Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Conversation: Dani Couture with Beth Follett

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The Conversation: Dani Couture with Beth Follett

Dani Couture talks to Pedlar Press publisher Beth Follett about animal effigies, poetry and her latest book, SWEET. Dani will be reading tonight, May 5th, at The Press Club for the Pivot Reading Series. The launch for SWEET is on June 11th at 8:30 p.m. at Jet Fuel Café, 519 Parliament Street, Toronto.

Beth Follett:

What led you to write poetry? What were some of the very first poems you read?

Dani Couture:

Margaret Atwood's poem “A Women's Issue.” I was sixteen the first time I read that poem and it changed everything for me. Raised on Canadian military bases, I'd grown up on a diet of Robert Service and John McCrae. Atwood's poem introduced me to poetry and feminism, to women using their words.

BF:

What are some of your hopes for your poetry? It is argued that 75 per cent of the people who read literary work are themselves writers of the kind. Do you think about how your work could be received by younger/people who have had little exposure to poetry?

DC:

By the end of my life, I hope that I'll have explored two or three subjects deeply through my writing. I want to dredge the same lakes a dozen times each, see what turns up in the silt after each pass. I try not to think about how my work will be received, or by whom, while I'm writing; otherwise, I might never finish anything. As for those who have had little exposure to poetry, I can only hope they hear that one poem that inspires them to pick up one book of poetry and then another.

BF:

When did you first start your Animal Effigy site? What is the background story of Animal Effigy, and does it share anything with your poetry?

DC:

Animal Effigy came out of a reading by George Elliott Clarke four or five years ago. During his reading, he commented that we all want to be couriers du bois, yet most of live in cities. In the days after the reading, I walked around Toronto and became aware of the physical distance we have put between the flora and fauna that make up our Canadian psyche, the woods we say we love yet haven't visited in years, and ourselves. With the tree line pushed back, we've repopulated our cities with thousands of animal effigies: spray paint bears, metal geese, stone whales and mountain lions on t-shirts. We're bringing nature – however muted and defanged – back to us.

I have felt and continue to feel a deep-rooted tension between my urban and rural identities and explore both through my writing and photography. There are days when it feels like the answer could be arrived at mathematically: If Woman A lives in the north/county/woods for X years, how many years must Woman A live in the city/suburbs before she can say she's truly urban? Please show your work. However, it's never that simple. I keep looking for answers, travelling back and forth between those borders.

BF:

In SWEET it seems to me that Death and the Universe tarot archetypes are particularly prominent, and riff off one another; that the poet examines questions of sudden change, of forces that level one's idea of bodily wholeness while a warrior makes deliberate forward motion toward various goals. Do you agree with this observation?

DC:

The Keats quote that you include in your question below is fitting: “There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.” I think it could have functioned as an alternate title for SWEET, a book deeply rooted in urgency, change and aftermath. There's a tension throughout the collection, a low hum that reminds me of a clothesline or a power line. Something so a part of our daily lives that we hardly see it until it snaps. Our white sheets in the mud, our ditch water charged.

BF:

I have often used Keats for an epigraph on Pedlar Press catalogues: "There's nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music." Will you comment on this?

DC:

See above.

BF:

Why are you so crazy for bears?

DC:

I write what I fear, and I write what I love. Somehow, bears end up on both sides.

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Dani Couture is the author of Good Meat (Pedlar Press) and Sweet, which is forthcoming from Pedlar Press in May 2010. She is the photographer and curator behind Animal Effigy (www.animaleffigy.com). For more information, visit www.blackbearonwater.com.

Beth Follett is the owner/publisher/in-house editor of the Canadian literary publishing house, Pedlar Press. Her first novel, Tell It Slant, was published by Coach House Books in 2001. A poetry chapbook entitled Bone Hinged will be released by paperplates in June 2010.

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

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