Mini-Interviews: Czandra

Asking for Trouble by Sandra Stephenson/Czandra (Yarrow Press, Spring 2022). 

Sandra Stephenson publishes poems under the pen name Czandra. Her chapbooks include This side uP  (sitting duck press, 2011), A Few Words  (Melinda Cochrane International, 2014) and radish ~ a singularity  (obvious epiphanies, 2014).

About the poet: Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one first comes across a poet, although it seems to me she could recall exactly. Long ago she related to me what I said and what I was wearing last time she was in town. (I still hadn’t remembered her face.) While living in Western Quebec she forayed into Ottawa for Tree, A B Series, VERSeFest, the small press fair as well as haiku events. A sharp mind and appreciative of poets her enthusiasm is contagious. She curates writers’ residences in Muskoka (Trickledown House in Gravenhurst, Ontario), and one on the Bay of Fundy at Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. 

Book: Asking for Trouble, tanka by Czandra (Shoreline Press/ Yarrow, Spring 2022)

Book description: It’s tanka and kyoka over a 5-year period, which Ann Beer says “show the wide range of things tanka can do”. 

Asking for trouble: tanka by Czandra (Yarrow, March, 2022)


Asking for Trouble is a kyoka and tanka-flavoured collection encompassing all facets of the human experience. The subject matter ranges from the interpersonal to the socio-political, and
the poet’s wry sense of humour is evident throughout as she navigates the “thickening furies” of life.
—Debbie Strange, author of The Language of Loss: Haiku & Tanka Conversations

This is an outstanding collection from a tanka poet writing at the top her game about the extraordinary in the ordinary. Here
are slice of life tanka served with generous helpings of honesty, humour, poignancy and powerful imagery.
—Joanne Morcom, author of Like Ocean Waves: Tanka Poems

It will be easy to lose yourself in these poems, lose your sense of time and place, lose your way in life’s maze, find yourself … like a child/mesmerized by dust/dancing in sunlight/[who] sees her own/vapour trail. Reader beware!
—Claudia Coutu Radmore, author of Fish Spine Picked Clean: Selected Tanka

Here are a couple of poems:

long-horned beetle
without a name
dies in a bottle
waiting for me
to find out if it’s harmful

…. every year
the thistle blooms
the same colour

And a game: 

Czandra asks us, how would you fill in the last two lines of this one?

he says
it’s triathlon day bath,
book and bed –

PP: Favourite moment in making this book?
C: Looking back, was holing up on the second floor of an old house in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia on Queen Street. It had a turret, parquetry floors, and was coated in sticky nicotine. A mix of the fine and the fusty. There was no furniture and no electricity, and it was early spring. I had heat, though it came through ducts that fed two other flats housing heavy smokers, so it was rank. There was water. I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag, and watched dawn filter in the window broken by some housebreaker back in the day, probably, when it was a women’s shelter, when a heavy bar was bolted to the inside of the entry door. 

I wrote by candlelight, slept, and then wrote by the window looking over a half-burned shed in the neighbouring yard. I memorized the parquetry pattern, built by ships’ carpenters, and later reproduced it with oak flooring I got from a friend in Ontario. That was a fine time for me – uncluttered, elemental, shoulder to shoulder with evidence of someone else’s trouble, past and present. 

That spirit is in the poems.  I don’t really ask for trouble, but when I find it, I explore it in the longer view.  The five lines of tanka allows for crystallization, and because it’s tanka, it’s down to earth, not cryptic; attached to seasons of life, tides and the year, to cardinal directions, revolving around a centre that was my song.  It also holds the patina of its lineage, hundreds of years old, written by women and men around the world.  It came so naturally in those 5 years.

PP: What was your aim with the book?
C: My aim with this book is to sing. Complete snatches of small songs in 5 lines, sung in my own frank voice. Tanka fits so well to my thoughts, especially in a time of headlines and tweets, PMs and reworkings of old songs. Steve Luxton calls them “sips”, and they’ve been congratulated on their humour and emotion, both personal and public. I think they accomplish what I hoped for.