Sunday, January 25, 2015

seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics #11

the eleventh issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics is now online!

Eleventh Issue: Winter 2014/15

Cameron Anstee - Living now In Ottawa: Williams Hawkins at the Margins / Michelle Detorie - The River / Claire Molek - The Valley / Sean Moreland - Cont(r)act: an interview with Mark Goldstein / Chus Pato - In Conversation with Elvira Riveiro (translated from the Galician by Erín Moure) / Andy Weaver - ssalGlass

seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics
comes out as the natural extension of the eight issues of Poetics.ca edited by rob mclennan and Stephen Brockwell. Highlighting the diversity of voice, style, practice and politic, seventeen seconds continues the resolve to provide a forum for dialogue on contemporary poetics, with a focus on Canadian writing. Over the past two decades, the amount of critical writing published in print literary journals on Canadian poetry, specifically, seems to have decreased dramatically, but slowly returned through a number of online journals. seventeen seconds simply wishes to help strengthen the dialogue and the ongoing conversation about writing through publishing new writing, and conversation about new writing. Check out all eleven issues! All previous issues remain on the site.

rob mclennan: editor

roland prevost: founding managing editor

mdesnoyers : design & (re)compiler

Friday, January 23, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Colin Winnette

Colin Winnette is the author of several books. He lives in San Francisco.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
When I wrote my first novel, Revelation, a big part of me thought I might never finish (let alone publish) a novel. I’d worked on a much longer, much worse novel for years and it had spun completely out of control. Several years into writing it, I was a different man than the one who started it, but I couldn’t see that. I only saw the book slipping away from me. When I finally set that novel in a drawer and decided to write some short stories just to remind myself that I could finish something, I didn’t see a new novel popping up. But it did. So, partly out of fear that I was just setting myself up for another massive failure, I thought of a few rules (a writing schedule, a strict 7-chapter structure, a fixed number of central characters) and stuck to them. I was also slowly learning that first novels didn’t have to be long or formally virtuosic to be good. They just had to be what they were. I worked routinely and in a goal-oriented way. And at the end of all that, I had a new novel—surprisingly, one I liked.

My new book, Coyote, is really different from Revelation. Coyote takes place entirely in the mind of its narrator. It’s her voice, her story, her language. She determines the boundaries of the story’s reality. By comparison, Revelation is sprawling (though fairly short). It takes place over 60 years. It details the end of the world. Also, the perspective is really different. There’s far less interiority, if any. You’re watching the characters from the outside as they weather the apocalypse. You don’t get a lot of their thoughts or worries. In that way, the reader is kept at a distance. It’s a quieter book too. Muted. Coyote flares up. They’re both pretty sad books, but in really different ways.

So, the first novel attempt was an important lesson in what not to do, at least for me. Or, more accurately, it taught me about myself as a writer: what works, what feels rights, and where I get in my own way. The second novel was a strict retraining program. I’ve never written in the same way, but having done it that way once fundamentally shifted my sense of what could be done and how I could go about doing it.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
Honestly, I feel like fiction is the most natural thing for words to do. Every sentence is a product of the imagination anyway. We have to struggle to get them anywhere near something like the truth…or reality. And regardless of how accurately you describe something, it has to be processed by the listener, too. You try to generate a picture/feeling in the mind of another human being. Even something like…asking for a glass of water requires that you express something clearly enough to evoke the image of the completed act in the mind of another person. I mean, repetition has made all of this easier. There’s a shorthand for certain things…like water. But still, the other person has to understand what you’re saying and be able to imagine the thing you’re describing before they can act or respond. So…every communicative act is sort of like telling a story. And…it’s fiction because you’re describing something that hasn’t actually happened. Or not yet. Later, after you’ve mastered the skill of making a simple request, asking for a glass of water, you can start manipulating words to achieve a more complex effect, like a lie or a poem.

And I’m not sure I 100% believe in non-fiction as a thing.

But, to answer your question, I feel like fiction was there before I knew what it was.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
No time at all. If I’m writing, I’m starting a writing project. Once I’ve started writing, I’ll start thinking about it and working it out. I spend a lot of time thinking about fiction, about stories, about myself, the people I know, the way we think and act and seem to feel, but the writing project doesn’t start until I’m putting words on the page. And I try to do that every day.

