Jim Johnstone is the author of The Velocity of Escape (Guernica Editions, 2008) and the editor ofMisunderstandings Magazine. He is a two time winner of the E. J. Pratt Medal and Prize in Poetry and was shortlisted for the 2007 CBC Poetry Award. Recently, his work has appeared in periodicals such as The Antigonish Review, Descant, The Fiddlehead, Grain, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire and Prism International.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
I’ll always remember the moment I read Margaret Atwood’s This Is A Photograph Of Me. I must have found it in an anthology when I was 12 or 13 years old. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
My poetic inspiration comes from my general interests. For example, my poems often incorporate scientific phenomena, and are even prefaced with mathematical formulae. I’ve always been fascinated in the overlap between art and science, and why they are generally seen as separate disciplines.
What is your writing process?
I prefer to write in places where I can relax. In the summer months I spend a lot of time in Northern Ontario, writing on Anstruther Lake. Because I’m a Reproductive Physiologist by trade, this is normally my only focused writing time. The rest of the year I tend to scribble ideas on receipts or in lab books, and get to them when I have a spare moment.
What is your revision/editing process?
I’m always revising and re-writing. I find working with outside editors very rewarding, and essential to producing a finished piece.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
I wrote poetry throughout high school, and was encouraged to do so by nearly all of my English teachers. My first published poem appeared in my high school year book, and while not a good piece, it drove me to keep writing.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
The best advice I ever recieved was to write about what you love. Passion for subject matter always shows. It also helps to read as variously and deeply as you can.