2016 Giller nominated author Gary Barwin is participating in our Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat. We had some questions about how he celebrates love on February 14th and year round!
If you need some help writing to your valentine, join us on Twitter between 12-1pm on February 14th to get some help from professionals.
IFOA: What advice do you have for someone struggling to write a love letter?
Gary Barwin: Though it might be impossible, I’d say try to think about the person you’re writing to rather than about yourself writing the letter. Imagine them reading the text and how they might respond. Also, it helps not to start with an empty page but with some element to bounce off. Start with an image, or a saying, or a form. Something material. I always tell my writing students that “the writing knows more than you do,” so if you have some writing to lead you, to guide you, it makes it easier and more fun. Also, mostly, try not to take it too seriously. You can be very “romantic,” “touching,” “intimate” and “genuine,” without being too serious.
IFOA: Did you write Valentines as a child? Do you still?
Barwin: As a young teen, I wrote a mushy heart-ton of love letters of every description. I don’t tend to write Valentines today. You know words, they’re so duplicitous, sneaky, and as easy to ride as a weasel with a golden saddle into the castle of inflated and platitudinous feelings. Also, my wife is inundated with enough of my words. So these days, I try to express our relationship through action and doing something nice. Also, I reckon, bringing her coffee and toast in bed throughout the year is better than some perfume-infused cardiac-ridden encarmined missive. We’re in this for the long haul!
IFOA: What is the most romantic book you have ever read?
Barwin: I think my favourite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera.
After hundreds of pages (and an entire lifetime) there is that final scene where the two older lovers are finally together on a boat floating forever on a river that can never dock. I find it intensely romantic to imagine my wife and I being old people together (though, likely when we are, I’ll rage against my aging body and the shortness of time…though maybe it’ll be a new and exciting pleasure to kiss without teeth…)
IFOA: Roses, chocolates, candy, teddy bears. What do you prefer?
Barwin: Books. Ok, books and whiskey. Ok, books, whiskey and chocolate. Oh! you mean for me to give…right…it’s not all about me…um…I like to give my wife (we’ve been together since I was 18) flowers, usually not roses, but something that feels like spring is almost here, something that feels filled with birdsong, sunshine, and… reproduction.
IFOA: If you had to pick just one poet to quote always who would it be?
Barwin: I think bpNichol is one of the greatest Canadian poets and, specifically, one of the greatest Canadian poets to write about love. It infuses much of his entire oeuvre. His work reflects a lifetime of devotion, intimacy, tenderness, and thoughtfulness to his partner and the life they shared together.
My favourite quote, a perfectly tweetable love poem: