Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Deanna Young

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The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Deanna Young

House Dreams (Brick Books) is the third collection of poetry from Deanna Young and like the titular house, it is inhabited by more than meets the eye. These smart, ominous poems tells the story of a woman's life, imbued with the uneasy power of a storm about to break. Poetry fans won't want to miss this excellent offering from an incisive and talented poet.

You can hear Deanna read from House Dreams online, courtesy of Brick Books.

Today Deanna joins us to take on the The WAR Series: Writers As Readers questionnaire, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from Deanna about the adventurous books she inherited from her mother, why seventeen-year olds should read Leaves of Grass and the very ambitious plan she has for her next reading endeavour.

Deanna will be taking House Dreams on the road in early November with launch events in Ottawa on November 1 (7:30 pm-9:30 pm at Black Squirrel Books & Tea, 1073 Bank Street) and in London on November 8 (2:00 pm-4:00 pm at Landon Library, 167 Wortley Road).

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. It was my mother’s when she was a girl, and I read it the summer I was 10 or 11. There were not books in my house, generally, so when my mother produced a small box of musty, hardcover Trixie Belden books — from under a bed or the depths of a closet, I suppose — I was intrigued. It turned out that Trixie was this smart, brave, adventurous, determined 13-year-old girl with prettier friends, who made it her business to find out the truth about bad things grownups were up to. I lived in a world where a number of grownups were up to some bad stuff, so I could relate (and to the prettier friends bit too). When I finished the book, I went downstairs to tell my mother (who was, I’m sure, peeling potatoes at the sink): “I just read this whole book by myself.” It felt like the start of something big.

A book that made me cry:
Watership Down by Richard Adams. I read it the summer I was 19, before heading off to study literature at McGill. It was at the suggestion of the son of my high school art teacher. I’d gone to dinner at this teacher’s house (some teachers are just saints) and this boy, a few years younger than I was, insisted on giving the book to me once he realized I’d not read it — had not even heard of it before that night. When I finished the book a couple of weeks later, I think I cried as much for the death of Hazel as I did for my own rebirth; that is, out of an inspired hopefulness. If this exquisite book could just appear in my life, I thought, imagine how much great literature was out there waiting to be discovered.

The first adult book I read:
The Weekend Man, the first novel by Richard Wright, author of Clara Callan. I don’t know if this was the first adult book I ever read, but I remember comprehending its adult themes in a way that told me innocence was officially over, and experience begun. It’s about a 30-year-old man staring down the drain of a dreary sales job for what looks like the rest of his life. As a teenager, I was shattered by the book’s existential message, and awed by the writing.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Wow, that’s a rare experience for me. I’ll have to say Faust by Goethe. (Please forgive this one moment of insincerity.)

The books I have re-read many times:
I am not much given to re-reading books — or re-watching movies, for that matter. Once I’ve read a book, and loved it, I’m satisfied. I have no desire to disturb that initial sense of wonder and pleasure by reading it again. I know this will sound foreign to a lot of people, particularly to many writers. That being said, I have read Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel many, many times.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
I regret that I have not read The Bible cover to cover. I have only scraps of it that I must one day sit down and piece together. When will I make time to do this? Very soon, I’m sure.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I would say to her, “Walk around the city (or village or field or parking lot or wherever) and read this out loud. It’ll change your life.” Whitman’s vision and words are so genuine, so empowered, celebratory, grandiose, unapologetic, sensitive, embracing…. A marvellous, life-affirming voice for any seventeen-year-old to absorb, I would think.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
15 Canadian Poets Plus 5 (editors Gary Geddes and Phyllis Bruce), my senior high school bible. “Look,” this anthology said to me, “any disenfranchised, introverted, abused, forlorn, small-town Canadian kid who loves words and feels inclined to search for beauty, truth and meaning (yes, those) among the ashes of an already devastated life — can. Here are some examples to get you started. These poets are your compatriots. If Alden Nowlan can do it, so can you.”

The best book I read in the past six months:
Memorial by British poet Alice Oswald. It’s a brilliant take on the deaths of individual soldiers in Homer’s Iliad. I found it incantatory, gripping, masterful. Now that’s a book I expect I’ll read many more times, to make a study of it.

The books I plan on reading next:
The Bible, cover to cover.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Deanna Young and the Secret of the Mansion: No, I Mean, Seriously.

Deanna Young is the author of two previous books of poems, The Still Before a Storm and Drunkard’s Path. Her work has appeared in journals across Canada, including The Malahat Review and Arc Poetry Magazine. Originally from southwestern Ontario, she now lives in Ottawa.

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