Gillian Harding-Russell has taught at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina and through University Extension and the Sociology department. Between 1988 and 1005, she was poetry editor for Event magazine and now works for the Event Reading Service and Manuscript Evaluation and reviews books for a number of journals including Prairie Fire. She has published a chapbook anthology, At the End of the Garden (Green Publications, 1990) and three poetry collections, Candles in my head (Ekstasis Editions, 2001), Vertigo (River Books, 2004), and I Forgot to Tell You (Thistledown Press, 2007). Her poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies as well as many journals.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
No, there was no specific moment that inspired me to write poetry that I remember. I had always loved to read poetry. Also, although I can remember the first poem that I wrote, I cannot remember the impetus as coming from the physical world. I was a troubled adolescent and young adult for various reasons and poetry can be fulfilling.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I derive my inspiration today from my thoughts, reading and all aspects of my experience.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is as follows: I write a poem in pencil in a notebook and revise it to the best of my ability on that sheet. Then over several days I rework the poem on the computer. (The computer, of course, makes the revision process much easier.) Afterwards, I set the poem aside for a few weeks or months and only come back to it later.
What is your revision/editing process?
My revision process: I like to read the poem over for flow, and reduce the verbiage as much as possible since poems derive power from compression, I find. Also, since poetry is an oral tradition, I like to listen for a musical flow or dramatic variation (depending on the poem).
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
No, I did not write poetry in high school. Creative writing was not encouraged so much in highschool when I was young, and so I spent much time with reading on my own or writing essays in English Literature for school. Also I liked to sketch, and my imagination has always been fairly visual, I think.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
There are many good books on writing poetry today, and I am not sure that one is better than another. I do believe that reading poems by poets is the only way to understand the tradition (and I do see that tradition as evolving on a continuum even though there appears to be a break at the beginning of the twentieth century when Walt Whitman introduced free verse). Nevertheless, a book that I find handy is Stephen Adam’s Poetic Designs (Broadview Press). I find the text useful not only for aspiring writers but also for readers and scholars who wish to discover the workings of a particular poem.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Had I been encouraged to write in highschool, I think that the advice I would have liked to hear is to trust yourself and your own sensibility. Do not be concerned with writing a perfect poem in the first draft, just concentrate on getting your impressions on the page. The first brave step, is of course, to write on the blank page and believe that it will grow into a poem.