PP: Hi Jeremy, it’s been a while. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me here.
JC: It’s always lovely to hear from you, and yes I’d be very happy to do an interview. If I remember correctly, that In/Air chapbook was the first time I’d ever published a poem professionally.
PP:That is cool. Thanks for starting a beautiful connection by pitching a poem.
You had been super-busy with presenting at a Joyce conference for a while and a book, Joyce Writing Disability, came out of that in which you had a paper. Congrats.
What have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how?
JC: David Huebert’s story collection Chemical Valley is really good. David and I actually shared an office for a while when we were both graduate students at Western, so it’s great to see him coming out with such great work. On the non-fiction side, I recently stumbled on Ato Quayson’s Oxford St., Accra, which is a study of the history of one of the main streets in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, talking about everything from its emergence as a center of capital and global trade, to the slogans people paint on their cars.
PP: Ooh, might have to check out the latter. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?
JC: I’m actually caught between two projects right now, and not for the first time. I’m writing another novel right now with the working title of Nostos. It’s a sort of metaphysical, science fiction, stream of consciousness . . . thing. Like most truly interesting books, it’s much better than it sounds.
PP:🙂 I hear that.
JC: The other project is an academic book about literature and pain, called Agony for Others. I find having multiple things on the go at once helps keep me agile, and if nothing else it means that when I have trouble with one thing, I can cog it out while working on the other thing.
PP: Nod, good way to run it. What have you got underway or forthcoming?
JC: At the moment I have a story called “Consolation of the Cat Sitter” forthcoming in PRISM International and a poem called “i is another” forthcoming in Geist. I also came out with a story called “Hearth” in The New Quarterly earlier this year. Lastly, I have a story called “The Man who was God for a Minute” that I’ve been shopping around. Keep an eye out for it!
PP:Will do. What else do you have out?
JC: If anyone wants to read my fiction, the easiest way to do that is in my short story collection Beneath the Statue, which came out in 2020. It’s clearly the most important and significant thing to have happened that year, so you’ve probably already heard of it. It’s made up of stories I wrote over the span of about ten years and is, in my opinion, pretty darn alright.
PP:Awesome. And on Kindle, it’s under $5. You can’t buy a coffee for that I understand. Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop?
JC: I don’t really use Twitter so much anymore since I find it a bit too soul-corroding for my taste, but my account there is @JRColangelo. I also keep my Goodreads page updated, so if you want to follow my work that place is as good as any.
PP: Super. Thanks for your time. Keep adding your voice to the world.
PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? Add a why or how for the shoutout.
SB: I’ll try to be brief & to the point: I’ve just finished reading an interesting book of Donato Mancini’s, as well as the real treasure-trove chapbook rob mclennan’s just done for one of my very favourite poets, Monty Reid. In fact, to rejig Ginsberg’s line, I’d say “the best Canadian poets of my generation” are Monty, Sharon Thesen, Patrick Friesen & Guy Birchard. I’m also currently reading a totally fascinating bio of Marcel Duchamp, & two A’murican friends’ new poetry books, just released—Hank Lazer’s & Michael Rothenberg’s.
PP: I enjoy Mancini and Reid’s poetry as well. I haven’t read enough Sharon Thesen. I should get back to her. What’s your life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?
SB: Lots of reading (as always), writing, & trying to avoid getting Covid a second time (boosted, so only mild symptoms, fortunately), & wanting to travel!
PP: Oy, yeh yoy. Sorry to hear Covid caught you. You have brave travel dreams. I’m happy to stay holed up forever to avoid it. Mailbox is a major expedition.
What have you got underway or forthcoming? Anything you can tell?
SB: I’m working on a new sequence that might possibly become another book length serial poem. Here’s the title & gist/blurb: SongBu®st: “Breaking into song, or breaking it apart? Maybe a bit of both. Simultaneously a celebration & a send up of iconic pop culture lyrics.”
PP:Cool. What work can people read?
SB: There are quite a few things if people want to scroll around my site, clicking on the various listed books: StephenBett.com
PP: Any other social media urls or projects you’d like to plug?
