Five Questions with… Anakana Schofield

Anakana Schofield, author of Martin John and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to her event October 28. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Your anticipated second novel, Martin John, expands on a character from your first novel, Malarky. Why did you decide to delve deeper into the character of Beirut?

© Tom Delamere

© Tom Delamere

Anakana Schofield: A conflation of circumstances led to this. The first was the cheeky insertion for pure devilment of a single footnote in Malarky that read “See Martin John – a footnote novel” not knowing whether or not I’d ever actually write that novel. I had material that I’d chucked out of Malarky, which initially was a parallel narrative of two mothers and sons.

Then came an urgency to respond to the plethora of reports of clerical sexual abuse during recent years, which I felt left me with no choice but to address some aspect of deviancy, somehow, in fiction.

I guess in both examples “response” was the impetus.

In Malarky, the Beirut/Martin John we met is an endearing man. In Martin John, Martin John has become something other. He departed or reversed (since we met him older in Malarky) very far from where we started with him.

IFOA: In addition to fiction, you also write essays and literary criticism. How are these different forms of writing connected?

Schofield: I’m a reader before I am a writer. My thinking on literature and reading towards what it is I want to write are very much informed by reading and writing criticism. I’m also over interested in very random topics, so essays and the blogs, which I pen for the London Review of Books, help me explore these curiosities. I’m fortunate to have editors who encourage and support my rambles.

IFOA: Your website lists reading, the weather, bird flu and labour history as some of your preoccupations. How do these interests inspire your writing?

Schofield: I suppose they are four quarters of a whole. Basically I have a hearty appetite for what most would consider entirely redundant information. There’s very little that I’m not curious about.

IFOA: If you could meet any author, living or dead, whom would it be?

Schofield, Martin JohnSchofield: I think Rosa Luxemburg. I would like to discuss her cold baths, high consumption of milk and fury with that printer in Paris described in her letters. Then we’d progress to the spindle statistics in Poland and she could educate me on Marxist matters. But mostly it’s the milk that intrigues me. Nietzsche went heavy on the milk. I haven’t checked, but did they both have bad acne?

I think one should be careful of meeting one’s heroes; they may disappoint and sadly are not the only person who ever understood you. They can be tired, short tempered and bad mannered. Apart from the ones who are lovely. All are best met on the page methinks.

For example, if I met Beckett, we would sit next to each other beside a coal shed on uncomfortable chairs and discuss the weather and possibly sigh a great deal. Essentially I don’t need to meet him because I’m perpetually sighing a great deal and have seen plenty coal sheds. Also he’d smoke, which would make me cough, then he’d offer me whiskey and my left kidney wouldn’t like that. It could be very awkward for us.

IFOA: What is the best compliment a reader can give you about your work?

Schofield: To read it or attempt to read it or to read widely. I’ve a few favourite readers: one wrote me a lovely email that said she was going for a walk to think about Our Woman. Another is Bill in Ohio and he took to Google Maps and did all kinds of additional research to understand Malarky. I also rather enjoy the very angry man who wrote invoking the mafia, hookers and my mother in one line. I’m quite acquainted with some of my readers through social media and they are splendidly intelligent, jovial and patiently answer my random queries on things like bad foot pain and weather reports.

Anakana Schofield won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 for her debut novel, Malarky, which was named on 16 Best Books of 2012 lists. She has lived in London and Dublin and presently resides in Vancouver. Schofield has contributed criticism and essays to the London Review of Books BlogThe Guardian,The Irish Times and The Globe and Mail. She presents Martin John, a footnote novel to Malarky that expands on the storyline of a character nicknamed Beirut.

Five Questions with… Mitsuyo Kakuta

Mitsuyo Kakuta, a contributing author to March Was Made of Yarn and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win tickets to her October 24th event. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: How did you become involved in the March Was Made of Yarn project?

© Hisaaki Mihara

© Hisaaki Mihara

Mitsuyo Kakuta: I was asked by an editor of the anthology to write a short story related to the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I heard a part of the royalties would be donated towards post-disaster reconstruction. I liked the idea, so I participated.

IFOA: You’ve said that you wanted to become a writer from an early age. Is there something (or someone) you can attribute this to?

Kakuta: I read a children’s book by Miyoko Matsutani, and that made me think I wanted to write stories like hers. I was seven years old at the time.

IFOA: Several of your books have been adapted for film. What has it been like seeing your stories transported to the big screen?

