Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Molly Peacock

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Ten Questions with Molly Peacock

Molly Peacock has published four books of poetry; a book about poetry, How to Read a Poem…and Start a Poetry Circle; and a highly acclaimed memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece. She was also co-editor of Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems from the Subways and the Buses.

Her latest collection is The Second Blush and she reads this Wednesday, April 8, at Authors at Harbourfront. Event details here.

She was president of the Poetry Society of America from 1989 to 1994, and continues to advise its Poetry in Motion program. Among her honors are fellowships from the Danforth, Ingram Merrill, and Woodrow Wilson foundations, as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts. A former learning specialist at Friends Seminary, she has been poet-in-residence at Bucknell University, University of Western Ontario, and University of California, Riverside. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Elle, and Mirabella.

Here is Open Book’s Ten Questions interview with Molly Peacock.

OBT:

Tell us about your new poetry collection, The Second Blush.

MP:

The Second Blush, my sixth collection of poems, was inspired by the dynamic, almost novel-like arc of my relationship with my husband. We met in our teens, were boyfriend and girlfriend in high school and for one year of university, broke up, didn't hear about one another for nineteen years, and re-united in midlife. The sonnet-based poems in The Second Blush take as their starting point my husband’s survival of a health crisis, and they address the contradictory ideas of planning for the future along with the urgency to make the present brilliantly alive. The succeeding poems celebrate marriage and what I call “the two-track life,” that is, the contradiction of both living in the moment AND planning for the future.

OBT:

Marriage is a huge topic to track and explore. Did you draw any conclusions while writing this book?

MP:

It surprised me how funny and how tender my marriage is. That's not really a conclusion, but those are qualities that surfaced as I stirred the pond.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote The Second Blush?

MP:

When I imagine my audience I think of someone up late at night looking for the consolation of a like mind and picking my book off the shelf.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MP:

My own desk (which is my grandmother's dining room table) with an orchid in bloom and a view of downtown Toronto in the early morning.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

MP:

It was literally on a mimeograph, remember those? It was literally in a one-issue failed small magazine effort in a guy's garage in Binghamton, New York. The first and only issue of a litmag called Brown's Window. Who was Brown? Where was his window? You've got me.

OBT:

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

MP:

Number One: The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008. This will give a newcomer to Canada a fabulous sense of poetry across the country. I'm the General Series Editor, but I don't choose the poems, so I feel I can sing its praises.

Number Two: Alice Munro's Best with an introduction by Margaret Atwood. This selection of Munro's stories with Atwood's essay gives the bedrock of Canadian literary fiction.

Number Three: Canadian Art: The Thompson Collection at the AGO. This is the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibition catalog of its fabulous collection of Canadian painting. Here are some of the most iconic images of Canada.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

MP:

The Autobiography of Anthony Trollope. I wanted to hear in his own words how he managed to get up at 5:30am and write every morning, but I found my real inspiration in his mother. She had the writing discipline that inspired him! (And I should say, I'm listening to this on my iPod. So I'm really being read to, the old fashioned way.)

OBT:

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

MP:

The poet, translator and critic Richard Howard asked me, as a graduate student, so what are you going to do when all this roiling emotion and passion runs out? I thought, privately, it'll never run out! But just in case it does, why not investigate structure? That was when I started to teach myself to write sonnets.

OBT:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

MP:

My most recent memorable response was from a reader who immediately translated a poem from The Second Blush called "The Cliffs of Mistake" into Bulgarian.

OBT:

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

MP:

Persistence. I'm a student of poets' careers, and the one single thing I find they all have in common is that they persisted in sending our their poems when they were emerging poets. And about rejection. Don't believe the advice that tells you to grow a thick skin to protect yourself. If you're a poet, you have a thin skin. Period. That thin membrane between you and the world lets you write. So of course you're going to be hurt by rejection. But that doesn't mean you can't feel wounded for 48 hours (that's how long it takes me) and then persist again.

Author photo by V. Tony Hauser



For more information about Molly Peacock’s The Second Blush, visit the McClelland & Stewart website at www.mcclelland.com.

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