SB: Since 2018: A new book coming out later in 2022 with Chax Press (Broken Glosa), with 68 glosa poems riffing on 68 poets who have long been important to me; a book came out this past March (Lift Off, Blazevox Books, 2022); & in 2018, the book Back Principles (Blazevox Books), & also 2018, a chapbook, Shall We Dance That One Around Again? (Finishing Line Press); I have a 29 minute video reading from my upcoming book, Broken Glosa: an alphabet book of post avant glosa: Stephen Bett // Reading from Broken Glosa – YouTube (posted by Ragged Lion Press in London, UK); & of course my site: StephenBett.com
PP:Wow, super busy brainworks. Thanks for your time and for your patience of waiting for this to get posted.
Mary Lee Bragg published the novel Shooting Angels in 2004, and has had poetry and short fiction in literary magazines and ezines in Canada and the United States. Her poetry chapbook Winter Music won the Tree Chapbook contest in 2013. Her first full collection of poetry, The Landscape That Isn’t There, was short-listed for the Archibald Lampman poetry award in 2019.
PP:So, Mary Lee, what’s lit you up in lit lately?
MLB: What have I read lately? Last year I read Emma Donoghue’s “The Pull of the Stars”. When I got to the end, I turned to the beginning and read the book through again. I often re-read books, but rarely do it immediately. In this case, I felt so drawn into a fictional world that I just couldn’t leave it. My feeling for this book may be because I read it during pandemic lockdown. The Pull of the Stars is about a nurse in a maternity hospital in Dublin in 1918, coping with the influenza epidemic and the aftershocks of the Easter Rebellion. I think I’m in love with Nurse Power.
PP:What’s life’s focus there, literary or otherwise?
MLB: I read a lot, mostly fiction, but also history and poetry. I spent many years on big writing projects, but now I’m trying to be more open and spontaneous, which means working in shorter forms. My poetry seems to be heading to creative non-fiction.
PP: What’s underway now?
MLB: A chaotic manuscript that doesn’t have a focus or theme, but which I am trying to justify by calling it open and spontaneous.
PP:Hah, I misread that as opera, not open. (Perhaps a new direction?)
The Google results were interesting: I had to get to page two before I hit the wedding of Mary Friend and Lee Hunter. The first page and a half were all me, and almost all about The Landscape That Isn’t There.
PP:My top hit for you is your reading from your book on the Eh Poetry Podcast.And for your book at GoodReadswhere it has a 4.5 star out of 5.
MLB: The centre of Landscape is the section titled “Problems of the Heart,” containing a series of poems that I wrote while I was diagnosed, treated, and operated on for congestive heart failure.
It’s certain that without open heart surgery in December 2017 I would not have lived past January 2018. So, every day and year since then has been overtime for me — I feel like I’m no longer playing the game in regular season any more. At the same time, I feel as if the events of the past few years — political chaos and war nested within a pandemic nested within climate change — make my experience irrelevant to everyone except me. Earth-shattering as it was to go to the edge of the abyss, put my toes over and look down, most people have bigger things on their minds. I feel I need to work hard to say anything useful to people who live in this world now.
So far the best I’ve come up with is: There is no reason for existence, but there are compensations. For me music and literature are two of the big compensations.
PP: That is an astute way to put it.
MLB: About music: I started taking music lessons ten years ago, to catch up to where I was as a teenager. Now I play every day (I must confess, I don’t write every day.) In March 2020 at the beginning of the first lockdown, I was learning the Gnossiennes by Eric Satie. I undertook to play the first five Gnossiennes every day that the pandemic lasted. I liked the dreamy, aimless music — what Satie called “musique d’ammeublement” — and thought it would be a suitable daily meditation for a few months of monkish contemplation. I kept it up for two years, and still play the Gnossiennes when I want to relax. My husband claims to like to hear me play.
PP:Wow, 5 in a day is a lot of playing. My husband also likes to play those Satie pieces on the piano.They are beautiful pieces.
Thanks for your time. May your music and your literature be amply rewarding for these next 10 years of Covid-life.
Susan Glickman is an artist of words and brush. She paints, edits, teaches and writes many genres: fiction, essays of literary history, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry. She has won a whack of awards for her writing. (I can’t believe her fabulous collection from Vehicule The Smooth Yarrow is already a decade ago. Time to reread.)
