Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Entitled Interview with Nick Thran

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Nick Thran (photo credit: Peter Sinclair)

Trillium award-winning poet Nick Thran's Mayor Snow (Nightwood Editions) delves into questions of power — personal and civic, poetic and political. Using parody, dark humour, and lines imbued with his trademark stripped-down beauty, Thran creates a collection that is clear-eyed and timely. The collection includes an indirect hat tip to a Canadian poetry icon, ending with a story of domestic life in the refurbished Al Purdy A-Frame.

We're pleased to welcome Nick to Open Book today as part of our Entitled Interview series, to talk about Mayor Snow and his view on the power and function of titles.

He tells us about the presence of "Mayor" in his titles in this collection, the appeal of big roundhouse-kick titles, and what he's up to next.

Open Book:

Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.

Nick Thran:

In 2009 or 2010 I was concerned with trying, in poems, to bottle and examine a noxious air of disdain, bombast, corruption and suspicion that I was sensing in a lot of political discourse (think Harper's ongoing obfuscations, the Ford mayoral campaign…). To do this I settled on a simple strategy: put the word “mayor” in front of every working poem-title, and refuse to affix the voice of the poem to any immediately identifiable (and therefore immediately accountable) speaker. Initially, I took certain elemental subjects of life and poetry for the title experiment: weather, faith, etc. “Mayor Snow” was one of these poems. I suppose, as a book title, I like the way “Mayor” somewhat cheekily doubles down on the high-seriousness of “Snow” as it runs in symbolic or metaphoric circles. But then, I also wanted all of those associations snow has with oppression, depression, narcotics, blindness, blankness, coldness, whiteness and cover-ups to be there, because those associations are a lot of the stuff of that particular section, and of poems elsewhere in the book.


What, in your opinion, is the most important function of a title?


I suppose it’s to send out that initial flare. I think a good title also needs to be able to get out of the way for a little while, if asked, when the reader arrives.


What is your favourite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)


I am pleased with Earworm, the title of my second book. It’s a weird title, but insistent. Five years on, it still seems like the title I’d use for that particular gathering of poems.


What about your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?


I suppose I’m especially drawn to big roundhouse-kick titles like The Sound of the Mountain or The Great Fires or The Hour of the Star or Beauty and Sadness, but, really, I would like Messi’s Chipmunk Only Drinks Original Pepsi on Wednesdays if I felt like it fit with that particular poem or that particular book.


Did you consider any other titles for your current book and if so what were they? Why did you decide to go with the title you eventually picked?


I did consider alternative title to Mayor Snow, but was strongly advised against using it by two or three different poets I admire. That was GREAT advice, which I’ll honour with silence here.


What are you working on now?


Writing an essay about an incredible puppet theatre company, having a long notebook conversation with a video installation currently on display at a gallery here in Calgary, and, slowly but surely, writing more poems.

Nick Thran’s previous collection of poems, Earworm (Nightwood Editions, 2011), won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. His first collection, Every Inadequate Name (Insomniac Press, 2006), was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Born in Prince George, BC, Nick has lived and worked in various towns and cities across the country. He currently works as a poetry editor, and lives with his wife and daughter in Montreal.

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