Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: James Lindsay

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James Lindsay (photo credit: Colin Medley)

Toronto book lovers already know James Lindsay as one of the friendly faces behind the counter at indie darling TYPE Books on Queen West, but his own acclaimed poetry has also been appearing in journals and magazines across the country. Now readers can experience James' work in his first full length collection (with one of our favourite titles of the season!), Our Inland Sea (Wolsak & Wynn). The buzz is spreading rapidly, with reviewers and fellow poets praising James' work (Jacob McArthur Mooney endorsed the collection with a critique no less than "James Lindsay can do everything").

With humour, insight and a sense of magic, Our Inland Sea is a great addition to your poetry reading list.

We talk to James today as part of our Poets in Profile series, where we ask our poets to explore how they came to the craft, the poems that shaped them and what they get from the writing life. He tells us about a poetic renovation, Wikipedia as literary inspiration and being part of the poetry club.

Open Book:

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

James Lindsay:

Many years ago I inherited a house that needed a lot of work before it could be sold. I quit my job and renovated it with a friend, who had much more experience doing things with tools. Around then my hunger for books also grew. I read everything all the time, but mostly poetry. After we finally sold the house, I took off two months before returning to work to read and write. It was in this period I became serious about poetry, getting up everyday and reading for a few hours before writing for most of the day, reading more before bed. I look back fondly on those two months and what I learned about writing.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


"Just Visiting" by Jim Carroll. I must have been around 13 when a friend stuck it in my hands and told me to read it. I was baffled by it, but also intrigued enough to want to know what this thing was made of and if there were others like it.


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


"Myrtle" by John Ashbery. It’s a great example of what I love about his poems. It begins as an address and then ends up contemplating rivers, relationships and technology in a casual way. I love how by the end of an Ashbery poem, it’s often hard to remember where you began.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I like Wikipedia’s casual nature, where you can easily glean just enough information for a little idea. Late at night I fall down Wikipedia-holes where I just keep clicking on links to page after page. It has a disorientating effect, like being in a superficial-information-house-of-mirrors, which is a feeling I’d like my own poems to convey.


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


I try not to be too precious when a poem won’t work for me, I tend to kill it and move on. Sometimes parts become of use again, but more often it’s just a lesson in what doesn’t work.


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


Andy McGuire’s Country Club is the bee’s knees. It’s a very playful collection full of droll rhymes and rich, Floridian imagery. I had a lot of fun reading it, one of my favourite books of 2015.


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


I think this is a very exciting time for poetry, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of it, too. There are so many amazing books being published by poets from all over the world, but it still feels like being part of an exclusive club. Perhaps too exclusive, as it’s always a somewhat awkward conversation to have to talk with in-laws regarding their confusion by poetry and trying to give some answers that will satisfy them.

James Lindsay has been a bookseller for more than a decade. He is also co-owner of Pleasence Records in Toronto, a record label specializing in post-punk, odd-pop and avant-garde sound pieces.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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