Gillian Jerome teaches English at the University of British Columbia. Her poems have been published in theColorado Review, Geist, Grain, the Fiddlehead, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, and other journals in the US and Canada. She co-edited a book called Hope in Shadows: Stories from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, published by Arsenal Pulp Press in May 2008.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
I was a dreamy kid and spent time by myself reading and playing in the ravine behind my house. I used to climb up the my favorite crab apple tree and play all kinds of make-believe games. I ate a lot of tart, under-ripe apples and so maybe they caused cosmic visions. Who knows?
How/where do you find inspiration today?
The world at large is a natural source. Our human acts of perception, bringing the outer world inside us, are radical. The idiom and cadences of peoples’ speech. That pulls me in time and time again.
What is your writing process?
This is a funny question for me. I have a big job, a messy house, two children, a partner, and at least one or two book projects on the go at all times. So my process isn’t something I plan. If I’m lucky enough to get uninterrupted time to write, I sit my butt down and go to it. Often I read my way around/into a project or a poem. Sometimes I make mental notes as I’m walking my daughter to school and come home to write them down. Mostly I dream and pay attention to it. I make lists of books I want to read and read them. I collect words and phrases.
What is your revision/editing process?
It’s lengthy most of all. I don’t often share my work so I rely on my ear and work until it’s right: until the lines do on the page what they do in my body. On the rare occasion I get feedback from other writers, and this feedback wrings true, I plunge in.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
Yes, I wrote poetry in high school. It came from an that interior space we all have; for me, it was a desire to express myself in lines and images.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
Dictionaries are great! Here is a list of books on my desk for you to go and buy or borrow: Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart, New Collected Poems by George Oppen, Elegy on Toy Piano by Dean Yong, Selected Poems of Jorge Luis Borges, On the Ground by Fanny Howe, 100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings,Selected Verse by Frederico Garcia Lorca, The Light the Dead See by Frank Stanford, Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg and Poems of Alejandra Pizarnik.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Get a day job. Seriously, poetry doesn’t pay the bills even for the famous poets. Besides, many great poets dedicated themselves to law, medicine, carpentry and other labours. Also, read lots. Ask published poets, teachers, interesting neighbours what they read and go find those books. Carry a notebook with you at all times and right down things people say or phrases that come to you.