PP: Susan, what have you read lately that lit you up?
SG: In addition to my typical diet of poetry (recently a lot of Jane Hirshfield as well as Dionne Brand, Dorianne Lux, and John Steffler), and historical fiction such as Lauren Groff’s magnificent novel Matrix, I have been reading a fair bit of sci-fi and sci-fact. The former includes a deep dive into Ursula Le Guin as well as more contemporary stuff like Emily St. John Mandel’sSea of Tranquility, the fabulous time-travel novels of Connie Willis, and Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, the latter inspiring books such as Sy Montgomery’sThe Soul of an Octopus, Charles Foster’s Being a Beast, and Carl Safina’s Becoming Wild.
PP: Well, my reading list just got a longer. Those last two in particular. I’ve heard very good things about Sea of Tranquility and The Soul of an Octopus was great. Can you add a why or how for the shoutout?
SG: I’m overcome with grief at how humanity has abused this planet. I am seeking a better understanding of other creatures as well as paradigms of alternate ways to live.
PP: That makes sense. That consciousness is in your poetry. More need to feel that desire to learn and change. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?
SG: In February of 2022, a book of my selected essays entitled Artful Flight came out with Porcupine’s Quill.
PP:Congratulations! That’s fabulous.
SG: I was amazed that they would want to publish such a thing and then rendered speechless at its exquisite production. Putting it together required me to review a lifetime of fugitive prose and reduce over 500 pages to around 225.
PP: Wow.That’s a job!How did that go?
SG: Editing the book inspired me to return to essay form by writing appreciations of things that I love; a good way to survive a dark time! Subjects range from pencils to lichen to tea to octopuses. The working title of the project is The Sweet Particulars. It is really a kind of exploded autobiography since nobody else would like the same weird collection of stuff as I do and there are random personal anecdotes scattered throughout.
I should add that I am illustrating all the essays myself. Before the pandemic I attended three years of full-time art classes at Central Technical school in Toronto, so my focus these days is split between writing and visual art. Here are a couple of oil paintings for your blog, in case you want examples: one still life, and a portrait of my son Jesse in his music studio (sorry the latter is tilted; used my camera phone in the studio).
PP: Congratulations again. Are there other things underway or forthcoming? Anything you can tell?
SG: I have a new book of poetry coming out from Signal Editions of Véhicule Press, in 2023. Cathedral/Grove will be my eighth book with them, coming out forty years after my first, Complicity.
PP: Wow, awesome. What is it like?
SG: It is by far my longest and most ambitious collection of poems, addressing the tension between culture and nature in the West as seen from the outsider perspective of an Ashkenazi Jewish woman.
In a similar vein, I was recently interviewed about Esther Brandeau, the protagonist of my novel The Tale-Teller (Cormorant, 2012), for a forthcoming film by director Len Pearl about the history of the Jews in Canada.
PP:That’s an exciting development. Could you point to where there’s work can people grab now?
PP: In addition to my seven books of poetry with Véhicule, the most recent being What We Carry (2019), I have also published four novels for adults including The Tale-Teller, the “Lunch Bunch” trilogy of early chapter books for children, Artful Flight (the book of essays I mentioned above) and The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape.
One section of Cathedral/Grove, “Survival Kit” – a group of prose poems about tools, with accompanying drawings – came out in The New Quarterly issue 153 (Winter 2020), and lots of other poems are scattered all over the place in publications from Riddle Fence to Prairie Fire to The Malahat Review. Several essays from the work in progress have been published as well; one that might interest your readers, about my relationship with American poet Denise Levertov, is coming out in the autumn 2022 Queen’s Quarterly.
PP: That’s wonderful to hear. One last question: Is there any author site, social media urls or things you’d like to plug?
SG: I maintain a website, as one is encouraged to do these days, at www.susanglickman.com. I have been having a bit of trouble with it since the WordPress theme I composed it in has expired and the font has gotten weird and unpredictable. Maybe one day I will redo it properly, but for now that’s where you can find more stuff about me than you will ever need to know.
