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