Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Shannon Maguire

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Shannon Maguire

Shannon Maguire is an author, creative writing instructor and a doctoral candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her work has appeared in Best American Experimental Writing of 2014, Jacket2, Event and others, and her first poetry collection, fur(l) parachute (BookThug), was a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry.

Her newest collection is Myrmurs: An Exploded Sestina (BookThug), an innovative variant of the Medieval sestina form that connects to contemporary politics and poetics.

We're pleased to welcome Shannon to Open Book today to take our version of the Proust Quesitonnaire, where we get to know authors on a personal level.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

Shannon tells us about why she carries a clown nose in her purse, her desire to be a sassy old woman and tries to answer an impossible question.

What is your dream of happiness?

Impossible to think about without thinking about equity and a world in which everyone has their basic needs met every day as well as ample opportunity for creative engagement.

What is your idea of misery?

The bluntest effects of our contemporary life. As Canadians, our consumer lifestyles contribute to the misery of others both within our borders and abroad.

Where would you like to live?

Toronto. I’ve been attempting to move back ever since I left four years ago.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

Listening skills and empathy.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

Same. But with a healthy dose of assertiveness to counteract our gendered socialization. Receptive skills (versus production skills) are more emphasized in the rearing of girls.

What is your chief characteristic?

I am curious and creative and restless for better, more equitable social structures.

What is your principal fault?

Social awkwardness. This can at times be hard to distinguish from being queerly oriented in the world (see Sarah Ahmed’s ruminations on the subject) and so it’s complicated. I carry a clown nose in my purse for when it becomes unbearable.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Solitude. I’m racking my brain for women in my family that have demanded as ample a serving of it as I have.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

Overenthusiasm; curiosity that needs to be reigned in; being socially awkward.

What do you value most about your friends?

They are smart, caring, creative and bold enough to experiment with living structures.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?


What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?


What is your favourite virtue?

Openness to possibility.

What is your favourite occupation?


What would you like to be?

A sassy old woman with all of her faculties intact.

What is your favourite colour?


What is your favourite flower?

Round-lobed hepatia (especially the ones with a blue tinge): an early spring wildflower common in Northern Ontario.

What is your favourite bird?

Ravens and Great Blue Herons.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

Louis Reil and Gabriel Dumont.

What character in history do you most dislike?


Who are your favourite prose authors?

Kathy Acker, Dionne Brand, Roberto Bolaño, James Tiptree Jr., Samuel Delaney, James Baldwin, Gail Scott, Nicola Griffith. This is an impossible question.

Who are your favourite poets?

Next question. Seriously, too many to name. And too dangerous to leave anyone out!

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

Auxilio Lacouture; Marian Leatherby etc…

Who are your heroes in real life?

My mentor poets.

Who is your favourite painter?

My Mom; David Bateman; Remedios Varo; Leonora Carrington; Leonor Fini...

Who is your favourite musician?

Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues.

What is your favourite food?


What is your favourite drink?

Scotch, neat. But I almost never drink it.

What are your favourite names?

Yet to be invented.

What is it you most dislike?


What natural talent would you most like to possess?

The ability to fly without prosthetic devices.

How do you want to die?

Peacefully, with peace manifest in the world, too.

What is your current state of mind?

Fertile. Brainchildren, not grandchildren, I say!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

My latest book. Which means that I still have a lot of work ahead! Sheesh.

What is your motto?

When in doubt, dye your hair green and start another project.

Shannon Maguire’s first collection, fur(l) parachute, was a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Her Fruit Machine was a finalist for the bpNichol Chapbook Award, and “The Fur Parachute Suite” in CV2 was a finalist for the Manitoba Magazine Award for Best Suite of Poems. Maguire’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Best American Experimental Writing of 2014, Jacket2, Event, among others. Maguire, who has taught Creative Writing at Algoma University, holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and an MA in English from Brock University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she studies noise and queer and Métis poetics. Connect with Maguire on Twitter @avant_elle

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