An interview with Ian Martin

Ian Martin is nobody's mom. Ian's work has appeared recently in where is the river, Bad Nudes, Plenitude Magazine, and Pretty Owl Poetry. Ian has published 4 chapbooks, most recently PLACES TO HIDE (Coven Editions, 2018) and YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO KEEP THIS UP FOREVER (AngelHousePress, 2018). When he's not writing, Ian develops small games and complains online. [http://ian-martin.net]

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

I grew up in a very creative family so I’ve been creating things in one way or another my whole life. I think I published my first poem in my Grade 3 yearbook. I've been desperately chasing that high ever since.

In Grade 7 or 8, we had a few English classes dedicated to writing poetry. I wrote a really sad poem about drowning. At the time, I insisted I wasn't depressed. I posted it on DeviantArt.

In high school, I joined the literary & arts magazine club, and I think by process of elimination became the editor. It was a fun time and it was nice to work with other people rather than just writing alone at home.

I think that’s the big thing that keeps me writing: the connections. Both with other writers and with the people who read my work. I sometimes worry that I am uniquely cursed so it’s nice to remember that I am not alone. It’s nice to read a poem that speaks to me. It’s nice to speak to someone else. Also I get bored easily and my phone has a notes app.

With four published chapbooks to date, to you feel your process of putting together a manuscript has evolved? How do you decide on the shape and size of a manuscript?

I don’t know that the process has evolved much. Maybe refined. But my chapbooks have always developed unintentionally. As I write individual poems, I start to notice similarities in subject matter or style. Once I have a critical mass of poems that work together, I put them into a file and start gently massaging it into a manuscript. I usually just add and take away poems until I like all of them and they work well together. Sometimes, I’ll write a few poems specifically for the book, either to pad the length or touch on things the other poems miss. The shape and size usually settle when I get tired of looking at it, or when I read a press's submission guidelines on manuscript length.

I’ve dabbled in zine-making in the past, which is usually a more deliberate process. I’ll set out to write a zine that addresses a certain subject, or using a particular style of writing. I’ve thought about doing chapbooks this way, but I usually run out of steam before I have anything of significant length. So I stick to letting the longer manuscripts come together on their own.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

My biggest poetic influences are Amy Lowell and Alfred Starr Hamilton. Those are the most present to me, and I think the easiest for someone to pick out while reading my oeuvre. But I think I’m pretty easily influenced. I’m a media sponge. I suck up 2 metric tons of information every day and it dribbles out into everything I do. Amy and Alfred just kind of hold down the fort and help it resemble poetry.

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

My high school English teacher, Julie Whitfield, was my first writing mentor. She helped me run the aforementioned arts magazine and just generally took me seriously, which I think is the dopest thing a teacher can do. At graduation, she said one of the most sincere and wonderful things anyone has ever said to me, which was — though I’m paraphrasing — “I think you’re gonna be fine. Like, in general.”

When I was at Carleton University, I took a poetry workshop led by Sandra Ridley. I was doing a degree in Information Technology, so poetry was just a fun elective and I didn’t know where it would take me. Sandra helped me refine my skills and harness my voice in new ways, and introduced me to a lot of cool work by cool poets. Sandra also encouraged me make my first professional submission to a magazine. (Bywords magazine, run by the wonderful Amanda Earl, who ended up publishing my fourth chapbook.) That was the start of my "formal" "poetry" "career", and a big reason why I’m writing this today.

(Every time I tell Sandra this story she denies any credit for my success, which is patently outrageous, but possibly an attempt to avoid being put on a pedestal, to which I’m sympathetic. But now I have a beautiful, hand-carved pedestal that I have to sell on Kijiji, so thanks a lot, Sandra.)

What are you currently working on?

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a poetic lull. I’m mostly just editing existing poems and submitting them to magazines to feel busy. These days I'm working more on little video games. Some of them are kind of like poems. I've been trying more and more lately to make games that are poems and vice versa.

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

Sarah MacDonell. I just think she's neat.

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