Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


With Sook-Yin Lee on Selecting the Poets for "Where Have All the Poets Gone?"

It was exciting news when Sook-Yin Lee announced that she had tracked down seminal Canadian Poetry figure and recluse Phyllis Webb for her new documentary Where have all the Poets Gone? The short doc, currently streaming on CBC Books , begins with Lee discovering Webb interviewing bpNichol and bill bissett on the ‘60s CBC poetry talk show Extension. This prompts her to track Webb down and talk about why she gave up writing poetry. What follows is then Lee’s personal exploration of current poetry in Canada and features interviews with Stephen Collis, Samantha Bernstein, Ronnie Clarke, Liz Howard, Vivek Shraya, Lena Suksi, and Elana Wolff.

An Introduction and Disclaimer

Outside of a brief stint at Simon Fraser University’s The Writers’ Studio program, I have no post-secondary education. My experience with books has been primarily shaped as a bookseller, a job I’ve had for over a decade now. First as a volunteer at an anarchist bookstore in Vancouver that burned down; then at the now closed Book City in the Annex; and, most recently, at Type Books on Queen Street, which I hope nothing bad happens to.

Gearing Up for National Poetry Month

It has been such a pleasure and honour to be the Writer in Residence for OBT this past month, and especially in light of the fact that next month is also one that I take pleasure and honour in: April, aka National Poetry Month!

Like most month-long celebrations (say, "Black History Month," or "Women's History Month"), the time is never really enough as most would agree that such things should be/need to be celebrated every day of the year.

Some of my favourite ways to celebrate the upcoming month include:

- making a commitment to reading one poem per day, preferably aloud, and either in the morning or before sleep

On Making Connections

In my last post I talked a bit about the importance of connection to others, giving thanks towards and for others, and would like to continue with this theme by focusing on the "how" of connection. No writer is an island, and no book was ever written in total isolation. The writer is arguably the median of their medium--they arrive from having grown up reading a plethora of other writers and write largely for the purpose of reaching a plethora of other readers in time. The book is the conduit of making connections, and not just literary ones, but "human being" ones as well.

On Writing and Gratitude

Inspired by Ocean Vuong's piece in the "Writers Recommend" section of the Poets & Writers website, where the poet discusses what it means to be "stuck" with words, unable to write with ease, and offers ways of possibly navigating through such difficulties, I was struck by one particular suggestion: not to force the writing out of oneself and hope to snap out of it, but to slow down and give solemn thanks to others.

How the Light Gets Through

When the going gets tough sometimes it’s just tough to get going, and maybe when life throws you lemons, you don’t feel like making lemonade. So when things get tough and the world looks like it’s tearing apart it becomes hard to fathom the possibility or even meaning of taking pen to page.

The Art of Resurrection

The Spring must be the cause that my writing has suddenly become obsessed with questions of the body and soul, the spirit we carry with us. The way I see poetry has been through a kind of defrosted lens these days as well: as an antidote to apathy, way of reading silently loud, so that you can feel the pages turn inside you, be a religion without being religious.

Through My Window

It's hard for me to believe that one of my favourite children's books in the world, one that I grew up on and read practically everyday, is turning 30: Through My Window, one of the first books (if not the first) featuring an interracial family living in a multicultural urban community, and even a stay at home dad.

Writing Tips (Tips Also Appreciated)

1. It’s now or never or you’ll have to wait for the sublime to hit you, which might take centuries, or seconds, so might as well start now.

2. Write for no other place than heart—and not only out of the heart's pain or confusion or anger or reaction or fantasy, but its capacity for tenderness and happiness.

3. See life's “situations” as launching pads towards new ways of seeing and good places to start writing from.

4. Vision over vocation—to focus on what you can do now with what you have been given and work towards what you’d like to see.

Should I Write a Novel?

I can’t even count the times when folks have asked me what I'm writing about—or more precisely, what novel I'm writing. And when I indicate that I am putting together a poetry collection, suddenly things become awkward. Fiction is simply more lucrative, some will say, it opens many doors and can be read by many people, whereas poetry, perhaps, is meant to be read by some sophisticated individuals who have already been schooled in the art of poesis. Poetry isn't for everybody, but does that mean it should be for only a select few? I find it hard to believe that with the privileges of being able to dub oneself as one likes into a variety of poetic traditions, read or spoken aloud, that poetry is a term that in itself doesn't sound "lucrative."

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