Monday, March 31, 2008

What inspires you lately?

Cameron Anstee

As a student most of my reading during the academic year is for class, but I've been lucky this semester. I'm in a course taught by Rob Winger on the Canadian long poem around the 1970s. The book list is incredible, including Phyllis Webb's 'Naked Poems', Books 3 & 4 of bpNichol's 'Martyrology, and John Thompson's 'Stilt Jack' as a few highlights.

Carleton also has a fantastic creative writing community (headed by Professor Collett Tracey and her student run little magazine In/Words). Seeing the output and development of the community breeds a productive sort of competitive spirit. It's remarkable to be able to read the work of someone you respect more or less as it is being produced, and then sit down and talk poetry over a beer.

Last but not least, my beautiful girlfriend. On a personal level of course, but she is also a photographer and film student, so she offers me the opportunity to draw from non-literary sources.

I guess those are boring answers (books, peers, love) but I don't feel I ever need to look too far for inspiration."

Cameron is presently completing his B.A. in English Literature at Carleton University, where he will be pursuing an M.A. this coming fall. He is a contributing editor at In/Words and has printed a handful of chapbooks.

Damien Bailey

"Used to be a mix of menacing pressures: time, death, calamities, societal recognition, vengeance.

Now it’s morphine, a legal, chronic prescription serving as a weight blaster–not the fact that I’ve lost 30 some pounds and enter places through the floor and door interstice, but, rather, the morphine’s ability to remove weight carried from the burdens of life. These odd hours of respite are an encouraging vitality; they bring forth a fresh artistic and intellectual approach rather than a wading writing. I can temporarily reject the constraints, the hell, of linear time, without having to fight–even grab a few shiny things along the way and not feel guilty from dictating philosophies.

This is my new freedom and inspiration . . . that is until I’m boxed in detox. Inspiration always has a price."

Damien is working on King Boyle’s Revenge, his six-year-in-the-making poetic novella; he hopes to have it finished before the end of the third millennium. He’s also completing a few scholarly degrees (one in Ethics, one in History) and is currently the emotional CEO of Sorrowland Press, which can be found in the jungle of the internet. He carries a dead man (Che), a dead rabbit (Poe), a dead foetus (Bruno), 2 kids, 2 dogs, and 1 wife that just won’t quit.

Jamie Bradley

“I think that, for me at least, the "inspiration" for a poem is also the closest I can come to asserting why to write a poem at all: the alternative is entropy; the slide into resignation and complacency that you can mark in the eyes of so many (they seem to rush, and no one beautiful should ever hurry). My response is to keep considering and lusting after ideas, people, etc., committing to any, all, and none of them as the mood takes me. Poems serve as spells to not only call these into being, but also to assemble them in odd and gravity defying ways that continue the distraction, both for me and hopefully for the reader. This isn't to label the experience as slight or irrelevant; beauty is the closest thing I can identify to freedom, and there is nothing so easy to take and hard to give away.

In specific terms: I'm currently taken with Frank O'Hara, Anne Carson and Alban Berg; Turner, Balthus and Thomas Heatherwick; Cormac McCarthy, Duras, and Bob Dylan."

Jamie will be reading at the A B Series along with Lindsay Foran and H. Masud Taj on Saturday, April 5 at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Arts Building, Room 509, 7pm

Lindsay Foran

"That's a really tough question, surprisingly! I am always inspired by poetry that I read whether it be something I'm studying in class or a poem I happen to see when picking up a journal. I can sometimes be inspired by movies or songs that touch me in a certain way. Most recently Margaret Laurence's "A Bird in the House" has really inspired me to focus on my writing again. I connected with the young female aspiring writing as I remember what it was like to be ten or so and just wanting to write and make up stories. Besides all of that, I love to just watch the world and people interract. Everyone has something to say, a story to tell. My goal is to put those into words by way of poems or short stories."

Lindsay is currently completing her final semester as an undergrad at the University of Ottawa She has been published in and the Bywords Quarterly Journal as well as the online journal Ydgrasil. She is also the associate editor of the University of Ottawa literary journal Ottawa Arts Review.

Greg Frankson

"The story of Robert Sutherland inspires me. He was the country's first known university graduate of colour and the first Black person called to the bar of Upper Canada. I became involved in his story as a Queen's student, and it's been ten years since we successfully lobbied the university to name a room on campus after him, but he reminds me that even in tough times, when you're not supposed to be able to do anything of note, strong and talented people rise above and can do what most thought was impossible. I'm thinking about that these days as I push forward, trying to become a better writer, a better performer, a better person ..."

