An interview with Alison Braid

Alison Braid is a Prague-based Canadian writer. Her work has appeared in Bad Nudes, The Puritan, CV2, The Maynard, Poetry Is Dead, and elsewhere. Her poems have won Honourable Mention in Grain's 2018 Short Grain Contest, and been shortlisted for CV2's 2018 Young Buck Poetry Prize.

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

The first story I remember writing was when I was a little kid—it was written in crayon on pieces of coloured construction paper that I stapled together to make a book. It was about a man who at the end of the story died of a heart attack. That’s all I remember. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped since, for any significant amount of time.

Recently, I’ve started potting. I do a lot of hand building, and am slowly learning how to throw pots on the wheel. It gives me energy, to work with my hands and tap into creativity in such a wildly different way. When I think of a mug or a vase I want to build, I can hold the image of it in my mind. If I try to do this with a poem I’m in the middle of, or revising, or even a poem I think is finished, the poem slips away, because I don’t know it yet. It’s maddeningly elusive. I think this is why I keep writing.

You live in Prague but still publish in journals across Canada. Have you attempted to publish your work in English-language journals in Europe, or do you wish to focus your attention, instead, on Canadian journals? How do you choose?

My choice to publish in Canadian journals is, sadly, mostly the outcome of my lack of awareness of English-language journals in Europe. While I have looked for them, I haven’t had as much luck as I thought I would, sussing them out via the Internet. A big part of my heart, too, is still in the Canadian writing scene. I read Canadian journals, keep an ear to the ground. I know of a couple of Czech-language publishers and magazines that curate gorgeous work—Labyrint, and Raketa, for example. They’re doing beautiful things with literature and art here.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

It’s always changing. Right now, I read Shaun Robinson for voltas and endings. Kayla Czaga for place and narrative. Karen Solie for specificity and wit. Morgan Parker for voice, tone, titles. Dominique Bernier-Cormier for clarity and apostrophes. She’s not a poet, but I come to stories by Joy Williams to be unsettled.

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

I’ve been so fortunate to have mentors at many points in my life. My grade five teacher, Brian Hutchinson, had us write and workshop poems. We illustrated the poems and he bound and laminated our books at the end of the year—it was a labour of love. Cherie Wells gave me my first critiques in high school and pushed me to study creative writing. She’s always been in my corner. Rob Taylor cracked down on my metaphors and as an editor, he taught me to believe in my tastes. Sheryda Warrener made me believe I was a poet.

What are you currently working on?

There are a few pies. A messy novel is spread out on a big sheet of paper hanging on our living room wall. I’m hoping to put a poetry chapbook together by this spring. Stories are undergoing many revisions, including a collection of five about a shark in a hotel swimming pool in Florida.

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

Matthew Walsh’s book, These are not the potatoes of my youth, just came out and while I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet, I love their poetry and hope people flock to their local bookstores and pick it up.

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