Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Questionless Books Interview: Poet and Multi-Disciplinary Artist Gary Barwin

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The Questionless Books Interview: Poet and Multi-Disciplinary Artist Gary Barwin

In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.

Gary Barwin is a writer, musician, composer, performer, visual and multimedia artist, and educator. His latest book is Franzlations: the imaginary Kafka parables (with Craig Conley and Hugh Thomas; New Star). His recent books are The Obvious Flap (with Gregory Betts; Bookthug), and The Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House) which won the Hamilton Literary Award for Poetry. He has a PhD in music composition and degrees in education and English. He lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario where he is currently at work on the great Canadian Jewish pirate novel.

Gary's Links:

Franzlations: the imaginary Kafka parables
Trailer for above

I am because my doofus of a dog knows me.

I am known to him because I have taught him to let me know he knows or to imagine it so.

I do this in the fields, the woods, on our carpets and stairs. In his crenelated dog-brain. In mine.

I do this because a dog, like words, is a mirror. And both drool and lick.

I do this when I wake up, and when I lie down, and when my dog gets me to sit or beg.

The way I do this is through the muzzle or burr or thrown stick that is language.

At his/her core, a Writer is a stick chaser.

As opposed to an Author, who attempts to be master and stick thrower.

A Writer is responsible for chasing. Affection. Saliva. Running with enthusiasm, instinct, or obligation, and returning. Sometimes. For mistaking a stick for their own tail, flying. For eating garbage, leftovers, Thanksgiving Turkeys, cellphones (dial it and it rings inside); small children. For barking at storms, the dark, chasing tails, their own and others. For squatting or lifting a leg. Empathy and galootishness, teacupidity and Great-Dane-enormity, fifi-poochiness, irony and inscrutably collarless rhyme-schemes. For running through the library in pursuit of the scent of an imagined sizzle, a hand held out to bite or to nuzzle. For not being human, for being many humans. For gynomorphizing and anthropomorphizing, morpho-anthroposizing and gynocizing. For shaking out the brain, doglike. For the butterfly tongue.

As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for waiting to be licked, for the returned stick (What is brown and sticky? A stick), for throwing it away, bows in the fur, for leashes, oblivious non-abraLabradoodlicity, for the inscription and invocalization of alphagiography without howling, moons, teeth, or hands.

At its core, Publishing is an open field, its grasses the colour of our fur.

As opposed to Editing which is a doghouse, home for a dog always larger than ourselves.

A Publisher should always tell the by law officer that we went the other way but tell everyone else in which direction we are actually headed.

As opposed to an Editor, who should let us conceive of the idea of running for ten sticks at once and then throw them.

A Manuscript that's ready to be read has language like a thousand sticks arcing through the air and seen in a mirror.

As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others has language like many—but not necessarily all—of the same thousand sticks arcing through the air but seen between two mirrors.

A Manuscript should always howl, drool, bite, and jump on the furniture.

As opposed to a Book, which should always howl, drool, bite, jump on the furniture, but have nice typesetting.

At its core, Bookselling keeps you believing in the dog metaphor.

As opposed to Book Marketing tries to make you believe in it.

The smallest unit of narrative is...

The biggest reason to anticipate the future is the smallest unit of narrative.

The biggest reason to be scared of the future is that there is a doghouse the size of time itself there and you don’t fit.

In the future we will all live inside a dog where it’s too dark to read but we’ll read anyway. The meaning of ‘dog’, ‘dark,’ ‘reading’, ‘we’,‘inside,’ and ‘future,’ to be determined.

At his/her core, a Reader is one who will believe the dog metaphor, though they are a cat, allergic, or uninterested in sticks. We read not because sticks exist and can be retrieved, but because reading tells us that sticks can be thrown, even by us.

The ideal Reader, like the ideal word, is the perfect dog.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

George Murray

George Murray’s six books of poetry include The Rush to Here and The Hunter. His most recent books, Whiteout and Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, are published by ECW Press. He is the editor of the popular literary website

Go to George Murray’s Author Page