Greg is a spoken word artist, newspaper columnist, facilitator, poetry organizer and arts educator. He’s been performing poetry for the last three years.

Jeff Fry

“Firstly, although there's no other word that i know of to cover "inspiration," unfortunately, the word is misleading in how i experience or understand inspiration in writing or art generally. i've read other writers, including Eliot, discussing this - that's it not as if we are inspired from some external source exactly; instead, inspiration is more like a breakdown of inner barriers that allow a certain emotion and expression out. this makes perfect sense in my experience, where in periods where i repress my feelings the most - consciously or unconsciously - i also writing the least, if anything at all. on the hand, when i feel most in touch with my emotional life, i am writing most. that's how i feel about inspiration generally.

specifically for me, right now, i'm inspired by the anxiety of ageing and the anxiety of having or not having lovers - as this powerfully relates to youth. there are other things and other elements relating to this theme, but this is the most concise answer to the question. i find that Anne Sexton's book 'Love Poems' is very suiting as a poetic reference b/c of the hugely sexual nature of the work and its darkness, death and ageing dealing.”

Jeff ‘s poems have appeared in and the Bywords Quarterly Journal. He’s a graduate student.

Danielle K.L. Grégoire

“Too funny. I just wrote a poem on inspiration last night! I had to get out of bed to write it. I was inspired by the fact that inspiration is internal, and if we are ready to be inspired we can be inspired by anything from a solo raindrop, to a piece of toast, to a well written book, or performance...sometimes it's the shitty stuff that inspires us to do something.

The poem I wrote is about a girl who told me that I was her inspiration. She was a student, and I wasn't always going to be around so I told her that it wasn't me, but her and she would have found inspiration in someone else because she is a strong and intelligent human being.”

Danielle is a teacher, a drummer, a spoken word enthusiast, the co-director emeritus and door girl of The Capital Poetry Collective, and former radio host of CHUO 89.1's MoodSwings. She’s also recently initiated poetry slams and workshops in the Ottawa Valley.

Mark Sokolowski

“One thing that has gotten me writing lately has been the philosophical debate around the nature of time. I'm engorged in a Metaphysics course right now, and while I should be churning out essays critiquing arguments and logic, all I can think of are the implications of Time: does time exist independently of myself and everyone else? If I cease to be, does time cease as well, or is it some ever flowing stream, surging through the ever expanding boundaries of space? Is there such thing as the present, and as I write a poem, does it recede further and further into the past as I write it? And does reading something haul out of annals of time and into the present, bringing it to life once again?

Another thing that's been gripping me is the issue of Canadian bilingualism that just doesn't seem to go away. There's this Quebec writer, Victor Lévy-Beaulieu, that's been railing against the state of the French language in la belle provence, in particular Montreal and how the Québécois are once again being threatened with assimilation due to the growing presence of English. As usual, I don't buy his histrionics (he's burning his books as an act of protest), but the sentiment is inspiring. Now, however Trudeauesque this sounds, maybe the bilingualism isn't such a bad thing. I think it can be used beautifully in writing, not just to highlight linguistic and political tensions, but to be used as an aesthetic device, something I've been trying to incorporate into my own writing.

VLB has also made me think and write about issues regarding Canadian Anglophone culture, and how most Anglos would probably not react with an iota of the passion for heritage and culture that French Canadians typically do. Most English Canadians are blind to their literary history other than the token signposts (Moodie, Laurence, Atwood, Cohen). A huge portion of English Canadian literature, the works that have paved the way for literature and publishing in Canada as we know it now, are unavailable, out of print. This is something we should genuinely be pissed off about, up in arms, demanding why our tradition is disappearing. But does anybody care, let alone know?”

Mark is a second year English student at Carleton University. He dabbles in editorial duties for both In/Words and Blank Page Magazine. Irving Layton, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac can be found in his book collection.

Sean Zio

“Lately, I have been most inspired when I am in a group of people and each person is reading what he or she wrote on the same topic and, inevitably, each one of us writes something profoundly original. In that moment I remember how diverse and creative we are as individuals and I am inspired to continue creating without the fear of doing something like everybody else.”

A dying prophet blessed Sean Zio a crackpot poet. He spends the remainder of his days fulfilling the prophecy.

[Note-this is the second in my series of roundup-type interviews with Ottawa's poets. thanks to all of the above for responding. i'd love to hear your comments and other responses - amanda at storm dot ca ]

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