But I’m superstitious about it all. When I was a young writer, I used to take a lot of notes, but nothing ever came of them. The only thing that ever led to finishing a story or a book was actually writing it. It’s sort of like cleaning a house. When I clean, I want to see it through from top to bottom. If I’m just walking around pushing random bits into little piles, I don’t feel like I’m cleaning—I feel like I’m putting off cleaning. Also, if I had an idea for a sentence or something and I wrote it down, it always felt a little cheap or lesser than to try to incorporate it into a story later. I prefer to work in one direction and discover things as a byproduct of writing the story…if that makes sense?

4 - Where does a poem or a story usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

Usually, I have a sense of how long the thing will be from pretty early on. A lot of that has to do with the time I want or have to put into it. There’s always more to tell, but if there’s only one part I’m interested in I’ll focus on that and get it done. I rarely go back and try to add things or make a project longer than by inserting new ideas/chapters. It’s all too Frankenstein.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love doing readings. It’s probably my favorite part of the whole thing. It’s also terrifying and horrible and extremely stressful for me.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Not really, but each book, at least so far, has been the product of my grappling with questions of how to live, how to think, how to deal with suffering and mortality, how to connect to people in the best possible way, how to get out of unproductive or even destructive mental, emotional, and psychological loops. More than “theoretical concerns” or “current questions,” I think my characters are dealing with the slippery question of how to live…and why/if one should live in a particular way, especially in the face of circumstances that directly contradict your understanding of reality. I’m interested in how people make sense of the world, and how they react when their understanding begins to unravel or is called into question.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
It’s changing, as it always has been. As long as we’re using language to communicate, the world needs writers. And by “writers” I mean people who are committed to the process of trying to communicate with words as well as they possibly can. There are a lot of ways to do this. There’s an abundance of text available now. Language continues to grow and adapt and become more complicated. More and more people are writing, in one way or another. As a fiction writer, I honestly think the best I can do is write something that means something to me, something that changes me a little, or changes the air around me, and hope it does the same for other people, for the same reason you bring a friend to a swimming hole or show them a movie you love or take a photo of something with your phone: in one way or another or many, you think it’s special.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
A good editor is an incredible blessing. By “good” I mean someone who gets the project and can help you get it to a point where it is doing all that it possibly can in the most efficient way. The trouble comes when you’ve got two egos approaching the same project from different angles and there’s a lack of active understanding between the two. A bad editor can really muck things up, especially for a young writer. But a good editor is invaluable.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Best is impossible to say, but my boss has a Post-It note in his office that reads, “We’re all faking it. Hackery is a continuum,” which I love. I’m a terribly insecure person, so anything that normalizes my self-doubt is motivating in a weird way. That was another great piece of advice I got. A teacher of mine once told me, “You’re never going to get rid of your self-doubt. But you can figure out ways to keep it in the backseat and away from the steering wheel.”

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to short fiction to novels)? What do you see as the appeal?
It was hard at first because I felt like poetry had to be this whole other thing. I was intimidated, mostly because I hadn’t really found any poetry that I loved, so I wasn’t sure I liked what I thought I was going to have to do, if that makes sense. Anyway, I kept reading and trying until I started to find my people. Then I started to see how I might fit in with them.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Since I’ve been in San Francisco, I’ve noticed a cycle developing. I decide I need to write every day, and block out some regular intervals to do so. I write some junk, some little good things, and suddenly a longer project starts boiling up out of everything. I stick with it and, if I’m lucky, it comes together well and finds a home. Then I ease up. Then self-doubt and anxiety creeps in. Will I ever write again? Will I ever write anything good again? Have I ever written anything good? Oh, god, I’ve written so many terrible things and no one will ever care. Oh, god, I wrote one good thing and everyone is going to hate anything else that isn’t that. Oh, god. Oh, god, I should be writing a little more. Oh, god, I should be writing a lot more. Shit, I better block out some regular intervals and just do it. Oh, god.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Everywhere, really. I read. New things, old things I love or that are difficult. I watch movies. I take walks. I do some readings. I listen to a lot of music. Anything that might knock something loose.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Dust, probably.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I got a wild hair to write a kids’ book, so I’m trying that now. It’s a picture book. It’s been pretty challenging, actually—but part of that is due to the fact that the illustrations are already done and I’m responding to them, rather than the other way around. Also, the illustrations are by the artist Scott Teplin, who’s great and whose work I absolutely love, but they’re very unique illustrations, filled with funny, great, dark details and oddness. They’re really wonderful, but so rich that it’s a real challenge to write a story that does them justice.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
For a very long time, I thought I was going to be a musician. I still play, but not seriously. If I hadn’t left my hometown to study writing, I’m pretty sure I would still be there, playing in bands and making a modest living. I’d probably be smoking by now, too, or trying to quit.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Nothing really. Nothing made me do it. I just wanted to do it. In a very idealized way, at first. Then I started realizing what it would take, at least for me, and it was a little daunting. But at that point, I’d tasted some of the rewards, on a personal level: the frustration and relief, that weird click when things start going the right way, the odd lift when a story is somehow, inexplicably working. The satisfaction of this weird, nebulous job done well. That’s when I started making myself do it. When I realized what it could be like. I’m still making myself do it, in a lot of ways.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I really loved Climates by Andre Maurois. I read it a few weeks ago for the first time. It’s very good, and an absolute pleasure to read. It was a painful book but the experience of reading it was like finishing a glass of water.