Kakuta: I believe that the purpose of a film is not just to animate a novel. It is a different medium of expression. Therefore, it is particularly interesting for me to see parts of the film, which are different from my novel. I often even forget that it is based on my own novel.Kakuta, March Was Made of Yarn

IFOA: Do you have a favourite Japanese writer you could recommend to our readers?

Kakuta: I would recommend Mr. Shuichi Yoshida, Ms. Yoko Ogawa and Ms. Kaori Ekuni.

IFOA: What are you working on now?

Kakuta: Now I am working not on an original novel, but on a modern translation of “The Tale of Genji.” It will take me three years to complete the entire project.

 Mitsuyo Kakuta is one of the most popular female novelists active in Japan today. Born in Yokohama in 1967, she graduated from Waseda University’s Faculty of Literature in 1989. She has received numerous literary prizes, including the Naoki Prize, the Chuo Koron Literary Prize and the Renzaburo Shibata Prize. Two of her bestselling novels, The Eighth Day and Pale Moon, have been made into acclaimed films in Japan. She presents a reading from March Was Made of Yarn, which explores the March 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan. Kakuta is one of 22 writers to offer insight into this tragedy.

Five Questions with… Zachariah Wells

Zachariah Wells, author of Sum and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

 Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to his event October 24. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: What got you hooked on poetry?

Zachariah Wells: Probably the vatic vision of Irving Layton. Initially, at least, as a young man. As I’ve aged and altered, I’ve been hooked anew by so many different poets’ peculiar gifts. Wells, Zachariah

IFOA: For you, how does a poem first take shape?

Wells: Usually as a crystallized structure of sense and sound, which, as crystals do, starts to expand and ramify, almost spontaneously.

IFOA: Working for Via Rail, you must have the opportunity to travel the country quite extensively. How does this experience influence your writing?

Wells: I’m not really conscious of how my work has directly influenced my writing. I have written a lot about place and rootlessness. I’m not sure to what extent my choice of jobs has reflected that and to what extent it’s been a thematic spur.

IFOA: Where is your favourite place to write poetry? Wells, Sum

Wells: I have none. I’m more concerned with how an individual poem takes shape than where it happens. And when    you travel as much as I do and have as many occupations as I do, you can’t really be too fond of particular work places.

IFOA: Which poet are you most excited to meet at this year’s Festival?

Wells: Probably Ulrikke S. Gernes. I read and reviewed her first Canadian-published translation many years ago and was really taken with her poetry.

Zachariah Wells is the author of three collections of poetry, several chapbooks, a children’s book and a collection of critical essays. He is also the editor of Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets and The Essential Kenneth Leslie. His poems have been translated into Bosnian and Spanish and adapted into operatic songs by composer Erik Ross. Wells lives in Halifax where he works for VIA Rail as a service attendant and as a freelance writer and editor. He presents his third collection of poems, Sum, which weighs the mutability of the self against the forces of habit, instinct and urge.

Five Questions with… Liz Worth

Liz Worth, author of Amphetamine Heart and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

IFOA: What inspired Amphetamine Heart?

Liz Worth: Amphetamine Heart was written over a three-year period. I wasn’t setting out to write a poetry collection, necessarily; I was just writing poems throughout that time, and a lot of them tended to be autobiographical in some way. Worth, Liz (c) Shawn Nolan
The writing itself is a bit surreal, a bit opaque at times. Even though it’s a personal collection, I was also trying to push my own boundaries with my writing. But the experiences behind the poems were the driving inspiration. I was going through a lot at the time.

I was living in a really terrible apartment. I had developed a lot of anxiety and had trouble sleeping, so I started taking sleeping pills and chasing them with a bottle of wine every night. I was living on artificial rest and was really edgy a lot of the time.

I wasn’t feeling very hopeful for my future, either, and I was also realizing I had a lot of issues from my past that I still had to work through. Eventually I took steps to reconcile a lot of that and turned my whole life around. When I read Amphetamine Heart now I can still feel the heaviness of that time of my life.

IFOA: Talk to us a bit about the connection you make between punk music and poetry in this collection.

Worth: I’ve always been really interested in punk’s literary connections. People like Patti Smith and Lydia Lunch and Exene Cervenka, who are all really important figures in punk’s story, have been really successful in showing they are multitalented as musicians and as writers. Worth, Amphetamine

For me, that connection in Amphetamine Heart was really to draw inspiration from those mentioned above, as well as writers like Kathy Acker and Daniel Jones, who were really writing in this very in-your-face kind of way. I like how punk is about brutal honesty and authenticity. I like how it reinforces the importance of not worrying about what other people think: if it’s the truth, it should be out there.

