Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Lillian Necakov

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Lillian Necakov

Lillian Necakov is the author of Hooligans (Mansfield Press), as well as several other collections of poetry. Lillian also runs the Boneshaker Reading series here in Toronto.

Open Book talks with Lillian about her personal hero, writing a poem in one's head before committing it to the page and her favourite recent Canadian poetry.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Hooligans.

Lillian Necakov:

Hooligans is about many things; the inevitability of isolation, regret, memories, the possibilities of change, science, our relationship to the universe and rituals. The rituals that ground us, connect and comfort us, whether they come from a place of devotion or an emotional need. These are some of the themes I have been engrossed in. Ultimately the book is about common humanity and finding a language to express the emotions around that. Some say the work is grim, but there is a lot of hope in the poems, a light. I think of myself as a melancholy optimist, that’s why I love science so much; it is hopeful. I trust that comes through in the work.


What was the genesis of Hooligans? Did you start with a particular poem?


I just had a bunch of new poems lying around and figured it was time to start working on a book. Once I knew Mansfield might be interested in looking at the manuscript, I finished it fairly quickly. If I have a deadline I tend to be more focused and productive. Once I wrote the poem “Hooligans” though, I knew that had to be the book title.


Is there a poem in the collection that you feel especially connected to, or for which the writing process was particularly exciting?


There are several, but the two that come to mind are "Kandinsky Highway" and "Night Writing." I feel really connected to both those pieces, because of the emotions surrounding the subject matter. "Kandinsky Highway" was written about a recovered friendship during a road trip to Kingston. "Night Writing" is also tangled up in deep emotion. I wrote it after reading a short piece about a Burundi runner named Gilbert Tuhabonye. In 1993 Gilbert escaped a burning school house that had been set on fire by Hutus and just kept on running. It’s an amazing story of will and it really resonated with me.


Hooligans is your fifth book. Do you think your style has changed at all over the years? Do you find yourself approaching projects the same way?


I do think my style has changed somewhat. The work is less flippant, more focused and more thought out. I still use a lot of imagery and my work is very visceral but there is a lot more narration or story. My approach is not as automatic as it used to be. I often have an entire poem worked out in my mind before I even sit down to write.


Who are some people who have deeply influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?


Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Van Morrison, Kurt Schwitters, Octavio Paz, Kaye Gibbons, Richard Dawkins, David McFadden and my personal hero Romeo Dallaire.


In your opinion, what are some of the most exciting books of Canadian poetry published in recent years?


Steve Venright’s Floors of Enduring Beauty, Jim Smith’s Back Off, Assassin!, Peter Norman’s At the Gates of the Theme Park, Emily Schultz’s Songs for the Dancing Chicken and anything that Maggie Helwig writes, her work is like a tapestry, rich and evocative.


What are you working on now?


Promoting Hooligans, I have readings coming up in Ottawa and Kingston. In the new year I’ll start work on a new book of poems.

Lillian Necakov is the author of multiple books of poetry, including The Bone Broker (Mansfield Press) and Hat Trick (Exile Editions). She runs the Boneshaker Reading Series in Toronto, where she lives with her family.

For more information about Hooligans please visit the Mansfield Press website.

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

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