Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Brian Day

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Ten Questions with Brian Day

Open Book: Toronto speaks with Brian Day about his new collection of poetry, Conjuring Jesus (Guernica Editions), his favourite books and his future work.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Brian Day:

Conjuring Jesus is a book of poems taking unusual perspectives on the life of Jesus. It provides a starkly human view of Jesus while regarding him with reinvented religious devotion. In the book, Jesus emerges as a more mischievous, subversive, and sinuous figure. He appears as a vibrantly sexual man who elicits an erotic adoration and whose sexuality is wholly in accord with his stories and images.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote?

BD:

I don’t give a lot of thought to readership when I am writing. I would hope that the book would appeal to people who have some ambivalence toward religion, who cannot abide its simplicities but feel drawn toward its aspirations. I hope it would be of interest to people who are intent on integrating sexuality and religion and to those who are intrigued by revision and integration, by how some of the oldest stories can be imaginatively and usefully remade.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

BD:

Silent and with a closed door. With a wide window facing trees and sky.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

BD:

My first publication was a book of poetry entitled Love is Not Native to My Blood, published in 2000. It draws on Greek, Norse, Indian and other mythologies, as well as Grimm’s fairy tales. Several of the poems are based on dreams, and as with all of my books so far, one of the themes is the integration of the sacred and the sexual.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

BD:

A few years ago I went to a concert given by The Toronto Consort. The Consort, which performs medieval and renaissance music from Europe, invited to perform with them Sampradaya Dance Creations, a dance company using traditional Indian forms. While the Consort played ancient European music, Sampradaya danced in classical South Asian style. And it worked brilliantly. It was the most marvellous intercultural synthesis I have been fortunate to witness in a performance. This intercultural innovation and breeding of energies is something I aspire to in my writing.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

BD:

1. The Raven Steals the Light by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst. This is a rich, dark and unsettling collection of some vibrant West Coast Native stories.
2. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Canada is a tricky country for spelling, and it has some peculiar vocabulary, so it’s best to have a guide.
3. Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets, edited by John Barton and Billeh Nickerson. Canada is a country of minorities; this book introduces two of them—gay men and poets.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

BD:

I’m reading A Quiver of Arrows, the selected poems of Carl Phillips. Phillips is an American poet with a finely tuned ear and an exceptionally developed sense of how the flesh can inform the sublime. I’m reading Eternal Enemies by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. His poems are deeply considered, subtle, and strangely moving. As I’m interested in learning more about how life on Earth took shape, I’m also reading Nick Lane’s Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution.

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

BD:

Be concise and write only what is essential. Keep all of your ideas well rooted in concrete specifics.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

BD:

Write whatever it is you are most impelled to write, not what you might suppose the market desires. Cultivate patience. Be persistent in sending material out. Be proud of the thickness of your rejections file. Remember why you write.

OBT:

What is your next project?

BD:

My next book of poetry explores three themes. One is the erotic elements, and especially the homoerotic elements, implicit in the texts of the world’s major religious traditions. Another is the interreligious: imagining meetings or dialogues between figures from different religions. The third theme is the consideration, at this time of ecological crisis, of how religious texts can be reshaped and expanded to help us find some way forward.


Brian Day is the author of Conjuring Jesus, Azure and Love Is Not Native to My Blood. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

For more information on Conjuring Jesus please visit the Guernica Editions website.

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

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