Liz Howard: It is a riot of interconnected poems bound in one book. It has no gods or masters and yet simultaneously so many appear. It is about beauty, pleasure, horror, Anishinaabe cosmology, ecology, neuroscience, feminism, Western philosophy, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath and John Keats. It is my profound gift to anyone who chooses to entertain it.
IFOA: How has your upbringing in Northern Ontario influenced your work?
Howard: During my undergraduate studies in cognitive neuroscience, I was always fascinated by the fact that the same brain structure, the hippocampus, is in some way responsible both for a person’s ability to navigate spatially and for the creation and recollection of memories. I have always had this sense that the shape of my interior, memory-based world is that of the boreal forest. It is a filter through which everything passes. It is the framework of my childhood, my adolescence, my absence. The geography, the jack pine, the cedar, the wildlife, the rivers, the lakes are so intricately a part of me even though I now live in Toronto. The work I do is frequently written through the ecology of Northern Ontario but also with an eye to the experience of urbanization. What I have always found compelling is the fact that part of the genetic information within me was also carried within the bodies of ancestors who lived in Ontario well before European contact. Via the machinations of politics and industry I was very nearly a person of First Nations heritage entirely assimilated. My poetry is gesture against being erased.
Howard: Its blissful danger.
IFOA: What are you reading right now?
Howard: Indigena Awry by Marie Annharte Baker, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Titanic by Cecilia Corrigan, Strangeland by Tracey Emin and The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt. I’m also enjoying rereading Lisa Robertson’s prose work in Nilling and Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture.
IFOA: What’s next for you?
Howard: I’m continuing work on a book-length poetic project that aims to rewrite Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha (there is a preview of this work in the current book). I’m writing a catalogue essay for Vasiliki Sifostratoudaki, an exceptional visual and text-based artist working in Europe. There is also a presence forming in my notes and thoughts that may become a larger prose work. I look forward to reigniting the reading series AvantGarden and welcoming you all to our exquisite, peculiar and stimulating evenings.
Liz Howard’s poetry has appeared in Canadian literary journals such as The Capilano Review, The Puritan and Matrix Magazine. Her chapbook Skullambient was a finalist for the 2012 bpNichol Chapbook Award. Howard presents a reading from her debut collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, as part of the McClelland & Stewart Poetry Night on April 9.