Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Lucky Seven Interview, with David Groulx

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David Groulx

Award-winning poet David Groulx returns this season with Wabigoon River Poems (Kegedonce Press), a fearless collection centred about the title poem.

"Wabigoon River Poem(s)" is a long, gut-wrenching piece that tackles oppression, revolution, violence and endurance, both within in the Indigenous community and in a global context.

Fierce and boldly questioning, the collection is a powerful addition to Groulx's work and we're excited to speak with him today as part of our Lucky Seven series, which asks writers seven questions about their newest books, writing process and more. David tells us about finding a book's central question, the books that changed how he views the world and his upcoming project reclaiming the iconic Windigo myth.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book.

David Groulx:

I began thinking of indigenous issues in a global context. I was thinking about a book from George Manual called The 4th World. At the time there was a lot of aboriginal issues being discussed at the Canadian UN. In the poem "Wabigoon River" I wanted to make comparisons between historic aboriginal leaders like Pontiac and Tecumseh, with historic leaders like Simon Bolivar. Basically its a poem about the history of colonialism and oppression. I want Canadians, and more importantly aboriginal people, to see our issues in a global context.


Is there a question that is central to your book, thematically? And if so, did you know the question when you started writing or did it emerge from the writing process?


I think every book deals with a question. For me that initial question is vague, the clarity comes with the writing. As I write the writing defines itself. The book has areas that touch on residential schools and missing and murdered aboriginal women. It's a retelling of colonialism in Canada in which Canadians are ignorant of or ignore. The question is Why? Why are aboriginal issues in Canada viewed as Second-Rate or Second-Class when compared to Non- Aboriginal Issues? For Wabigoon River the question is of the Other.


Did the book change significantly from when you first starting working on it to the final version? How long did the project take from start to finish?


When I decide to write something, from start to finish it doesn't seem to take very long because I'm excited about it. I'm disciplined to stay to the task until completion, and this helps maintain focus during the writing so the initial idea remains pretty much the same to the end.


What do you need in order to write — in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?


None of that sh*t is important. Money first and foremost before any of those other things can happen. Basically for Wabigoon River I lived on coffee and cigarettes.


What do you do if you're feeling discouraged during the writing process? Do you have a method of coping with the difficult points in your projects?


When I'm working on a poem I'm usually excited about what I'm writing so normally the excitement is enough to carry the writing through to the finish. I don't really get discouraged when I write. The discouragement happens after the fact. When not all of my books have been sold, when no grants happen, when I'm not invited to writing festivals or to readings. That's the real discouragement.


What defines a great book, in your opinion? Tell us about one or two books you consider to be truly great books.


In my opinion, a great book changes the way you think about things, it changes the way you see the world. A book that did that for me was Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of The Earth. Another was Vine Deloria Jr.'s God is Red and Red Earth, White Lies. I probably owned all of these books at least 4 or 5 times.


What are you working on now?


I recently read Shawn Smallman’s Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and History, in it he talks about Windigo within indigenous culture, he mentions the appropriation of the Windigo Myth by the dominate society in mass media. The project I'm working on now, I am taking back the Windigo myth to give it its authentic aboriginal voice. Maybe I'll call it HOWL.

David Groulx is the author of nine books of poetry, and the winner of the 3rd annual Poetry NOW Battle of the Bards in 2011. David’s poetry has been translated into Spanish & German. Rising With A Distant Dawn was translated into French; under the title, Le lever à l’aube lointaine, 2013. Red River Review nominated David's poems for Pushcart Prizes in 2012, and David’s poetry has appeared in over a 160 publications in 16 countries. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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