The last great film I saw is harder to answer. I really liked Inside Llewyn Davis, though I’m not sure it’s a great film. Part of what I loved about it is the marvelous consistency of the Coen Brothers. They just know what they want and they execute it so flawlessly, it’s remarkable. It’s something I aspire to. Their weird combination of commitment, experimentation, and consistency.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’ve started a new novel that I don’t have much to say about. It’s in early stages. I’m working on the kids’ book I mentioned, which has been fun but challenging. I’m revving up for the release of Coyote this fall, and then the release of Haints Stay next summer (Two Dollar Radio 2015). It’s going to be an intense year.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Monday, January 19, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jennifer Kronovet

Jennifer Kronovet is the author of the poetry collection Awayward. She co-translated The Acrobat, the selected poems of Yiddish writer Celia Dropkin. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in A Public Space, Aufgabe, Best Experimental Writing 2014 (Omnidawn), Bomb, Boston Review, Fence, the PEN Poetry Series, Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics (Black Ocean), and elsewhere. She has taught at Beijing Normal University, Columbia University, and Washington University in St. Louis. A native New Yorker, she currently lives in Guangzhou, China.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
The first book changed my life in lots of little ways. The two best: because Jean Valentine picked my book to be published, I got the chance to meet her. Woohoo!

Another good one: Having the book gave me the chance to teach at a university—there’s nothing I like more than picking books of poetry I love, then getting students to read these books and talk about them with me.

My most recent work feels exactly opposite from my previous work, but it’s not. I can’t escape my head, my head which is continually banging against the same issues of language in different ways. My first book tried to find language to match what happened to my thinking when I was a foreigner. My new manuscript, Loan Words, starts some place different—with facts and theories and quotes about language from the field linguistics, and tries to take those ideas and bring them out into the realm of the lyric.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
My parents were very into this parenting method that proposed it was the parents’ role to reflect their children’s feelings back to them in language. “It seems like you are feeling sad.” “I get that sense that you are very frustrated right now.” “Wow, I can tell you feel proud of what you did today.”

I can’t tell you how annoying I found this practice as a child. My experiences did coincide with the words that my parents put onto them, and yet, the words seemed hollow in comparison, narrower, drained of heat and multi-valence and how a feeling can be itself and its opposite.

The first time I read poetry, in high school, I finally felt like language had the capacity for the complexity of thoughts that are feelings that are nameless. So I guess, thanks mom & dad.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Awayward came out of notes from when I first lived in China, in Beijing. I wanted to try to see this new place without pinning it down into my relationship to it. Then I worked with those notes for years. The linguistics poems, in Loan Words, came fast, I think because I’d been thinking about them for so long before I gave myself permission to write them, to approach my obsession directly, to have facts in poems that are also essays.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I feel, when I start a new project, like I don’t even know what a poem is, what a book is, how anyone ever understands anything anyone writes or says. Writing usually begins in feeling a kind of driven lost-ness that is mostly unpleasant.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I like readings, whether I’m reading or not, mainly because I like having space and time that’s set aside for poetry and socializing, together. And drinking! Damn, I miss a good poetry reading.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Always: How does the language you speak shape the way you think? What falls into the distance between what you think and what you say? I wonder how we are and are not the language we use, the way language uses us.

