Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Brian Dedora

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Brian Dedora (photo credit: Zach Barwin)

Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca was only 36 when he was executed by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish civil war. His international legacy, built on the strength of his plays and poetry collections continues to this day. When Brian Dedora travelled to Spain, he fell under the spell of that legacy, and the result is Lorcation (BookThug). Intrigued by similarities between the Spanish writer's life and his own, Brian blends prose poetry and essay in Lorcation to speak about his own personal journey while also examining Lorca's life and writing. The book is presented as a bilingual English and Spanish edition with translator Martin Rodríguez-Gaona.

We speak to Brian today about Lorcation, and he tells us about how he first came to learn about Lorca in Spain, Lorca's revolutionary approach to his sexual identity and more great Spanish writers we should all be reading.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, Lorcation.

Brian Dedora:

The book is comprised of three parts, which in their own distinct way deal with my chosen thread through Lorca’s work. I chose to follow the written path of the growing awareness of his homosexuality, which in early twentieth century work is without precedent as it does not apologize, make theories, or cast judgments. It is only in the last few years that this topic in relation to Lorca has become more open. This book also grows in my own understanding of what I’d taken on and is transformed by an opening of a personal view that becomes changed. It is this growth through writing that informs both writer and reader, which, I believe is the job any writer takes on.


What drew you to Federico Garcia Lorca and his work?


In 1980 I went on my long delayed European tour where the end of that journey found me in Spain. Through friends and acquaintances I began hearing about Lorca, but even more impressive was the fact that from all levels of Spanish society people were able to quote from his poems and plays. You have to be curious when a poet and playwright has such a hold. I had been given Lorca’s Poet in New York in my first year of university but was too immature to appreciate it but here in front of me was an invitation to read him I had to accept. Although I began reading his poems and plays, especially the three tragedies, the germination of the book did not take root until I went on a ten day colloquium with other Canadian writers to explore Lorca’s Granada. During these ten days a gut reaction occurred when I realized that there were intersections between Lorca’s life and mine in that we’d both been born into an agriculturally based community. The fertile plain (la Vega just outside of Granada) where Lorca grew up and used for the sustenance of his writing was similar to the Okanagan Valley where I grew up. The book begins in Madrid with a kind of statement of theme but grows in its metaphors of crossroads, suitcase, and journey while I was in Granada. The writing came quickly and almost fully formed. I knew when I left Granada to return to Toronto that I wanted to inform myself in more depth about the Spanish Civil War and did so; it was at this point my anger for what Franco perpetrated entered the book.


You're blending essay, prose and poetry here — how did you balance the forms and move between them with such seeming ease? How does the writing process differ for a multi-form book vs. single genre?


Two good questions here, so one by one. (1). There’s no book I’ve written that does not come out of some comfortable anguish, by which I mean that zone I enter when I’m engaged in a project; that place and “voice” is a mix of intuition, emotion, and mind. I’ve learned to listen to myself and follow the voice by writing down whatever comes and when I’m in that concentrated place the overall focus is quite sharp. The reason for this close attention is derived from the knowledge that I own a huge measure of silence which displays itself in not knowing how I feel until a passing of time (a day later or more) so, paying attention is vital. Acknowledging that fact, I use whatever presents itself and in the case of Loracation it was following what presented themselves; firstly the poem section, then the need to expand the consequences of the thread I’d chosen and, importantly, add a personal note, finally, the prose piece that ends the book born out of an actual visit to la Vega where being on the ground entered the book with its transformation of view.

(2). Most of my books are multi-form, I think, because of the way my mind works jumping here and there. These books are formed by ‘gluing’ many bits and pieces together and ‘sandpapering’ them into a whole. A part of the "Federico" poem was actually written in Malaga on December 9th, 1980!! When I’ve tried writing a single genre work it usually ends in a pile of paper stuffed in a drawer, that said, I’m still going to try one.


There is an exploration of love and identity here, mirroring Lorca's own journey of self-discovery. How did submersing yourself in Lorca's search for identity influence your own psychological life?


When I was working on the essay and becoming more and more dissatisfied it occurred to me that I would have to include a personal note. As soon as I began writing that a kind of unlocking took place, which was very freeing. I had spent a lot of time prior to this book employed in the understanding of myself, my being gay, and what in life I would do. This process revealed to me that to ground a mind that would take off in speculation I needed work that demanded the use of my hands. I have been faithful to this. Loracation has allowed me to ‘come out’ in an honesty that before was partially hidden despite my books taking up in various forms the mind behind being gay. The unlocking continues with a continual reminder to open to deep concern, to practice that overarching quality of loving from self outwards.


What other Spanish writers or books would you recommend to Canadians readers and why?


So glad you asked… Juan Goytisolo’s Mendiola Trilogy Marks of Identity, Count Julian, and Juan the Landless is one of the finest examples of a writer exploring his national history by treason in a treasonous language. It’s importance to Canadian writers is that it gives a lesson on how we, as writers, might tackle the black spots of our Canadian history.


What are you working on now?


I’m working on a project centered on one of Toronto’s most notorious gay bars (now no longer here) The Parkside. At this point I’m exploring the form that will best suit the expression of this absolutely mad, fun, and wounded circus, which in the winning of our rights and recognitions we’ve lost. This will be the last book in a trilogy of which the first two parts are completed.

British Columbia-born Brian Dedora is a writer and performance artist whose work has been anthologized and widely published in special and limited editions. His books include Eye Where: A Book of Visuals (2014), A Few Sharp Sticks (2011), A Slice of Voice at the Edge of Hearing (2008), which was shortlisted for the ReLit and George Ryga Awards, With WK in the Workshop (1989), as well as White Light (1987). Dedora lives in Toronto, Canada and Granada, Spain.

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