Mini-interview: Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle‘s most recent book is Seeking Shade, a collection of short stories (The Porcupine’s Quill, 2020). Her novella, Tower, with Fish Gotta Swim Editions came out in June 2018. Her poetry collections, Light-carved Passages (Buschek Books, 2014), and This White Nest, (Quattro Books, 2019) will be joined by a third collection this fall.

About the poet: Her prose is tight and her poetry is not prosaic. For example, night water is described as “scattered peels of shine” and in a later poem in This White Nest, there’s the astute phrase “the way you hear voices in noises”. There’s a density paired with lyricism that tickles my various loves of language.

She sets up the admiral goal of trying to collect as many literary rejections in a year as possible and as a consequence of that, and writing excellently, reaps a lot of publication. Frances Boyle is a long-time friend. We workshopped together for a few years and attended the same literary events. Myth and magic, women, agency and forests tend to recur. Her word-control and love of nature seemed akin to haiku in their reach for multiple layers of depth in This White Nest.

Openwork and Limestone (Frontenac House, November, 2022)

Book description:
Openwork and Limestone is a finely-wrought and potent new poetry collection from one of Canada’s most compelling poets. In Frances Boyle’s powerful vision, the rituals of contemporary women are seen through the lens of Celtic warrior queens, and goddesses. The natural and created worlds—as they run, as Boyle says, “through the funnel / of my palms”—are a constant source of awe and woman’s strength. A reverie that allows in the brutality of history and prehistory, as well as the joys. “The unconscious / swimming upward. What won’t stay buried rises / through rocks, rough-ridden and rusty.” Boyle’s Openwork and Limestone turns inward and outward at the same time, telling our multifarious collective human story so that it feels like our own intimate family history.”

This first published in the (now defunct) Þ (Thorn) Literary Magazine:


Can’t you name her? Froth of fear-
sweat rank on her neck. Spears of light
catch the whites of her wild
rolling eyes, that glint off her teeth,
lips pulled back
over the shaft
of a broken bit.

She has, you realize, a woman’s
arms, jewel-adorned
and impassive, yet—oh!
unyielding as climbing vine
they bind you.

Mare’s breath, the Hag’s hands upon your chest.

And, you, rigid among your ropes of sheet,
leave no impression
on the unperturbed
night, its petrified
and momentary membrane.

PP: How is it different from your last poetry collection?
FB: While the new book shares several common themes with my last collection, This White Nest – including women’s lives, nature, family and myth – Openwork and Limestone delves more deeply and deliberately into the ways in which we are affected both by recent familial history, and by ancient forces, the currents that flow beneath our surface lives. Stylistically, I am striving to become ever more conscious of image and cadence, and to play more with fragmented impressions, making intuitive rather than logical connections.
PP: What was your aim with the book?
FB: I wanted my project of exploration – of a life, of family, of relationships – to unfold in a variety of ways: through crawls though deep time and rock (limestone) and through engaging with the work of women’s hands (openwork), with the two linked by vibrant strands of myth, magic and ritual.
PP: What was or will your favourite moment(s) in making this book?
FB: I am still in the deep weeds of editing as I am writing this. I am finding it a difficult process this time, so it is hard to think of any favourite moments – apart from the time when the manuscript will be finalized and at the press. But, thinking back, among my favourite moments was in a wonderful mentorship working with Susan Gillis, where we met weekly to dig deep into the manuscript and the individual poems.