Get to Know the Poets of "Hot Nights, Cool Poets"

On August 28 at 8 p.m. EST, Cicely Belle Blain, Sadiqa de Meijer,  Mathew Henderson, Julie Joosten, Canisia Lubrin, Randy Lundy, A. F. Moritz, Tyler Pennock, Rasiqra Revulva, Kevin Spenst, John Steffler and Lily Wang join us for "Hot Nights, Cool Poets", an electrifying showcase of some of the most dynamic voices in Canadian poetry. Register for the event here.

The Outer Wards
by Sadiqa de Meijer

What sparked the idea for The Outer Wards?
I was dealing with mothering through an injury/illness, which is a fairly common occurrence, but a largely silent subject in literature. I wrote from that experience.

Tell us about your a poet you think everyone should be reading.
I loved Noor Naga's debut 'Washes, Prays.' The work is lyrical, narrative, original. 'White Blight' by Athena Farrokzhad (a translation from the Swedish) was also excellent.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
I do have some poems from when I was a grade schooler... the one I remember is about an odd, anthropomorphic bird on a swing, who sometimes leaves his city to visit another.

by Julie Joosten

What’s next on your reading list?
Edwidge Danticat's The Art of Death:  Writing the Final Story.

How has this particular point in time influenced your process and your poetry?
As a writer, I'm always trying to live solitude as a gift without letting it slip into isolation.  Isolation has become a powerful concept recently, a painful, equivocal value.  My work right now is about reconceiving with others what it means to gather and be together and present, acts that are necessary not only for flourishing but also for survival.

The Dyzgraphxst
by Canisia Lubrin

What’s next on your reading list?
I read multiple books concurrently. Currently I'm with Kaie Kellough's kaleidoscopic Dominoes at the Crossroads and Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone's wonderfully disorienting collaborative debut This is How You Lose the Time War.  Next is Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
No, I don't remember. But I have no reason to think that this forgetting is permanent. I'll let you know when I remember.

Field Notes for the Self
by Randy Lundy

What sparked the idea for Field Notes for the Self?
Mmm, nothing in particular. I write poems. It’s just something I do and have done since I was a teenager. Sooner or later, I end up with a bunch of them and have to figure out how to fit them together into a manuscript. Since I seem to write about the same things over and over, it’s not too difficult to put them together into something that makes some sense, to me, at least!

What is something you’d never write about?
Don’t know that there is anything. An honest writing life seem to be like a pack of free-range chickens. They just go and feed where they please. Of course, I do write about my own experiences and perceptions. Even when writing about others, it’s my own experience and perceptions of that. No use pretending to be an expert on anyone else’s stuff, when I am not an expert on my own.

As Far As You Know
by A. F. Moritz

What sparked the idea for As Far As You Know?
As far as I know, the phrase "sparked the idea for" can't possibly refer to poetry. Maybe what is meant is the "occasion" for a poem. The poet's inspiration and subject matter flow in a constant presence, but they can't always be manifested, or even accessed. Sometimes an event becomes the occasion, the subject matter, that precipitates the fluid poetry into a solid poem.

The occasion of As Far As You Know was a kind of crisis, society-wide and in myself, of not-knowing in the face of potentially definitive challenges. Within this, the individual poems were sparked by items or instances of the overall situation/inspiration. The "spark" for the book thus burned or flashed across about five years. Each of the poems is dated, to show this. And of course, this subject, occasion, or stimulus began before, and continues today, in that it's part of a perennial human trial and adventure.

What is something you've always wanted to write about?
I've always wanted to write about what is most intimate to me. Not understood as "secrets" but as my vital relationships with persons, things, the human world, and the earth. I do write about this to a certain extent, but a lot of it I avoid or shy from, because of feeling not worthy of my subject matter. Also, it can be too precious to bring out except darkly, "symbolically", in a way that could only be understood by myself and those involved. I think that the things I've always wanted to write about are the same things that I'd never write about.

by Tyler Pennock

What sparked the idea for Bones?
Many of the poems were ideas in themselves - not connected in any way.  Then, during a poetry class at Guelph, the idea that someone speak to their sister as though they were still with her took hold.  I started the book four years later - after creating more poetry that almost seemed to fit. (I distinctly remember a well attended open MIC night where pretty famous author told me that they deserved to be on paper, and not in my phone. ) The first EMERGENCY poem helped me understand that this was much more like an actual story than I’d planned, and I’m very thankful for it. Before completing a second draft, I substantially re-worked the book to resemble a much better story - on how someone fills in the blank spaces left by memories that trauma stole.

