Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Steve McOrmond

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Ten Questions with Steve McOrmond

Poet Steve McOrmond's new book The Good News About Armageddon is set to launch June 10. He talks to Open Book about inspiration, his ideal reader and shares a poem from the new collection.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your book, The Good News about Armageddon.

Steve McOrmond:

The Good News about Armageddon is a collection of poems about the end of the world. The book, which takes its title from a Seventh Day Adventist pamphlet, culls narratives from history, supermarket tabloids and religious texts and superimposes them on the chaos of current events.

I know, I know. It sounds like a downer, but there’s a good deal of gallows humour in the book, which I equate with human resilience in the face of crisis. When you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, you laugh.

Imagine Groucho Marx hosting a Discovery Channel program on the apocalypse.

Get it while you can.


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


I write with an idealized reader in mind – one who is attentive to language and always gets my jokes.


Where do you gather your inspiration from?


Anything that wanders into the drift net of my consciousness is fair game.


When did you first start writing, and what did you write?


Like many people, I started writing poetry in my early teens. Unrequited love was a major theme. I almost certainly rhymed mad with sad.


Describe your ideal writing environment.


Mac OSX.


Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.


Oh, I’m more likely to be influenced by extraordinarily ordinary everyday experiences like observing a dyslexic woman doing the crossword on the subway: None of the words she pencils in make any sense but, somehow, 65 Across aligns perfectly with 50, 51, 52 and 42 Down.


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


Completed Field Notes by Robert Kroetsch

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

Apparatus by Don McKay

I’d probably throw in a Tragically Hip album (Phantom Power, maybe, for “Poets” and “Bobcaygeon”) and a copy of Al Purdy’s poem “Lament for the Dorsets.” What can I say? I’m a generous gift-giver.


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


Two pieces of advice come to mind: “It doesn’t matter what you meant to say” and “You’re not nearly as clever as you think you are.”


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


Grow a thick skin for dealing with rejection and remember that the real, abiding pleasures of writing – silence, solitude, introspection, experimentation, inquiry, letting the mind off its leash to play – have little to do with publication.


What's your next project?


I’m not entirely sure, but there are a few poetic forms including the prose poem and the sonnet that I’d like to tinker with, take apart and see how they tick. I’m also interested in finding a way to write convincingly about nature from an urban perspective. Is urban pastoral poetry even possible in an age when many of us are more comfortable interacting with technology than with the natural world? How does the BlackBerry™ in the landscape reshape the landscape?

David W. Orr, in Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, coins the term “Biophobia” to describe the aversion many people now feel toward nature and anything that isn’t man-made. I’ve witnessed this firsthand: a friend of mine insists that he hates weather and trees – especially when they appear in poetry.

Dark Clouds (Another Apocalypse)
from The Good News About Armageddon by Steve McOrmond

The clouds rolled in and never left.
Lightning in them but no rain.

Life, as Auden observed, went on
disinterestedly. There was the tuna

casserole to keep from burning, the dog
whimpering to be let out.

Panels of experts convened on TV
to discuss the subterranean rumblings,

the preponderance of messianic cults.
We perked up at the gory bits,

the jumpers and self-immolations,
rituals involving goat's blood.

Accustomed to instant gratification,
we wanted our apocalypse now.

How many times could we say goodbye
before we grew bored, turned a blind eye?

We had fetishes to attend to,
money to make and spend.

Years since we'd seen the stars,
they ceased to cross our minds.

No, never
any rain.

Steve McOrmond is the author of two previous books of poetry. His first collection, Lean Days (2004), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. His second book, Primer on the Hereafter (2006), was awarded the Atlantic Poetry Prize. His work also
appears in the anthology Breathing Fire 2:Canada’s New Poets. Originally from Prince Edward Island, he now lives in Toronto.

For more information about The Good News About Armaggedon please visit the Brick Books website.

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

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