Poetry and Canadiana

By Canisia Lubrin

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The Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion at select events throughout the International Festival of Authors. Canisia Lubrin—author of Voodoo Hypothesis and contributor to The Unpublished City—wrote about her experience as an IFOA 2017 delegate and for her, poetry and the Festival’s Canadian-ness left a lasting impression.


There is a sort of despairing desire that takes its cue from ecstasy. When I first participated in IFOA back in 2014, as one of what seemed like a legion of emerging writers to read in a pilot event called Brave New Word, I did not know by which vein I’d entered that storied, yet abstract character of being a writer—even momentarily, one that had been prescribed or is upheld as such, yet still a thing I regarded without that wild absolute geometry of the author.

I hardly had a moment to pause with any sufficient reverie towards the experience and its meaning. How the years churn out their consequence I will not speculate on now. What sees me as an IFOA delegate for the 38th edition of the Festival is a kind of elaborate dream, one that got wrapped into air when a certain clarity is found in that modulated appeal of event after ecstatic event, and here I was: in the throes of something now familiar, yet unexpected—something oddly warped in a strangeness prone to amnesia.

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5 Questions with Canisia Lubrin

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We asked Canisia Lubrin five questions about writing as we gear up for the launch of The Unpublished City collection on June 22.

IFOA: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Canisia Lubrin: Staying curious and open to “inspiration” from anywhere is important to me. I suppose this means that I value how the facts of life, things as they are—imperfect, worthy, enervating, senseless, the full range—offer an abundance of descriptive impulses that send me slipping into many imaginary spaces.

Once I can recognize a descriptive escape-route into a subject, I will follow nearly every clue down its road, usually the more challenging the better.

IFOA: What’s the story that you have to write no matter what (at some point in your life)?

Lubrin: Stories that I end up writing are carried around with me until I can feel and trust their wholeness. In that sense, the story isn’t named and claimed until I write some draft of it. Some doubt in me—as much as I’d like to offer an absolute answer—toward the very act of naming and claiming that very thing is keeping me from offering a more concrete response.

I’d like to think that every story I write is part of the larger “story” that I absolutely must tell. Perhaps I’m just doing so interstitially because of the forms of storytelling that currently exist. I’d offer that each part of that story is given its own name and identity, much the same way as the arm’s identity differs from that of the head and torso even though these are all parts, ostensibly, of the same body.

IFOA: Where do you write? Is there a specific place you do your writing?

Lubrin: I think I can write almost anywhere as long as the space isn’t moving. I suffer terrible motion sickness. I’m always after the feeling though. Feeling that lets me break into a heightened attention to the craft and the subject of the work. Place can do that for me but not always. What is clear is that my intention is rarely ever a big factor: I may want to spend an hour in the forest or by the river or in an alley or on the beach because I feel something of the place will open up a kind of knowing in me.

But, more and more, I am learning to trust that my impulses and motivations for writing rarely ever come from a place of knowing, but from my need to question things that confound me. I’m after discovery.

IFOA: If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?

Lubrin: What is the one thing you know now that you wished you knew when you first started writing?

IFOA: What are you writing now?

Lubrin: There’s no shortage of writing for me right now: I’ve just finished editing my first poetry collection and my first novel as well as a collection of short stories currently take up most of my writing time.


Canisia Lubrin. Author. The Unpublished City. BookThug. IFOA.Canisia Lubrin serves on the editorial board of the Humber Literary Review and on the advisory board of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. She completed an MFA in fiction at Guelph-Humber and is the author of the poetry collection, Voodoo Hypothesis, forthcoming this fall from Wolsak & Wynn.

Lubrin is one of the authors featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. IFOA and BookThug invite you to the collection’s release on June 22 at 7:30 PM as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

For more information, click here!