Recently, I’ve been trying to write about kung fu, which I’ve practiced on and off for a decade. I don’t understand how I can love its violence so much. It’s a question I’m finally writing about.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Now that I’m living in China again, I can’t see this question without thinking about how it might be answered differently in different countries. I’d like to learn how to be an American poet from many of the Chinese poets here and close by in Hong Kong.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

With an editor, you get someone who has to care about your work and treat it with care. That’s essentially all I want, in general.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
When I was in college, I went to hear Lyn Hejinian read at another university, and after asked her to sign my book. She invited everyone who talked to her out for drinks. At the bar, at one point, she said, “If you’re going to write a poem, then write a poem.” Mind blown. I think about what she said often and how if the stress in that sentence is placed on a different word, it changes the meaning entirely. I try to remember what it meant to me then, and compare it to what it means to me now.

I will also say that I will blindly follow any advice Mary Jo Bang gives me, and I’m always glad I did.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to translation)? What do you see as the appeal?

I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to translate the Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin, and work with my co-translators Faith Jones and Samuel Solomon. Dropkin was an iconoclastic, sexual, secular poet writing sometimes grotesque and often brutal poems, taking love to its disturbing limits. In Yiddish. As an immigrant in America. I don’t write like her, and yet, I’ve learned so much from her. That is one of the many appeals of translation—it allows you to apprentice with the dead as you collaborate with the living.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
This is the first time in my life when I have time set aside just for writing, four hours, four times a week. It’s also the first time in about fifteen years I’m not working. (I’m not really allowed to work in China this go around.) I’m nagged by my inner worker bee with the worry that at the end of this time, I might have nothing to show for it, meaning I won’t have money to show for it, so I’m trying to think of different currencies with which to value my time.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I’m learning to just ride those periods out and not push it. Not look for inspiration and wait until I have something to say or something I want to figure out. Or maybe I’m too lazy to look.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
My kids’ hair.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Is it totally embarrassing to say that I am often inspired by NPR?

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I’ll stick to living poets who are important to my life and work: Mary Jo Bang, Elaine Bleakney, Jennifer Chang, Stefania Heim, Brett Fletcher Lauer, Idra Novey, Carl Phillips, and Jeffrey Yang.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done yet?
Learn to sail. Have a long conversation in Mandarin in which I make a joke that actually gets a native speaker to laugh. Learn the knife form in the style of kung fu that I do.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Speech therapist. Women’s self-defense instructor.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Who says I don’t do something else? Or do you mean other arts. I am the worst at other arts. I can’t draw a stick figure, carry a tune, etc. etc. I am interested in words, only, as a vehicle for everything humans are and care about.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I admit to having awful taste in movies. I can’t call them films. I will only watch action adventures. Yup, I’m not going to mention names.

I just started a book I can’t believe I haven’t read before. My friend Greg Purcell recommended it to me.  I think I’m going to love it, because I already do and I’m on the 20th page: Samuel R. Delany’s Babel 17.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I just finished the first draft of a kung fu, sci-fi, mystery novel. I wish I were joking.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Saturday, January 17, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Dilys Leman

Dilys Leman’s first full-length collection of poetry, The Winter Count, was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press  in August 2014 (Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series). Cactus Press published her chapbook, The Lunacy Commission, in 2012 (Jim Johnstone, editor). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Arc, Grain, Prairie Fire and CV2. She is a former winner of Arc’s Diana Brebner Prize (Honorable Mention) and the Prairie Fire Prize for Fiction (First Place), and has written and co-produced plays for the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Originally from Ottawa, Dilys has worked as a teacher, performing arts manager and freelance writer/editor. She lives in Toronto and works in educational research.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first chapbook, The Lunacy Commission (Cactus Press, 2012), came out in a rush, quite unexpectedly. I had stopped writing for a number of years. The chapbook gave me the confidence to keep going – and formed the kernel of my first full-length collection The Winter Count (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014).

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I have vague memories of writing poetry while in high school – I don’t recall the specifics, just a fleeting sense of being in a trance-like state in my bedroom, scribbling away on paper.  It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I began exploring poetry – after taking a creative writing class led by Diana Brebner. I met Anita Lahey, Lesley Buxton and Una McDonnell in that class and we formed a writers group, “The Gang of Four.” I focused mostly on short fiction at the time, and then got side-tracked with writing a play – the hardest thing imaginable – I shredded it. A decade later, the research for that play morphed into “The Lunacy Commission.”

