5 Questions with Gary Barwin

xo-ifoa

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, Gary

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:

every(all(toge(forever)ther)at once)thing)

#XOifoa Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat

xo-ifoa

As Valentine’s Day approaches you might be struggling to find the right words to say how you feel. “I love you” is already written in the generic card you bought, so now what? Perhaps you have the perfect gift but you want to accompany it with a love letter. Maybe you want to send flowers and are stumped on what to write on the note. Don’t let Valentine’s Day stress you out. We have just the thing for you!

We don’t want to boast, but we know a lot of authors. Who better to help you with your love notes than a professional writer? Join us for a live Twitter chat on February 14th from 12-1pm (EST) and get some help writing to the ones you love.

We have asked 2016 Giller Prize nominee Gary Barwin (@garybarwin), editor and art director of Shameless Magazine Sheila Sampath (@sheilasheila) and poet and professor Daniel Scott Tysdal (@dstiz) to help! Follow @ifoa and tweet your request to one of these writers using #XOifoa.

We are happy to help with:

  • Writing your lover of many years something new
  • Penning a lovely limerick for your son or daughter
  • Choosing the right words for a note to mom
  • Sending your gal pals the funniest card
  • A little something to go with the candy gram for your coworkers
  • And much more. Just ask!

Valentine’s Day writer’s block is real. We’re here for you.


Barwin, Gary

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multimedia artist. He has authored 21 books of poetry, fiction and  work for children. His nationally bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates,  was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literature Prize, and his new poetry collection, No TV for Woodpeckers will appear this spring. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices eWriter-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library. Born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin moved to Canada as a child. He is married with three adult children, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.


sheila-7162Sheila Sampath is a writer, artist, educator and activist designer. She is the Principal and Creative Director at The Public, a social justice design studio specializing in community-based processes and participatory design; the Editorial and Art Director of Shameless magazine, a Canada-wide feminist magazine for teens girls and trans* youth; and an Assistant Professor of alternative and speculative practices in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University. Her first book, Letters Lived, focusing on feminist lineage, was published in Fall 2013 under the Three O’Clock Press’ Women’s Press imprint, and her current art practice explores themes of intergenerational trauma, memory-loss and ritual through displacement and diaspora. 


Tysdal, Daniel ScottDaniel Scott Tysdal is the ReLit Award winning author of three books of poetry, most recently Fauxccasional Poems (icehouse 2015), and the poetry textbook The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (Oxford University Press 2014). Online, he runs the Fauxccasional Poems Video Project (bit.ly/fauxpoemvid) and he delivered the popular TEDx talk, “Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How It Can Save a Life)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BUYzMypi8). Tysdal’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry and Best Canadian Essays. He is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, at the University of Toronto Scarborough.