So that was what I kept reminding myself of with Amphetamine Heart. Even though I put a lot of myself into this book, I wanted it to be honest and unsettling and true to what I had experienced, and was experiencing.

IFOA: Have you ever set your poetry to music?

Worth: I have had two different bands that were more like art projects, and we were setting poetry to music. The most recent project I had like this was called Salt Circle and we were pretty minimal: we had a drum, a keyboard, a theremin and a kalimba, and we tried to really focus on creating an atmosphere for each of our songs.

I’ve also used my theremin in some of my readings throughout the years, though these days I tend to just go up on stage without any instruments. I do have some plans to get back into more adventurous spoken word projects in the future, but I’m waiting to wrap up a couple of other projects first.

IFOA: Name one poet who has made a lasting impression on you.

Worth: Lynn Crosbie. The way she uses words is astounding. I would love to know how her mind works when she’s writing. But it’s not just her style. It’s the things she writes about, the experiences she captures. So often I find myself thinking of her work even if I haven’t read a poem of hers in a while. But I always come back to it eventually. Her books are often revisited.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: “I write best when…”

Worth: I’ve had a good night’s sleep, the coffee is ready and I don’t feel like I have to rush off anywhere any time soon.

Liz Worth is the author of four books, including PostApoc and Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond. Currently, she is working on an occult-inspired vampire novel and is rewriting Twin Peaks scripts as original poetry. Worth presents Amphetamine Heart, a collection of poems channeling punk and heavy metal influences to explore the dark undercurrents that often permeate party culture, as well as No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol, in which she appropriates the original text of Andy Warhol’s a, A Novel and turns each page into a unique poem.

Five Questions with… Deanna Young

Deanna Young, author of House Dreams and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets to her event October 27. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Tell our readers a bit about your third collection of poetry, House Dreams.Young, Deanna (c) Rémi Thériault

Deanna Young: The title refers literally to dreams involving houses. Ever since I can remember, houses have featured prominently in my dreams. I’m in an empty house filled with light, or a house crammed with furniture and shadows. I’m approaching a house that stands alone in a field and am overcome with sadness. I’m climbing stairs to an attic, in search of something I never find, or descending stairs into a basement. When I began assembling poems for this collection, I saw houses everywhere, and that some of the poems were dream based. The psychologist Carl Jung theorized that the house is an archetypal symbol of the self or psyche, and that makes sense to me. The poems inhabit a range of eras in my life and are arranged, roughly, from recent experience to past. They sometimes call to one another across the eras. I’ve recently started referring to the book as a “reverse memoir in verse.”

IFOA: What draws you to poetry as a form?

Deanna Young: I am drawn to the gaps, the leaps, the terrible fear and thrill of the next image. Nothing in life makes sense, nothing is complete, nothing is perfect, nothing can be resolved, not one hundred percent, and poetry admits that, it embraces that mystery and the tragic human struggle toward meaning. It aims for what cannot be said—maybe bravely, maybe foolishly—and is incinerated just before impact. At its most successful, it gets as close to the sun as any earthly thing can. I was recently helping my son practice long division, and so I will say that with poetry (and I mean the real thing here) there is always a remainder. But the remainder is not just at the end of the poem, it must be scattered throughout. I think I am drawn as much to that remainder—the lingering buzz of “that which was meant”—as I am to the near-truth of the near-perfect image or metaphor.

IFOA: How has your work developed or changed since your first collection?

Young, House DreamsDeanna Young: In terms of technique, I hope it has changed dramatically. My first collection was published prematurely (and utterly unedited) when I was 20 years old, and I would be glad if no copies of that slim volume remained in the world; except that the first small murmurings of my voice are there, clearly, and so I try not to be too cruel when I look back at the book. I remind myself that I was young, a mess, and trying to do my best. Thematically, I believe my work has changed very little. So far I keep pacing the same field—trauma, grief, redemption, the soul’s survival.

IFOA: What is the best thing you’ve read in the past six months?

Deanna Young: There are two best things:The Gathering and The Green Road by Anne Enright.

IFOA: What are you working on now?

Deanna Young: I’m working on a book of poetry that is also a gathering of voices.

Deanna Young’s writing has appeared in journals across Canada and in 2013 she received the grand prize in the PRISM international Poetry Contest. She lives in Ottawa where she co-directs the Tree Reading Series. Young presents her third collection of poetry, House Dreams, which was a finalist for the 2015 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. House Dreams is a haunting sample of the life we all live underground, and a view beneath the foundations of the various eras and places that make up one woman’s life story.

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