Five Questions with… Damian Rogers

Damian Rogers, author of Dear Leader 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 us about your new poetry collection, Dear Leader.Rogers, Damian

Damian Rogers: I wrote Dear Leader over a pretty intense stretch of my life, after my mother had been diagnosed with frontal-lobe dementia and during the years that I decided to start my own family. I’ve always been interested in oppositional forms of consciousness—what I started to call “non-consensual reality” when faced with the solidity of my mother’s delusions—as well as doomed utopian communities, the search for transcendence through group or private worship, occult forms of information, paranoia, conspiracy theories, the attempt to elevate the self through gestures of resistance. My mother raised me to have a rich inner life, and this book explores all of these preoccupations as a way of capturing the atmosphere of disordered thinking. Maybe I was trying to find some beauty in the violence of cognitive failure, to imagine an alternate landscape for my mother to inhabit.

IFOA: When did you first start writing poetry and why?

Rogers: I don’t remember when I started to write poetry. It seems like it was something I always did. My grandmother and my mother were both big fans of poetry and they encouraged me in this direction. My grandmother used to quote bits of Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker around the house and I’d try to write poignant one-liners, earnest clichés that just made my mother laugh. I wrote reams of stuff on notebook paper as an adolescent that I would love to read again—I’m sure it was hilarious—but at some point it all got lost. When I was about 12 years old, I gave an oral report in my English class on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, my favorite poet at the time. It was a little controversial, I think. My mother had photocopied poems she chose for me out of a classic early-70s anthology called From Beowulf to Beatles and I would carry these around in a folder, I loved them so much. When I went to university at 17, the first thing I did was start taking writing workshops and I basically never stopped.

IFOA: How has your writing process developed and changed?

Rogers: It took me a long time to find the confidence to be honest. I’ll spend the rest of my life struggling to be better.

IFOA: Who are some favourite poets you can recommend to our readers?Rogers, Dear Leader

Rogers: I love the poet Hoa Nguyen, who has been living in Toronto for about four years now. She has a very clear vision of who she is as a poet within the context of her own poetic lineage that I find inspiring. Wave Books recently published a selection of her early work called Red Juice; they also published her most recent collection, As Long As Trees Last. Her poems have such a distinct, individual life force in them. Claudia Rankine’s most recent book, Citizen, blew me away. I think Matthea Harvey has a magical mind, and I especially love the work she did with miniatures and erasure in her last book, If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? There are these great American women poets with astonishing bodies of work, like Joanne Kyger and Alice Notley, Anne Waldman and Bernadette Mayer, Eileen Myles. The Indigenous Canadian writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is doing beautiful genre-crossing work that is challenging and fierce. Suzanne Buffam is wonderful, sharp, wry. I’ve been reading Baudelaire’s essays over and over for a writing project of my own, so he’s on my desk all the time. Shane Book’s Congotronic is fantastic. I love Robin Blaser, Jerome Rothenberg. Sina Queyras and Karen Solie. I’m all over the place these days with my reading.

IFOA: What’s next for you?

Rogers: I’m currently doing research for a memoir about my mother. I’m also working on my next collection of poetry. I think the less said about unfinished work the better.

Damian Rogers is from the Detroit area and now lives in Toronto, where she works as poetry editor of House of Anansi Press, poetry editor of The Walrus and as creative director of Poetry in Voice, a national recitation contest for Canadian high school students. Her first book of poems, Paper Radio, was nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Rogers presents her latest poetry collection, Dear Leader, with poems that provide instructions for what to leave, what to take and what to fight.



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 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.

Page 1 of 2712345...1020...Last »