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
It doesn’t take long to start, depending on what you consider the start position to be. I tend to be project-driven, which has meant a lot of reading and research (historical/ archival) before actually sitting down to write. But I’m now allowing myself not to be so obsessed with research, to stop worrying about where the narrative may or should be heading. That said, archival photographs are immensely powerful as writing prompts. So are borrowed lines of poetry. I stay away from the computer as long as I can possibly stand it – and write by hand – very free flow and chaotic. I try to keep things as open-ended as possible because my experience of writing that wretched play (during which time I followed a foolhardy prescribed method) taught me a difficult but useful lesson on how NOT to work. Chaos has its virtues. My first drafts rarely resemble their final shape. I would say that my work comes out of copious free-flow writing followed by extensive erasure. The notes come later, when I have a decent first or second draft. 

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
With The Winter Count, a poem typically began with a voice, a particular character, or with a scrap of found text such as an intriguing entry in a medical report (archival). I was working toward a book, and had a narrative in mind based on historical events and my family history – and so it was a back-and-forth process: writing bits of poems and doing more research, and going back to the bits and looking for connections within the historical record. My process is changing, I think. I’m open to the idea of writing short pieces that may or may not end up together in a larger project, which is wonderfully freeing mentally. The whole book project idea can be daunting when you’re back at the starting gate.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I actually love doing readings, though I haven’t done that many. I have a theatre background, and so the performance aspect of readings is something I enjoy.  

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I’m always asking myself, “Why am I doing this? The world is seemingly falling apart. What can poetry accomplish, and for whom?” I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I take heart from something that C.D. Wright once said: “In my book, poetry is a necessity of life. It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.” I do wish that poetry in Canada played a more dynamic role in public discourse. Imagine what it would be like if Canadians went around quoting poets because they recognized the relevance and power of their words … How do we ever make that happen?  

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

Writers perform different roles, depending on what they have to say and why. But I think we need at least some of them to provide relief from the incessant babble and distractions of life. To calm us down so we can think and feel more deeply than we typically allow ourselves to do. We’re so easily diverted from our true selves, and from others. It’s quite alarming.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I like working with an outside editor. It’s affirming. And it forces me to consider the writing choices I’ve made, and why I made them. And how to look at my work as a reader would, or could.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Years ago, when I was struggling to write a young adult novel (yes, add that to the list), YA novelist Janet Lunn said to me something like this. “There will always be someone more talented and accomplished than you, but no one can ever write your story. It is uniquely your own.” Back then, it was small comfort (I eventually trashed my YA novel, surprise, surprise!). Now, with the publication of The Winter Count, her words ring true. Sounds like the most obvious thing, but easy to forget…

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical/journalistic prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
I write full-time for a living – mostly policy-related work on education and social issues. The experience of moving between, for example, an evidence-based report on early childhood learning in Bangladesh and a poem about a buried river, feels quite wrenching – like I’m operating on two different planets. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll get stuck in transit.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I try to devote the first two hours of my day to poetry – reading, drafting, researching – when my mind is uncluttered. I work at the dining room table because I associate my desk with “real” work. Then I turn off the poetry switch and head into work-writing mode for the next eight or so hours.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Usually I sit with a book of poetry I love. Or with several. I choose books that are in the same “family” as what I’m working on, that occupy a similar world.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Vine-ripe tomatoes.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Historical photography. Environmental science. Medical science. History. Drama.    

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I seek out works that relate to what I’m writing about. Right now, environmental and social histories of Toronto.  Several Toronto poets are important in my life  – as poets, friends, mentors. Anita Lahey, Catherine Graham, Sue MacLeod, Jim Johnstone, Maureen Hynes, to name a few. I am grateful for their encouragement.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Explore Viet Nam.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I don’t know. Maybe something in the performing arts (acting, directing). The world of international development also pulls -- Doctors without Borders.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Initially, because it seemed like it was the only thing I could do relatively well and enjoy.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I loved Michael Redhill’s Consolation. I don’t know about the last great film. Maybe The Year of Living Dangerously

20 - What are you currently working on?
I live in an apartment built over Taddle Creek, and am obsessed with the notion of buried rivers, and how we treat waterways as disposable waste sinks. Lately, I’ve been trolling Toronto’s beleaguered Don River for inspiration – writing linked poems that reference its social and environmental history.

[Dilys Leman reads in Ottawa at The TREE Reading Series with rob mclennan on January 27, 2015]

12 or 20 (second series) questions;