Deborah-Anne Tunney has been gaining steam on the publishing from sinceWhere There’s Fire, 2013. The View from the Lane was her short story collection of 2014 which launched at Cube Gallery in Hintonburg. A really chic affair. She put out a novel in 2019 that I somehow missed seeing, Winter Willow. And A Different Wolf, her poetry collection of 2020, won the Lampman Award. I’m reading the latter at the moment. We met somewhere around 2008 at the Ruby Tuesdays workshop group.
PP:So, busy lady, what have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how?
DAT: I am finding, more and more, that reading is becoming rereading. I am amazed by how different a novel, collection of short stories or poetry can seem when you read it at different points in your life. The era I studied and felt the most affinity with was early twentieth century, in particular James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. I have revisited the work of both of these writers during the pandemic and have found much to relate to in their post World War I angst.
PP: Nod, I find myself rereading more as well.Back to Marucs Aurelius and R. Kolewe for me.Any new titles to advise?
DAT: Of new work, I have been particularly impressed by the bookNo One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood. Although at times I found it frustrating I was ultimately left overwhelmed by the beauty of the language and tenderness of the emotion. Hers is a brilliant mind, restless and imaginative.
Another book, completely different from the Lockwood book, but also contemplative so it comes across as powerfully real, is Tove Ditlevsen’s,The Copenhagen Trilogy. I was struck by its veracity and her gift for making us care for the characters in this recollection of her early life.
An advantage of being part of the Ruby Tuesday’s poetry group is that often you get to read work before it is published, and last year four of the Rubies published either collections or chapbooks.
DAT: Jacqueline Bourque’s Repointing the Bricks, from Mansfield Press, which gives expression to her quiet and yet deeply felt emotive response to the people in her family, to the death of a much-loved niece, to solitude itself, left me amazed by the strength of her poetic vision.
I found Jean Van Loon’s Nuclear Family, from McGill-Queen’s Press, to be a profound work of memory, translated for the reader by a formidable intelligence. Reading the book in its totality had the effect of a Molotov cocktail – devastating, and impossible to forget.
Laurie Koensgen’s two chapbooks, headlonging and Blue Moon, Orange Begonias, both display the consuming grace of her language and its precision, its still and accurate beauty, which is indicative of her work generally.
And Susan Atkinson’s The Birthday Party, the Mariachi Player and the Tourist with its passion and humanity augments and continues the brillance of her 2020 book, The Marta Poems.
On the horizon are other books by Rubies which I can’t wait to read. In November, Frances Boyle’s collection entitled Openwork and Limestone will be coming out from Frontenac Press.
Having read some of the poems during our meetings and knowing Frances’s gift for capturing the essence and heart of complex thoughts and emotions in the richest poetic language, I know this will be an amazing collection, one not to be missed.
Also Sneha Madhaven-Reese’s second collection is forthcoming from Brick and again, having the great honour of reading some of the poems in this upcoming collection, it will be a beautiful and unforgettable book.
Claudia Radmore’s book, Pink Hibiscus: Poems of the South Pacific, from Édition des petite nuages, will be available soon. These rich poems were born from Claudia’s time in the South Pacific and, having read some of them, I know they will allow the reader to experience the beauty, the tranquility and wonder of her life there.
PP: Oh my gosh, so much to look forward to. I’m so out of touch. I didn’t know about Susan’s, Sneha’s or Claudia’s newest.
What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?
DAT: I was not one of those lucky writers who was able to create without hesitation during the pandemic. It seemed to have paralyzed me, so that I was a deer in headlights wondering what fresh hell was going to befall us, and of course since the pandemic there have been a few fresh hells to deal with.
PP: Yup.I stopped dead too for quite a few months.What could you do?
DAT: I found at the beginning of the pandemic that I was more able to paint, and I completed three paintings in about three months, which is unusual for me. It often takes years to complete a canvas because I let it sit for long periods of time between painting sessions, until I am finally driven to finish.
PP:Amazing. I want to see them. Love your paintings.
DAT: And I currently have three writing projects at different stages of completion – one is a longer piece about a woman who leaves Canada to live in Ireland in the 1960s, a collection of short stories, entitled At the Edge of the Forest, Close to Home, and a collection of poems I’ve come to think of as my ‘yard’ poems.
PP:Cool, is that what’s forthcoming?
