Greetings Sappvilians! This year at the festival, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share some of my most favourite writers with you. Last year, I had the great honour of sharing my own writing as part of Universal Dawn, the annual literary event at Sappy, and this year I've been tasked with curating it. And, oh! what a dream it has been thus far.
All the wonderful people I asked to read said 'Yes!' which means that you, the ever discerning and curious attendee, will be getting a first rate, top notch, number one draft choice selection of readers.
The very first person I invited was a tall, cool drink of water by the name of Geordie Miller. He and I have read together countless times, and each time he manages to floor me with his particular blend of humour, insight and anxiousness.
Geordie put his first book out this year with one of Canada's raddest independent publishers, Halifax's Invisible Publishing. It's called Re:Union, and boy is it ever a good read. But don't worry! You needn't bone up beforehand. As a a crash course in Miller Time, I present to you this interview in which Geordie jumps most eloquently through a series of thorny hoops and even manages to include a tasty, unpublished poem with which to whet your chops.
How would you describe the outfit you're wearing right now?
It roughly resembles whatever you and the people reading these words would like to imagine.
Will it differ greatly from the one you don at Sappyfest?
I suppose it depends. Did you imagine a marching band leader outfit or was it more 1950s childless Dad-inspired?
Is there a trick to writing poetry?
Yes. The trick is to trick yourself into an unselfconscious state where you are not "writing poetry," but rather doing things with and to words that come far more naturally than people often assume. Things that our brains are doing all the time, like assembling abstractions or recoding impressions as narrative. That's how a neuroscientist would describe brain activity, right? It's not the only trick, certainly. And it wouldn't work for those with formalist inclinations that exceed my, um, cryptic conversational style.
Are your parents proud of you?
My father has purchased in the neighbourhood of 100 copies of my book online and my mom read it with her Book Club. If pride can be measured by markers of contemporary literary prestige, then yes. They are proud of me.
When you meet someone and they inquire about your life, how do you decide whether or not to tell them you are a poet?
"Decision" is exactly it, as there are times when I hesitate to prioritize that fact about myself. Perhaps it's because I'm not always in the mood for the potential ensuing line of questioning about why/what I write. Does that sound nasty or just lazy? Both? It's not meant to be either; maybe sometimes I feel like talking about it is like describing your dreams to a necessarily disinterested person. But usually, yeah, I choose to brag about being a poet, no matter who this "someone" is--unless they look like they might be a member of the Inner Party. Then I keep it quiet.
Tell us about your new book, Re:Union, without using the words 'it' or 'the'.
You praised Re:Union's deployment of humour in your review for that Halifax weekly that rhymes with Le Toast. So my new book is funny--in a way (I hope) that communicates convictions and confusions that readers can appreciate and want to revisit, whether they have read much poetry or not. These convictions and confusions are frequently compressed into postcards/letters, dispatched to lovers (real and imagined), evil forces (neoliberals), cultural icons and common people like you (and me).
If you had to recommend a poem/poet to some unassuming chump in the grocery store, what/who would it be?
The temptation to recommend a grocery store poem would overwhelm me, and I would suggest Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California." The speaker ventriloquizes Walt Whitman, "Who killed the pork chops? / What price bananas? Are you my Angel?" If I was feeling more creative and ambitious on this chump's behalf, I would offer David Berman's Actual Air. It's even better than avocado.
For the long-distance, diehard fans who've never had the pleasure of seeing you read your poetry, how do you figure the experience will differ from merely reading it themselves?
Well it will probably be louder. And instead of what I'm conjuring as their melodious inner reading voices, they'll have to endure my tuneless ramblings instead. Nevertheless, friends and strangers have told me that my work is conducive to live performance, which is a compliment, yes? Definitely anytime you experience a live performance of poetry or music, as a collective you share an awareness that a script (the poems/songs) exists, which is a vehicle for the improvisations or accidents that can and often do emerge during the show. "The talent" might start a conversation with the crowd, a phone could ring in someone's immediate embarrassment, the heckler may refuse an anecdote. Surprises abound.
Give an example of a time you met with conflict in the workplace, and how you worked to resolve the issue at hand.
Disregarding my obvious discomfort with the practice, my boss insisted on referring to me as "boss." One day I finally got up the nerve to tell them that I was fired.
How is your cat? I can't recall his name, but I do so fondly recall him hassling you as you tried to set up the DVD player on our last friend-date.
Louis never did manage to accept that I had non-feline friends, nor did he ever adjust to cohabitating with two ginger cats. As a result, I had to find a new home for him last month. Though I already miss him very much, thankfully I am moving in with a tabby named Herman in September. I am confident that he will be more amendable to our friendship. As an added bonus for you and me, he loves documentaries.
Would you share a piece of poetry of your's that has yet to find a home? Even the tiniest morsel will do.
STATE OF NATURE
Show some thinking,
as the stand-up does another
dick joke about his dick
It satisfies no one
to be gathered here
at the altar of the unserious
eager to take sides
in the war of all against all
She writes some of this in her notebook
an archive of atrocity and
nasty, brutish, and short.
I know you're a big sports fan. Could you offer some informed commentary on the hypothetical, prospective baseball game that is set to take place at this year's Sappyfest.
It better not be hypothetical! I'm packing my glove. Participating in the game over the past few years, I am qualified to comment that the game will likely feature the following: several swings, many misses, inside jokes, dugout potato chips, aggressive base coaching, passive umpires...it's basically Field of Dreams, but no one has to be Kevin Costner. Everyone gets to be a ghost.
Can you give us a rough breakdown of your gains and losses as a poet in the last year and a half?
I hesitate to include a balance sheet, despite having excelled at Accounting in high school. The biggest gain has been opportunities (like this one) to chat about poetics. To travel and talk to people about poetry and through poetry. Such conversations inculcate a self-awareness that I think will enrich my future writing i.e. I get to sound myself out, hear how others are hearing me, and confront what I don't know, but wanna learn how to do, ya'know? This education derives from some of the poetic luminaries I've been introduced to, read with, or had recommended to me over the past year and a half. The losses I will save for cataloguing in/between the lines of my next collection. Evasive is my exit strategy.