Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Andy Weaver

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Andy Weaver

Open Book is celebrating National Poetry Month with daily profiles of today's "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Find out what inspires, confounds and delights the poets behind this spring's new releases by following our series.

Andy Weaver's newest collection, Gangson (NeWest Press), offers readers the best of poetry's two warring camps: experimental techniques such as cut-ups and chance-generated poetry are married with Weaver's irreverent, disarming lyricism. While its central long poem manipulates the language of Herbert Asbury's 1927 book Gangs of New York, Gangson's study of the aesthetics of violence turns to its own aesthetics of love.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

AW:

When I was around three or four years old, I loved Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran the Zoo! I can remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over again. My Mom used to read me a lot of children’s poetry (Dr. Seuss, Dennis Lee) when I was really young, and that early exposure to language as a wonderful system of sound and joy was invaluable.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

AW:

I remember being absolutely transfixed by Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” when I was 17. It was the first poem that made me think poetry could actually be entertaining and vital and relevant. All of the poems I was studying at the time in high school struck me as boring, but the Romantics caught my imagination and got me reading poetry on my own, for enjoyment.

OB:

What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?

AW:

Robert Duncan is always at the top of my list of favourite poets. I’ll cheat and name his “Passages” series as the group of poems I wish I could have written. Aesthetically and politically, they hold me in awe.

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

AW:

I like to write poems out of other texts. Around 2004, a woman gave a lecture at the University of Alberta on Seventeenth-Century Scottish religious and political pamphlets. It was a good lecture, but she passed out a handout with terrific excerpts from various pamphlets. I made a cut-up poem out of those excerpts.

OB:

What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?

AW:

I tend to walk away from things that aren’t working. I occasionally flip through old files of abandoned material and pull out bits and pieces for inclusion new pieces. I rarely go back and re-work abandoned material, but I often use abandoned work as spare parts for new work.

OB:

What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?

AW:

Well, I just re-read John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and Bruce Andrews’s Tizzy Boost and both are books that continue to keep me sockless. The most recently published book to completely dazzle me was probably Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip (Coach House Books, 2009).

OB:

What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?

AW:

My answer to both questions is the same: the lack of monetary remuneration. On one hand, it’s frustrating to put in lots of work and not get paid for it (and it’s especially frustrating to see some of my friends struggle financially even though they are terrific poets). On the other hand, the lack of payment means that poets have to get jobs and actually interact with the world; moreover, in a time of omnipresent capitalism, I like the idea that poetry often exists as a gift or exchange economy.

Andy Weaver's most recent book of poetry, Gangson, was recently published by NeWest Press. His previous book, Were the bees, was shortlisted for an Alberta Book Award. He teaches poetry and poetics at York University.

For more information about gangson please visit the NeWest Press website.

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

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