

The Firangi drew a line in the dirt
soil fractured like
a cracked mirror
distorting god’s reflection

and borders that formed
from the absolute value of zero
were expected to contain infinity

The Firangi drew line in the dirt
Railway lines now crossed international boundaries and
train cars arrived carrying blindfolded crows
with bloodied beaks
indiscriminate of flesh

The Firangi drew a line in the dirt
and tablas and sitars fell silent
because there were no ragas written 
for being separated from one’s limbs
The echoes of music
once composed in harmony
evaporated and rained down in acid

The Firangi drew a line in the dirt
Mothers were singed with branding irons to their backs
Allah or Ram forced on their
tongues held
while watching their children get vaccinated against inefficient gods

The Firangi drew a line in the dirt
through which the blood red Ravi snaked
flushing the womb of two virgin nations
and even the monsoons could not wash
the brows of men
from the work of rape
and the heat
of children roasting on spits 

The Firangi drew a line,
that was not theirs to draw,
in the dirt
which they bled dry
and left

Amritpal Singh Arora is a writer of poetry, working on his first collection. He is a family physician in Burnaby, British Columbia. His poetry is centered around themes of medicine, grief, domestic violence and navigating the world as a visible minority. His work has previously appeared in the Canadian Family Physician.


An interview with Ben Robinson

https://twitter.com/bengymen?lang=enBen Robinson's recent poems include the tale of a man who finds himself lodged in his condominium’s garbage chute, as well as an account of the Christian God’s foray into Spanish lessons. In 2019, The Blasted Tree, Above/ground Press and Simulacrum Press will each publish a chapbook of his computer-generated poetry. He has only ever lived in Hamilton, ON, on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and the Haudenosaunee.

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

Both of my grandmothers were English teachers so books/writing/reading inevitably became a part of my life. My maternal grandmother, in particular, was a big part of my starting to write. Even before I was in school we would sit down and she would transcribe stories while I rambled on.

She was also somewhat responsible for getting me into poetry. I started messing around with writing songs when I was a teenager because I was playing in bands and she had the good sense to get me copies of Leonard Cohen’s Let Us Compare Mythologies and The Book of Longing for my sixteenth birthday to make sure I was on the right track.

I started writing more regularly when I was working at a garden centre where my boss chain-smoked Captain Black cigarillos and said things like “vegetables are for poor people.” Those kinds of mind-boggling moments still propel me to write – to try and make some sense of the experience or at least to get the stories down so I don’t forget them.

As far as what keeps me going, I don’t generally struggle to keep going. There are times when I’m less active or times when I lose interest in a particular project but I usually have enough things on the go that I can find something to work on. Also, because I’m not making my living from my writing, if I don’t feel like writing on a given day, I don’t.

In general, I keep doing it because I love the sense of play and exploration. I enjoy spending time reading and writing and thinking through a set of ideas and then seeing what comes out of that process. It’s that sense of discovery that keeps me coming back.

Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing now that you’ve published a couple of chapbooks? Do you feel your process of putting together a manuscript has evolved?
Chapbooks have been a nice middle-ground for me in between an individual poem and a larger collection of work. The three chapbooks I’ve done so far are working in two very different modes - my first chapbook Mayami (bird, buried press) contained fairly traditional lyric poems whereas the other two chapbooks I did with Simulacrum Press and The Blasted Tree were more conceptual in nature, using material appropriated from YouTube. Having the opportunity to do these chapbooks allowed me to play with a couple of different approaches to writing poetry and explore those methods without the level of commitment that a full-length collection requires.

The small press has traditionally been a venue for experimentation and so I’m trying to embrace that freedom to experiment when it comes to chapbooks and not worry so much about continuity. Sina Queyras’s Lyric Conceptualism, A Manifesto was helpful about this. I’m also reading Frank Davey’s biography of bpNichol at the moment which is helping me to ignore artificial boundaries and feel okay about not being one kind of poet who writes one kind of poem. I hope I can continue finding points of connection between seemingly disparate modes of writing and combine them in my future work.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Being from Hamilton, David McFadden has certainly been an inspiration – his sense of humour, his ease with narrative, his empathy for the people in his poems, the way he captures the city. I keep coming back to The Great Canadian Sonnet because the writing is great and surprising and also because it’s such a strange little book object with all of Greg Curnoe’s illustrations.

Stuart Ross has also been an influence. There are no rules with Stuart. Everything is wide open and I love that sense of possibility. Reading his work, I feel free to let my imagination run wild and just watch where things end up.

Looking at my bookshelf, some names that stand out are:

Charles Simic / Michael Casteels / Karen Solie / Damian Rogers / Sue Goyette / Gary Barwin / Amanda Jernigan / Mikko Harvey / Natalie Shapero / Layli Long Soldier / Tongo Eisen-Martin / Suzanne Buffam / Dionne Brand / Souvankham Thammavongsa

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

I’ve made extensive use of the Writer-in-Residence program at the Hamilton Public Library. Some amazing writers have come through that program in the past couple of years but I’ve been partial to Gary Barwin and Kate Cayley because they are poets. It’s been amazing to have such experienced writers give their time and attention to my work. All of the writers who have come through the program have also been very encouraging and great examples of how to be compassionate and generous presences in the writing world.

Also, Stuart Ross and I just finished up a chunk of mentorship/coaching sessions and they were truly mind-expanding, I would recommend them highly. He went through a manuscript of lyric/prose poems with me and having access to his level of insight was truly invaluable – the work is completely elevated because of it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m constantly at work on the manuscript that Stuart was helping me with which will hopefully be my first collection of lyric/prose poems. That manuscript is pretty much done in my mind and has been submitted to publishers so I’m in the waiting stage these days. The collection is full of animals and cars and garbage. I’ve been thinking about it as a merging of ecopoetics and surrealism – my attempt to find a kind of nature writing that can do justice to life in the city and hopefully escape an entirely anthropocentric perspective. A good chunk of the poems from that manuscript will be published in two chapbooks in the next year or so, one from above/ground press in late 2019/early 2020 and the other from The Alfred Gustav Press next summer.

At the moment I’m more actively working on a generically ambiguous manuscript which is investigating my full name. Back in January of this year, I set a Google Alert on my name to see what was out there and I’ve been having fun watching the results come in – generally, they are not about me because my name is quite generic. I started collecting the results from these Google Alerts in a word document with the thought that they might turn into a project of some kind. That process of spending so much time with material containing my name eventually got me thinking more about the history of my name and my associations with it, which prompted some further research.

Right now the concept for the manuscript is that the verso pages will contain the text pulled from the Google Alerts and the rectos will have short prose pieces with reflections on my name, explorations of the history of my first name going back to the book of Genesis, as well as some reflections on the Google Alert results and the stories that come up there. Ultimately, I’m looking at what happens when a name is so ubiquitous that it fails to do its job of identifying. This project has given me a good opportunity to blend conceptual and lyric elements within one work.

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

Do people know about Emma Healey? I mean she did a book with Anansi so people probably know about her but, anyway, I thought Stereoblind was amazing. I just borrowed it from the library for the third time last month. Such attention to detail and subtlety and control throughout the whole book. Some of the poems in there are quite long and she’s pulling together so many different threads and tying them together into something that is quite beautiful and manages to hold its shape throughout. Stop reading this and go read Emma Healey.