Thursday, February 01, 2018

We Who Are About To Die : Sophie Anne Edwards

Sophie Anne Edwards is a writer, curator and visual artist whose work has been supported by the Ontario Arts Council since 2004. She has a Certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers (Toronto), and a PhD (ABD) in Geography (Queen’s University, Kingston). She is the founder and Artistic/Executive Director of 4elements Living Arts, a community arts organization on Manitoulin Island | Mnidoo Mnising.

Where are you now?
Geographically, I live on Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island) – I’m what you might call an uninvited ‘guest’. I live outside of the little village of Kagawong on the North Channel of Lake Huron, with just a few year-round neighbours, my daughter, and a lot of cat and dog fur. Physically, I am at my desk. Physically/biologically/socially/culturally, I’m ‘round about mid-life (tail of that range). Emotionally, I am in transition (see last sentence). I am also about to be laid-off (see last two sentences). Spiritually, I am in transition (see last three sentences). Creatively, I am taking advantage of the last four sentences.

What are you reading? 
I’m reading the current issue of C Magazine, Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, Food & Drink magazine holiday edition, Stephen Collis’ The Commons, Daphne Marlatt/Betsy Warland’s Two Women in a Birth, a Garfield anthology (it’s like being 12 again). These are books I keep close by: Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Chris Turnbull’s Continua, Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill.  And – the best – my daughter regularly reads me her most recent short story.

What have you discovered lately?
The format of the page (vertical, horizontal, size, spread) dramatically affects the structure of a piece of writing; and the structure in/forms how the work is produced and how the writing works (or doesn’t), and what can and can’t be shown visually.

As a single mom working as the Executive and Artist Director for a very dynamic (read: constantly seeking funding and adequate staffing) organization, I repeatedly forget how to write creatively, remember that I did write, discover pieces I thought I hadn’t written, and can’t find things I have.

Where do you write?
Always in my head. Bits and pieces of paper. Random notebooks. Shopping lists. Envelopes.

But if I want to focus, I often begin writing (as a thinking through process) in my armchair with a notebook, reference materials, books and articles that resonate. This tends to happen on Saturday mornings when it’s quiet and I have some time to myself. If I have something tangible in my notes, I then re/write on the computer which is in the corner of our spare room studio – a large room with wonderful morning light, stuffed full of art materials, books, my daughter’s loom and spinning wheels, fibre, and all of my academic books and papers. The visual texts are easier to work on with pen, paper, scissors and paper (on a long, flat table well heated by the woodstove) both because I enjoy the tactile aspects of paper, art materials and the making (and being warm), and because I possess only a marginally passable command of design programs.

What are you working on? Have you anything forthcoming?
I’m working on a chapter for a forthcoming book on Geo-poetics (edited by Eric Magrane, Linda Russo, Sarah de Leeuw, and Craig Santos Perez). This chapter is provisionally titled, ‘Poking holes in her canoe: writing through the 19th century narrative of Anna Brownell Jameson’ and explores the productive possibilities of creative, hybrid writing as an intervention in settler/colonial narratives. Annalogue, is a book length hybrid text I am working on, in which I use a range of techniques/interventions to unsettle Jameson’s text, representational narratives, and authorial voice. Essentially, this book is a reworking of my unfinished PhD dissertation.

What would you rather be doing?

Today, I’d rather be out snowshoeing if it wasn’t too cold to smile.

Sample from the work-in-progress, Annalogue:

a settler hates a tree

subject to a settlement duty of clearing 5 acres per 100
within the first seven years:
trees cast shade on crops, create a colder climate,
risk of fire,

what she didn’t

sound of Jameson’s voice (the husband). there is not a single word.
tribal specificity.
what bark it was that cured her cough.
how early it was that she found a new doctor.
what exactly it was that ailed her.

what was said when coin was laid in hand
to paddle more quickly.