NOW Digital Residency: Ontario's Best Books
As part of this month’s Ontario’s Best Books Digital Residency, we’re profiling some of this province’s prominent authors. See all of the profiles here.
What’s your most recent written work about?
Class Clown is a collection of loosely connected poems that catch up with a former Gen-X class clown in middle age. Unlucky in love and hating his job, he seems like a total loser except for one thing: he’s also a closet poet, which makes for an unexpected climax. A 1980s’ teen movie in crude, rudimentary verse but with a 40-something hero and without the Hollywood ending, this collection makes the case for poetry that is “light but not merely light, serious but not merely serious.”
Do you have anything specific you do for your writing process?
My brother used to say, “Want to lose a hundred pounds of ugly fat?” And I’d say, “Sure.” And he’d say, “Cut off your head.” Writing poetry’s kind of like that too. You have to know when to cut off your head.
Describe one opportunity that improved your life as a writer.
One opportunity that improved my life as a writer was the poetry club in my high school. I was pretty disaffected and disengaged back then so it was the only extra-curricular activity I took part in during high school. I had been writing what I thought of as rock lyrics to songs I hoped to write one day when I learned guitar. But the very cool English teacher who ran the club convinced me they were poems.
What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were first starting out as a writer?
Don’t worry about being good. Instead, be willing to risk being bad. What’s good is often just what’s bad in a fresh new way. If you can’t be good at least be bad in not the same old way.
Do you have any favourite Ontario authors or books?
Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway by Alexandra Oliver. Let the Empire Down by Alexandra Oliver. Eunoia by Christian Bok. Congratulations on Everything by Nathan Whitlock. Lives of the Saints Trilogy by Nino Ricci.
Name a person in your field who you think deserves more attention.
Alexandra Oliver. She’s a poetry genius in the true sense of the word – trust me on this one. She has amazing technical virtuosity but still sounds like a real person talking. She’s smart and sophisticated but also has heart and feeling. She’s funny but deep. She has a panoramic imagination but can also be intimate and personal. She has meanings you feel but can’t easily paraphrase. The one poet Ontario has right now who belongs on the shelf with the best of them.
Visit the NOW Digital Residency: Ontario’s Best Books