Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Michael Eden Reynolds

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Ten Questions with Michael Eden Reynolds

Open Book talks to Michael Eden Reynolds about his book, Slant Room (The Porcupine's Quill), reading, writing and the best way to deal with rejection letters. Michael will be reading on Monday, October 5 at Tango Place. See Open Book's events page for details.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your book, Slant Room.

Michael Eden Reynolds:

It’s my first book. 95 pages. 45 poems. Four sections, two of which are suites: Migrations, which gives voice to a subarctic ecosystem, and Fugue, a suite of pastoral-cum-sci-fi sonnets. The other two sections, Spare Room and Slant Room are miscellanies, with a cast of characters that includes F.H Varley, a winged otter, Zeno, a dicky-bird, Mr. Blueshirt and a beaver becoming wolverine.

OBT:

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

MER:

I really didn’t.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MER:

Roadside on a secondary highway in Saskatchewan with little chance of getting a ride for many hours. Storm clouds in the distance.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

MER:

A poem called ‘Glimpse’ which, happily, I still like. It’s in Slant Room. I wrote it in 1999 while traveling in Northern Thailand. I mailed a handwritten copy to my friend Patrick back in Whitehorse and asked him to transcribe it and send it on to The Fiddlehead. I was back in Canada when it came out in the spring of 2001.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

MER:

I wrote a poem called “Upon the Conversion of Stephen Harper” in which the PM
begs forgiveness from God-as-nature. For canoes and other Canadiana see #10.

OBT:

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

MER:

A Discovery of Strangers by Rudy Wiebe, A Story as Sharp as a Knife by Robert Bringhurst and Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets edited by Zach Wells.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

MER:

Right now I’m reading Mothers and Sons by Colm Toibin. There’s a muskeg of unfinished books and best intentions on my bedside table, but the last two that I finished are Pigeon by Karen Solie (which is my favourite new poetry book of the last several years) and Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano (also really good).

OBT:

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

MER:

“Knock out the jams.” It’s a long story, but it’s made all the difference.

OBT:

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

MER:

Back in the ’90s I lived in a little purple cabin on the edge of Whitehorse with my girlfriend (now wife) Jenny. She and I used to wallpaper our rejection letters inside the outhouse. I found this helpful.

OBT:

What is your next project?

MER:

I’ll write short poems as they occur to me, but they don’t very often.

I’ve been working for some time now on a long poem called Trout’s Account. It’s set at the bottom of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park in July 1917. Trout, the narrator, recounts the 8 days painter Tom Thomson spent beneath the lake before his drowned body washed ashore. This isn’t detective work, it’s a story in verse and obviously pretty fantastical. I’m hoping to be done before the centenary of Thomson’s death.


Michael Eden Reynolds was born in Ottawa in 1973, but spent most of his childhood in Caledon, Ontario. He attended the University of Guelph before taking a summer job as a breakfast cook in Dawson City, Yukon, in 1995. He travelled in Asia from 1999 to 2000. Since completing a social work degree at Yukon College in 2003, he's worked as a supported-independent-living worker for adults with disabilities. Michael lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, with his wife Jenny and their two children.

Reynolds's poems have won the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, and the John Haines Award for Poetry. He was also a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards in 2005, the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award in 2006 and The Malahat Review Long Poem Contest in 2007. His work has been anthologized in The Best of Canadian Poetry in English 2008, edited by Molly Peacock and Stephanie Bolster (Tightrope Books).

Slant Room is edited by Wayne Clifford who was the first acquisitions editor for Stan Bevington's Coach House Press in the late 1960s, where Clifford discovered the unknown Michael Ondaatje.

Join the Michael Eden Reynolds Facebook group.

For more information about Slant Room please visit The Porcupine's Quill website.

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

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