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.
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.