Interview

Some of the questions I was posed for the Girl Guides included these:

Do you have poems about dragons?

Not yet. But magic yes, and poems that play in imagination. I read from a pet radish, shrunken (Book*hug, 2015).

What inspires you to make a poem?

Sometimes when you have no one you can talk to, you can talk to the page. Sometimes there’s something I want to read but no one has written it so I have to and maybe someone else who wants the same thing will find it?

How do you come up with poems?

What I see, or hear or think doesn’t fit together so I try to make myself understand it by working in words. Sometimes I don’t know what I feel until I write and read what I wrote. Sometimes I write what I overhear. Sometimes I play with words and see what happens.

If you write a poem you can say something that you can’t tell anyone yet. And maybe you can read it to someone who has a secret too. Mary Jean Chan is a queer poet in England with a family who don’t believe in gayness and brought her girlfriend home. In Flèche she wrote,

Safe Space (II)

Wash your hands. Rub soap into foamm into lost hands. Focus on the running tap, the way your hands momentarily disappear and you feel safe again. The bathroom is a place you can always rely on, in whatever country, containing a door you are allowed to lock. Lock the door, even though the flat is empty and there are no mouths, no doors that let the wild things through: wild love, wild beauty, wild hurt, wild fear, all those beasts and your inner voice whispering these are the options: fight, flight or freeze.

Mary Jean Chan, Flèche

How long does it take to make a poem?

Sometimes a poem comes out pretty close to done adn sometimes it is with really strong or confused feelings. Then I can put it away for a month or a year or 10 years and then try again to make it better.

What makes something a poem?

That’s an excellent questions and poets ask that a lot. If you say it is a poem, it is. Not every try is perfect or for everyone. I read The Bear from Michael Dennis’ Low Centre of Gravity.

Some poems are stories. Some aren’t. A poem is pattern that isn’t a sculpture, or novel or short story. It can have but doesn’t need rhymes or meaning or words. It’s densely thinking about something. In NationalPoetryMonth you can see there may not even be letters but a picture. For one person a poem may not be a poem but to someone else who feels it, it is a poem.

What use is there writing poems?

If you write a novel maybe thousands of people will read it. If you make a best selling poetry book in Canada, maybe 200 people will buy it. That’s not a lot but every poem is talking to one person at a time.

If one person reads it who feels it, and it helps them move to the next step in the direction, you help. And by writing poems you meet other people who understand better than people who don’t write poems.

You have a place you can make your truth.

I then read from Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Tonguebreaker,

the burning house

When you walk out of the burning house alive
the house will crumble and blow away
and no one but you will remember that it was on fire.
They will say there was never any house there.
they will change the subject.
You will be the only one who smells ash on your skin
using lungs scarred by breathing flame,
and still breathing.
They will call you crazy and oversensitive
when your wounds glow and burn,
when you refuse cosmetic surgery your scars
when there is no technology that would cover them anyway
When you walk out of the burning house
you are the one who carries the gift of ashes
you are the one whose lungs are scarred strong by the memory of flame
the heatburn on your skin will glow when you sense others’ wound
Your skin puckered, hypersensitive to touch:
you will remember, remember, remember.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Tonguebreaker,