Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Friday interview with a writer about whom I know nothing: Jake Kennedy

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Each Friday during my tenure as Lord of Open Book Toronto, I will interview a writer about whom I know nothing. First up is someone named Jake Kennedy. I'd never heard of this person -- a poet, apparently -- until my friend Katie told me about him last week. He sounded worth interviewing. Please enjoy the following. I know I did. (And feel free to suggest writers about whom I know nothing for future interviews!)


Who are you?

Pasha, I am not a carpenter. Sometimes I think I would rather be a
carpenter, but I am not. For instance, Gene, my carpenter friend, is
building a house. Jill’s a good kid, too, who’s had some tough luck.
But that’s another story. It’s a day when the smell of fish from Tib’s
hash house is so strong you could build a garage if you were a
carpenter but, alas, you know that poets are jerks when it comes to
power tools. Why? I think I would rather be a painter, too, but I am
not. Well, for instance, Mike Goldberg is starting a painting. I drop
in. How can I get feedback on my work from Mike? I can’t. What
resources and publications are available for kids? He doesn’t know. If
I am a poet facing a crisis where can I go to find help? “Knock on the
door marked Silence,” says Mike. Probably. I am a poet, a weaver of
words, a wordsmith who works wonders with verbs, a painter who paints
from life observation technicolor dreams on your stone-cold
imagination. I’m sorry I’m a poet. I am a poet in this nasty world.
I’m sorry. Pretty much I am a hopeless person in this helpless world.
First, the good news: my book, Wander, has just been released by Six
Gallery Press. You can find it on Amazon, and if you live in the
Pittsburgh region you can upload it yourself. I have only 283

What do you do?

Pasha, what I do normally is offer fun with facial expressions. I
consider what I do like an art and yet what I do is not journalism
necessarily. Over the years I have learned that the tools of the
theater are not the same as the tools of corporate finance. For this
reason, I regret that I allowed so many VHS tapes into my living room.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil that I desire
to do sounds good to me in song lyrics but when I try it out in real
life then I get my comeuppance. Invariably! What I do in this case is
I study me a little bit more and I see that I have some growing up to
do almost always. I will say more, the just man justices; keeps
grace: that keeps all his goings graces, as it has been said. What I
do is similar to the eleventh studio album by American country music
artist Alan Jackson. It was released on September 7, 2004, and
produced four singles and all for a mighty American profit. Also, what
I do is split into a few buckets right now: New Marketing Labs; Media;
Education and the double-barreled The Agony and The Ecstasy mode. My
friend Martyn opines: “What I do is quite risky” and even though
Martyn is referring to himself I too will wear that phrase like a
cocked fedora. The things that I do have hitherto been fairly
unwavering in terms of the drafting process—I lucubrate and I
persevere. This has got me nowhere but such are the habits of what I
do. In other words, what I do is I offer value judgments about others
disguised as lyrical transport. No one can tell me what I do is wrong.
You took me down, for instance, when I proved to you that I was strong
but I am still here and I have no fear.

Katie mentioned something about a "collective novel" -- what's that
all about?

Pasha, Death Valley: A Collaborative Community Western Novel is
actually a collaborative community western novel entitled Death
Valley. So far it has 1148 contributors. No shit. What my great friend
kevin mcpherson eckhoff and I do is we just go around collecting
individual lines from people in our Okanagan valley hometown
community. So far we’ve been to hockey games and beaches and high
schools and farmer’s markets and art galleries and a whole bunch of
other sites. We say to folks, “Would you like to contribute one
Western-genre-themed line/sentence to our collaborative community
western novel?” and usually they say “Fuck you, creeps” and then we
leave their bedrooms and try someone else’s house. We expect to have
the novel compiled by about 2048. Interestingly, and excitingly for
us, Random House and Faber & Faber and Farrar, Straus ,& Giroux and
McSweeney’s have all expressed an interest in publishing other
peoples’ work.

Where do you live? Do you like it?

Pasha, I divide my time between Rose Avenue and KLO Rd for the most
part. I like where I live, oh yes, very much. I would like to tell you
some special things about Rose and some notable highlights about KLO.
First up, Rose: This house is a stunning example of Greek style
architecture, located on absolute beachfront and built right around
the time of the Duino Elegies. The house, as I mentioned, is a
stunning example of Art Deco detailing. My daughter, Rae, and I never
fail to marvel at the stunning examples of American Arts and Crafts
style architecture as designed by Charles and Henry Greene. Classical
palladian revival at its most delicious, really. In terms of KLO (my
home away from home), in all the history of high-rises, no one has
ever seen a building which had its vertical façade Merzbaued like this
one. Quite. The. Site. To. Sight. Pasha. “This building does things
that people are dreaming about,” said my buddy Rick Fedrizzi. Truth be
told, this is a really difficult question to answer because no-one
really knows who lives where and who likes what.

Let's imagine that I have the hiccups. How do I get rid of them?

Pasha, are these bottom hiccups or top hiccups? If the former, then I
say “you joker!” If the latter then what you have to do is this trick
that Kmac showed me which involves ordering a plate of Denny’s
seasoned fries and then eating them as violently-swiftly as possible.
I have never witnessed a repetitive myoclonus of the diaphragm that
can withstand such an onslaught.

6) Tell me about something on the internet that you love.

Pasha, the very few times I have used the internet what I have loved
most is that say you have an interest in a little-known poet or you
want to find a picture of someone but you don’t know him or her well
enough to ask for the picture directly well you can just use this site
called Ask Jeeves and he will do it and the whole service is efficient
and confidential. I will find the url for you and your readers.

Do you have a nemesis? If so, tell me about her/him.

Pasha, yes I do have a nemesis. Perhaps you are aware of poet kevin
mcpherson eckhoff? He is totally my main nemesis. Please let me
explain. Kevin is the Greek goddess of retributive justice; he is also
the one that inflicts retribution or vengeance; and mostly he is a
formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent—of mine. I will
soon be playing my old nemesis (kevin) for the Galaga championship.
And you know what will happen? He will win. More honestly, he will win
by a gross margin. And then he will be published by Coach House or
Bookthug. And you know how Batman is the Joker’s main nemesis and
always foils his wicked plots? Well I am Joker and kevin is Batman.
Here’s another example of how nemesissy kevin is: “On just the kind of
putt that had been a career-long kevin mcpherson eckhoff, he kept his
head perfectly still and knocked the ball squarely in the hole. —Jaime
Diaz, Sports Illustrated, 20 Feb. 1995

Are you a "loner" or a "people person"?

Pasha, I consider myself a devoted people person who despises humans.

Tell me about a dream you had recently.

Pasha, I know there’s nothing more deadly than a dude reciting his
dreams so here’s a point former:

-Gretzky and Stalin exchange uniforms
-a strawberry patch becomes a tree and appears to go through the sun
and my consciousness thinks: that’s progress
-I need to get outside of my childhood home to stop people from
breaking into it and when I try to yell they don’t hear me and I don’t
know if this increases my fear or my anger
-my friend Paul Hong is taking the lead in the Tour while doing a
catwalk/wheelie up a generic Euro mountain

If I were to pay you for this interview, what do you think would
be a fair rate?

It would be great to be paid in hair. Or you could give me the ability
to speak Russian. Or even pay me in guitar virtuosity. As it is, I am
just grateful if you don’t hit me. Thank you, Pasha.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla’s first collection of short stories, The Withdrawal Method, a Globe and Mail and National Post book of the year, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Trillum Book Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize and longlisted for the Giller Prize. His latest book, People Park, is forthcoming from Anansi in July 2012.

Go to Pasha Malla’s Author Page