DAT: I hope so. I’ve noticed over the years that often my poems involve a yard, be it the yard out the back windows of my current home, the yard of the house where I grew up, or just the general concept of yard. It seems to me that so much of what will happen to us can be mirrored there – the way a day will move across the sky, through the trees and bushes, or the way a season affects everything in the yard, as well as how years will bring so much change, birth and death.
Ultimately, I had a file of about 160 poems in various stages of completion, some I wanted to work on and others which were not as successful. So I am working on reducing that number down to those poems that are closer to doing what I want them to do.
Last year I worked with Isabel Huggan on a collection of short stories and that manuscript is now out with a few publishers for their consideration. Some of the stories in that manuscript have been published or will be shortly – notably in The New Quarterly, Threepenny Review, Event, South Carolina Review, Exile, among others. Unlike my first collection these stories are not linked, or not deliberately linked. I did see themes emerging, such as what it is like to be female and to have grown up when and where I did. I’m hoping of course that there will be something of universal interest which can be intuited from the work and give it resonance beyond the personal.
PP: Wow, amazing. (Am I saying amazing too much.) Wonderful to see you producing and putting works out there for others to see.Your first collection of poetry, A Different Wolf, used Alfred Hitchcock’s work and life as it’s topic. Why did you decide to make that the focus of your collection?
DAT: I have two answers for this question. Years ago, my friend Jean Van Loon recommended to Lise Rochefort that I be part of the Ruby Tuesdays poetry group and at the time I was concentrating on writing short stories and had been for years, while working through Humber School for Writers. This is not to say I didn’t write poetry, and it was through poetry that I started writing as a young teenager (a common entry point), but my poetry always seemed so personal and not to be shared.
Right around this time when I was watching Vertigo, I wrote the line “I understand that view out of the rear window of the De Soto” and ended up writing a poem about Vertigo. I was working with my mentor, Isabel Huggan, at Humber on the collection of short stories that became my first published book, The View from the Lane. I shared the poem with Isabel, and she said (I remember her words clearly) “Brilliant. You should write a book.” So when I had the offer from Lise to join Rubies I thought I could concentrate on Hitchcock. I suppose I thought that would help make the work a little less personal, but that proved wrong because the collection ultimately used my life as its foundation as much as it used the character of Hitchcock.
The other answer to that question is Hitchcock was at the height of his creative power in the 1960s and that was the time I was starting to move out into the world from the closed and insular space of my childhood. There were so many assumptions in Hitchcock’s vision – about the way women should be and the idea of masculinity, mysteries to my young mind. His female characters were always complex and often the engine of the plot (perhaps much of the depth of these characters can be attributed to his listening to, and respect for, his wife, Alma, the person who was often responsible for editing his scripts, although uncredited).
A lesser artist would put women in a more passive role, so that they would not have full representation. Instead the characters in relation to the plot create a sort of dialogue with the culture and allows us to uncover some of the assumptions that are at the heart of gender definition in that era. In this way, I believe Hitchcock gave us a sort of artefact that we can use to explore and examine biases implicit in the culture at large, biases that to a lesser degree have remained. This was always what interested me in his work – to understand the idea of feminity as a construct created by the demands of an era, and how that role of being female can hinder or even benefit a character as she attempts (and maybe even realises) self-actualization. It was this push and pull that fascinated me, even when I was quite young, when I didn’t quite understand what I was viewing.
PP:Wow, fascinating. It adds another level to reading your poems. Last question: Any advice you would give to someone who would like to use an artist from another discipline as their writing subject.
DAT: Make sure whomever you chose is someone who fascinates you enough that you will not get bored with the topic. In my case, I knew that the questions Hitchcock’s work posed were not easily answered and could take a lot of scrutiny and still not be known or reduced to an answer.
Some people think today that Hithcock had, if not a misogynistic view, than a view that did not allow full personhood of his female characters and I would argue that to reject his work as unenlightened, would be to reject what I see as his true gift, which is the complex interaction of characterization with social norms. To appreciate his relevance one needs to understand the creative impulse at its core, be it his personal impulse, born of a specific psychological bent, mixed with the assumptions of the time. This combination of influences is worthy of examination to fully realise what are the undercurrents and the consequences implicit in his art.
PP:Wow, so much to think about and look forward to. Thank you.