Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reprint: The Poets Caught by Giant Despair

An excerpt from a conversation between Ariel Gordon & Gillian Wigmore:

GW: I found the only way I could get back into writing poetry after my first book was to tell people (and myself) I was writing fiction and then devote my time and learning to that. The sneaky thing that did was get me off the hook for poetry which I then started to write secretly and much more freely and privately for myself. The demands were gone – exactly what you said: permission not to be productive. I've put a tonne of pressure on myself for fiction but poetry is now allowed in the margins and that's where I write it. I think writing days for poetry would make me die – I'd spend them frivolously and then hate myself for it. The way I'm doing it now is for pleasure - the rigour is still there and the research but it's mainly for pleasure. The problem with this system is that there is no built in time for it so when a deadline comes up for an edit or a whole book edit, I'm screwed and I have to go back to the negotiating table with the family and find time. It also means that I'm not very organized for submitting to things so I'm having to finally devise systems for figuring out where I've sent stuff and what's pending and what's being published or been published... it's tricky. 

I keep in touch with my closest writing friends through Facebook, email, phone, cards and letters – no one I'm actively writing with (alongside, in tandem, or on projects) lives here. That's not because there aren't writers here but because my writing kin are far flung. I'm very thankful for the internet. It's just hard to clink glasses over wireless.

I feel like when we met at Banff so many years ago it was the very beginning of the beginning – the start of the conversation we are having and our work is having, the start of the cross country glass-clinking. Anna Swanson and I sat down and wrote out goals there that have since come true. How and when are we next going to get together and plan the next goals?

AG: You know, I still think back on that day, when I was sitting in my dorm room at Banff, contemplating the poem I was working on for Robert Hilles but mostly wondering if my nose was going to start bleeding again. And then you two called, saying that you were holed up in yet another dorm room, working on submissions for the Bronwen Wallace Prize and that you liked me and that I should come over. So we could be ambitious all in the same room.

I usually don't respond to those kind of pitches, but I was lonely and my nose had just recently bled and I was convinced that no one in the program liked me. 

So...can we talk about envy? Because even though both you and I consider our networks of writers across the country as part of what keeps us going, even though we're both invested in the idea of community, the reality is that there are limited resources available to writers in this country. We all want a Canada Council grant and spend five glorious months writing. We all want to win the civic / provincial / national prizes for best goddamn book of poetry. We all want to teach creative writing in a university or semi-rural retreat setting. 

So what do you do if your relationship with another writer becomes tinged with jealousy? What do you do if you're the one whose work has gained some attention and your friends are less than enthusiastic: "Yay for you! Again!"

All of which is a way of asking. What good does an engorged ego do a poet/her pocketbook?

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Thanks to Shawna Lemay & Kimmy Beach for creating a space for conversations like this one....and to Gilly Wigmore, for all the late night emails about despair.

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