Linda Rogers, Victoria’s Poet Laureate, is a broadcaster, teacher, journalist, poet, novelist and songwriter who grew up in Vancouver, attending University Hill School and UBC. She wanted to go to Oxford but her father thought she should stay home and get married. Luckily, the marriage produced three lovely boys and four spectacular grandchildren. She has won many awards, which is nice, but as much a matter of luck as anything else. In the year 2000 she was Canada’s People’s Poet. She is married to blues mandolinist Rick Van Krugel and they write songs together. Their house looks like the insides of their brains, very cluttered and whimsical. They are really adult children and that is OK with everyone in their family because it is a fun place to be. Her recent books are The Empress Letters and The Third Day Book, novels, and Muscle Memory, poems. The new lyrical rock album Ruin and Beauty by Light Sweet Crude has songs written by her. She has written many other books for children and adults, but lists are boring. Go to her website lrogers.com for lots of info including a photo of her jumping off a mountain in Turkey. Really!
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
Poetry was always in my life. My ancestors were all word people, some of them, like Anthony Trollope and G.M. Hopkins, are famous or moving words around. Others were and are lawyers and theologians. It was a given that I would be a reader and maybe a writer. My first love was Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote A Child’s Garden of Verse. I knew poetry was the job for me, although it took me a while to realise that was a job without reward except for the pleasure of writing and the pleasure writing gives to others! My cash jobs include journalism, royalties and grants, prize money, teaching and song writing.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I find inspiration in human behaviour, some of it touching and beautiful and some so horrific as to be almost beyond words. I have to find the words for those stories because they need to be heard. Always, I look for redemption, the act of grace that will convince me once again that human beings have a right to live on the planet.
In a concrete way, the inspiration OFTEN comes from what I see and hear in the newspapers. However, I have been involved in a really neat project recently. My friend Carol Rae, a visual artist, has become very excited about collage. Since I love the surreal juxtaposition of images in collage, I started to get into that dream reality. This spring (last week of April, which is BC Arts week) we will havbe a show of poetry and collage at the Victoria Community Arts Council Gallery. It is amazing what surfaces from looking at her images. I gave two of them to my teenaged grandchildren yesterday and they wrote shudderingly beautiful poems. I thought it must be time for me to stop writing; they were so crisp and clear. We are planning workshops in high schools and next week we are doing one with some high risk kids from the streets. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with, poems, stories, rap tunes, whatever.
What is your writing process?
I don’t have a process, except that I am working all the time. My fingers fly over the keys and I make a zillion typos. I never learned to type properly, because I didn’t want to be a secretary. I didn’t think my dad’s secretaries had much fun. They all wanted to marry lawyers and at best they got to stay at the office late. Not a good life.
Every day, unless I have to do an interview or reading or have my hair cut, I sit down and work, work, work. I write reviews. I do interviews. I write poems, songs, essays and novels. I judge competitions. Whew. I am tired just thinking about it. The good news is, I love my work and sometimes I get paid. Whopeee.
When I am writing fiction, I live with those characters in my head, so I try to choose people I like, even love!
Sometimes I drag myself away from my computer and make a good meal or go on dates with my spectacular grandchildren, one of whom loves to shop and go to the theatre and art galleries, one of whom loves Heavy Metal ( I like everything about it but the music), one of whom likes to dance, and one who likes to crawl and eat cheerios.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
I was writing poetry as soon as I found hold a pencil. I talked too much and my mother said, “Shut your mouth and write it all down.” When I used too much paper, she told me about Albert Schweitzer, who wrote music and poetry in the jungle where he was a missionary. I then wrote on all our books and the walls, every available surface. Served her right! I haven’t stopped.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
Yes, I read everything: newspapers, google, books, magazines, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Can’t stress that enough. So, GO READ.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
I was lucky enough in high school to know some of the giants of my time—painters Lawren Harris, Gordon Smith and Jack Shadbolt, dancers Margot Fonteyn, poet Earl Birney, pianist Jan Cherniavsky (the poet of the piano) and lots more. All these people had the same philosophy. They respected what they did more than they worshipped ambition. They had great gifts and great respect for others and for their craft. What I heard from all of them was, work hard at what you love. Never think of yourself as more important than the poem. Respect the work of others. Read, read, read. Work, work, work.