Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Conversation: Beth Follett with Jane Munro

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The Conversation: Beth Follett with Jane Munro

Jane Munro talks to Pedlar Press publisher Beth Follett about painting, location, "the DNA of language" and her latest book, Active Pass (Pedlar Press, 2010).

BF:

Your new book of poems, Active Pass, released earlier this month, according to you explores connections among the visual arts, yogic discipline and self-regeneration. Can you say something about what you think it is that threads together these three categories?

JM:

First, it's not just the visual arts — it could as easily be acting or singing or gardening — but painting's important to me. Yogis talk about bringing intelligence to every cell of the body through ardent zeal in practice, self-study that's integrated with study of the tradition, and surrender of ego in devotion to one's source of inspiration. The "cells" of an art work are its finest details; when even the tiniest elements are conscious and converse with the whole, then the piece can serve as a powerful vehicle and vessel for itself. Isn't this also true when the work is self-regeneration?

BF:

When you were 50, you uprooted from a city life and moved to rural BC. What part did your poetic practice play in the making of this decision?

JM:

In fact, personal circumstances led to that move, but I find my poetry practice has blossomed in this new situation. Poetry continues to flow no matter what setting I'm in. Years ago, I was inspired by village women in India who painted in the midst of kids and cooking pots. This dispelled the notion that art was choosy about place.

BF:

You have just returned home from a reading tour that took you to Montreal, Kingston, Port Hope, Ottawa and Toronto. Who were your audiences, and how do they compare or contrast with BC and home audiences? Is poetry as alive as it ever has been in Canada? What are your thoughts on publishing, and on finding readers?

JM:

I find the audiences for poetry are wonderfully attentive. This doesn't seem to depend on who they are or where I am; it's a joy to read my poems to them. I think of poetry as transitive, not complete until it thuds into someone else's glove. With a live audience, that feeling's immediate, and what's more, you learn in return. There's an interaction. But, I also love to savor poetry, rest with a book in my hand and no rush to turn the page. This intimate side of poetry belongs to the reader. That is part of the reason why I feel the physicality of a poetry book matters.

BF:

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality," said T S Eliot. It seems to me that in these new poems you are asking both the poems and the reader to carry quite a bit of freight. Not stylistically, perhaps, moreso in the poems' gestures. In 'How gladly you follow the words of the awakened,' for example, you ask simply, "When a truth becomes urgent/why wouldn't a person in any time.../recognize it and tell us." Are there urgent truths within this collection?

JM:

You know, the work gripped me. I hope it's poetry. If it is, then it does contain urgent truths. Poetry in general addresses urgent truths. If life depends on memory and our actions depend on the stories we believe, it's important to me to read poetry because poetry is the DNA of language.


Beth Follett is the owner and publisher of Pedlar Press, a Canadian literary house based in Toronto. A chapbook of her poems, entitled Bone Hinged, has just been released by paperplates/espresso.


Jane Munro lives on Vancouver Island, BC. Previous works of poetry include Point No Point (McClelland & Stewart, 2006), Grief Notes & Animal Dreams (Brick Books, 1995), The Trees Just Moved Into A Season Of Other Shapes (Quarry Press, 1986) and Daughters (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1982).

Photo of Jane Munro by Andrea Bailey

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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