I am the author of three books of poetry, two children’s books, and the short story collection,When I Always Wanted Something. My second book, In Cannon Cave, was nominated for The Governor General’s Award and The Atlantic Poetry Prize. Six poems from my third book,Late in a Slow Time, were put to music by the composer Chan Ka Nin, in a piece he also calls Late in a Slow Time, and performed at Sound Symposium in Newfoundland, in Halifax and at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. It was also played on the CBC’s program “Two New Hours.” I currently live in Black Point, Nova Scotia and teach poetry at Dalhousie University.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
I began writing poetry when I was very young. I’ve always been drawn to poetry. I don’t know why I felt this pull at such an early age.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I am most often inspired to write after reading poetry. Sometimes fiction or non-fiction will have this effect on me as well. That is why, for me, reading is so important. Sometimes I reread favourite poets to inspire me: Milosz, Elizabeth Bishop, Yehudi Amichai, Anthony Hecht, among others. A non-fiction book I read recently, Honey and Wolves by Susan Brind Morrow, created that space to reflect and write. From personal experience I can say, “If anyone wants to write poetry, then read lots of poetry and inspiring prose.
What is your writing process?
I don’t write everyday. I need the various components of an experience to cook, internally, which takes time. But I need to make space so the writing can happen. By space I mean quiet, and a stretch of uninterrupted time.
What is your revision/editing process?
I write with pen and paper. After I get the first draft down, I type the poem on the computer. I save the first version and print it up. I like to get up early in the morning and look at the poem first thing, often when I’m still in bed. I make changes with pen, then change the version on the computer. I like to memorize the poem and recite it to myself when going to sleep. If there is a line I forget, it often is a weaker line which I’ll address when I return to the poem. I can see flaws more easily when I memorize. I’m not consistent in this practice, but memorization is always effective for me.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
I wrote poems in high school. I wrote poems in grade school.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
What keeps poets writing, at least what keeps me writing, is the desire to write a spectacular poem. If you love poetry, and keep writing, there is always the remote possibility of writing something astonishing. That’s enough of a payoff. As Montaigne says, “Let us disentangle ourselves from those violent traps which pledge us to other things and which distance us from ourselves.” Poetry is a way to do this.