Five Questions with… Liz Howard

Liz Howard, author of Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets her event April 9. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Tell us a bit about your debut poetry collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.Liz Howard

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, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking TentIFOA: What do you love most about poetry as a literary form?

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.

Creative Catalysts

From the IFOA vaults, a round table from 2007 with Giller Prize-winning author Will Ferguson, bestselling crime writer Peter Robinson, 2015 RBC Taylor Prize nominee M.G. Vassanji and Governor General Award-winning author Richard B. Wright. They discuss what they’re reading in a panel entitled “Creative Catalysts.” Canadian writer Randy Boyagoda moderates.

Five Questions with… Cassidy McFadzean

Cassidy McFadzean, author of Hacker Packer and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets her event April 9. Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Tell us a bit about your debut poetry collection, Hacker Packer.McFadzean, Cassidy (c) Credence McFadzean

Cassidy McFadzean: Hacker Packer is a collection of lyric poems written from 2010 or so up until last summer. Through the formal elements of these poems, I’m interested in exploring sound and structure, and the book includes sonnets, rhyming couplets, mock Old English riddles, as well as poems written in persona. Many of these poems are concerned with the strangeness of being in a world where I feel ancient mythology is yoked together with contemporary pop culture. I’m very interested in using humour in my poems, as well as thinking about the spaces that women inhabit, and the appropriating lens of a poet writing about the visual arts.

IFOA: Where do you find inspiration for your poetry?

McFadzean: I write a lot about places I’ve travelled, as well as works of art I’ve encountered either firsthand or online. Visiting Europe for the first time in 2012 was hugely important to my poetry. I’m still not completely over the experience of taking iPad pictures of ancient Greek artifacts, or viewing the sculptures of Rodin while construction workers used machinery outside. When I’m not travelling, I find inspiration in the everyday experiences of living in inner-city Regina, hiking in “nature” or reading a bizarre Wikipedia page.

IFOA: You studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. What was that experience like?

McFadzean, Hacker PackerMcFadzean: Being at Iowa is like living in a community of funny, brilliant people all working toward similar artistic goals. I’m just finishing up my last semester, and it still feels very surreal to live in a place where I can’t leave the apartment without running into another poet. Sometimes as an artist I find myself having to justify decisions in my life, but at Iowa, people instantly understand why you might work a low-paying job so you’ll have more time to write, or why you might stay indoors all weekend to finish a poem. The workshop has also exposed me to a lot of great writers I might have not otherwise encountered—either through poetry readings, seminars I’ve taken, or just word of mouth— and for that I’ll always be grateful.

IFOA: Who are some of your favourite poets whose work you’d recommend to our readers?

McFadzean: I’m amazed by the recent debuts of several Canadian poets who are doing compelling work with form and voice. I would strongly recommend Stevie Howell’s [sharps], Brecken Hancock’s Broom Broom, Kerry-Lee Powell’s Inheritance and Suzannah Showler’s Failure To Thrive.

IFOA: What are you working on now?

McFadzean: I’m working on my second collection of poems, Drolleries, which includes work written during my last year at Iowa, my experiences travelling and camping in Iceland in the summer of 2014 and aswath ofekphrastic poems, including a four-page piece written about the medieval Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters in New York.

Cassidy McFadzean’s poems have appeared in magazines across Canada. In 2012, she published a chapbook, Farwell, and in 2013 she was a finalist for the CBC Poetry Prize and the Walrus Poetry Prize. McFadzean presents a reading from her debut collection, Hacker Packer, as part of the McClelland & Stewart Poetry Night on April 9.

Five Questions with… Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier, author of The Wrong Cat and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

Share this article via Twitter or Facebook for your chance to win two tickets her event April 9! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA!

IFOA: Tell us a bit about your latest poetry collection, The Wrong Cat.Crozier, Lorna (c) U of Victoria Photo Services

Lorna Crozier: The Wrong Cat is an eclectic mix of the poetry I’ve been working on for the last five years. I’ve always been fascinated by the influence of place on character. How does the sea influence an individual’s personality and outlook as opposed to a desert? One of the sections deals with the relationship between love and landscape. A woman in each poem looks back on an affair with a particular man, one from Hades, another from the Sargasso Sea, another from the North. As in my other books, I’m also inspired by animals and how they enrich our lives. Slipping through the lines are cats, otters, raccoons, deer and beetles, and from a high bough of sassiness and knowing, a crow comments on everything. There are also several poems that involve a man and woman talking, a man and woman who have lived together for a long time and who delight and sadden one another.

IFOA: Where is your ideal place to write?

Crozier: My ideal place to write is on a gravel road in the Saskatchewan countryside. By the time I’ve completed a four-mile grid that cuts through wheat and canola fields, I’ve often composed a poem and revised it several times. My other ideal place is my working room in my house on Vancouver Island. I had a big sliding glass door cut into one wall so that I can look out onto our back garden pond and chase away the visiting hungry kingfisher and heron.

IFOA: What is it about poetry as a form that you like most?Crozier, The Wrong Cat

Crozier: Poetry is based on surprises. I never know how a poem is going to end when I begin. It speaks to the unconscious more than any other genre and its brevity pushes the words together and makes them zing. Even “the” is a crucial word in a poem.

IFOA: Describe your process. How does your poetry come alive, from conception to completion?

Crozier: Each poem comes about differently from the one before, but more often than not, poems arrive as an animal would arrive, stepping tentatively from the dusk. An animal without a name, one that looks vaguely familiar but is different. One that stirs the blood. I know I can never capture it with language, but I am driven to try. That’s the conception, I guess. Then I work on the music, on making the lines sing with the clarity of a bell on the collar of a cat, a bell that the cat has learned not to ring.

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

Crozier: The best thing I’ve read in the last six months is Anne-Marie Turza’s book of poems The Quiet and Andrew O’Hagan’s first novel, Our Fathers.

Lorna Crozier is the award-winning author of 16 previous books of poetry. She is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria and an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received three honorary doctorates for her contributions to Canadian Literature. Crozier presents a reading from The Wrong Cat as part of the McClelland & Stewart Poetry Night on April 9.

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