How has this particular point in time influenced your process and your poetry?
I don’t understand how we as people became so unwilling to hear or understand each other. Despite everything we were taught generations ago, we seem to now prefer conflict and stubbornness. It’s present in the words we use.  Poetry, song, spoken word, and performance all play with that - and we need more of those things if we are to survive.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
I wrote a 27 page book about a number of poems for John Barron’s Grade 6 English class in Baden Elementary school.  I drew all kinds of pictures to go along with the poems, and even drew a border of leaves on every page.  I don’t remember any of the poems except one (barely) - it was a limerick about two boys playing too hard on the trampoline.  Eventually they went overboard, and one ended up in an accident with the other gym equipment. (I even drew the blood, I think).  It was funny, but the picture probably made it weird.

Cephalopography 2.0
by Rasiqra Revulva

What is something you've always wanted to write about? What is something you'd never write about?
While I admit my approach to concepts like "never" and "always" are perhaps more liquid than may be intended, my answer to both of these questions is, put most simply, myself!

My life and my self often provide the inspiration and impetus for poetry, but they are seldom its destination. My knowing, my study, my living...these are the truths that guide my inquiry, and propel me to inhabit another life (or, as is most often the case, another life-form). You might ask: Rasiqra, are the octopuses in your poems really you? And I would answer: Of course! and also, Absolutely not!

What's next on your reading list?
I'm participating in the #SealeyChallenge (after Nicole Sealey), which involves reading 31 poetry chapbooks and/or collections in as many days. Some of the selections I've set aside - quite literally, stacked beside me - include: Canisia Lubrin - The Dyzgraphxst; Amber Dawn - My Art Is Killing Me; Kirby - What Do You Want To Be Called?; Kaie Kellough - Magnetic Equator; Kristin Garth & Justin Karcher, eds. - These Poems Are Not What They Seem; Aimé Césare - Notebook of a Return to the Native Land; Souvankham Thammavongsa - Cluster; Billy-Ray Belcourt - NDN Coping Mechanisms; Terese Mason Pierre - Manifest; and Conyer Clayton - Trust Only the Beasts in the Water.

Some non-poetry books I'm either currently reading or planning to read next include: Dorothy Ellen Palmer - Falling for Myself; Kai Cheng Thom - I Hope We Choose Love; Zalika Reid-Benta - Frying Plantain; and Elena Ferrante - The Story of a New Name...and I'm also circling toward a re-read of Valley of the Dolls.

Hearts Amok
by Kevin Spenst

What sparked the idea for Hearts Amok? 
There’s been an embarrassment of sparks that went into various phases of Hearts Amok’s development. Over the past twenty years, every relationship I’ve been in has been accompanied by ever-increasing amounts of poetry. Some of the first poems in Hearts Amok were written for my wife in the late naughts. Our marriage ended in 2011 and I found myself trying to understand what had happened through art and metaphor... which might be as helpful as bringing a paintbrush to cardiac surgery, but there you have it; we’re wedded to our ways. My next tumble into love occurred as I was editing my first book of poetry. In a heightened state of poetry and romance, I wrote my heart out charging into a relationship that, after a couple of lovely years, soon ended. In 2016, I achieved my dream of dating everyone in Vancouver. Not everyone, but it was instructive and exciting to meet so many women through on-line dating and old-fashioned number exchanges at parties and other IRL encounters. In general, I love meeting new people, getting a sense of the shape of an entire life through just a little chit-chat on the bus or a deeper conversation at a social gathering, so it was thrilling to have accelerated conversations on dates where you both want to get to some gist of how your together-ness works. Then, I met someone who was romantic, artful, and committed to a particular vision of life. We had chemistry. Shauna gave me a small piece of art on our next date and I gave her a poem. The collaboration had begun and suddenly I was putting all of the other poems about love together with her editorial suggestions and tips. Hearts Amok includes a number of collaborations between myself and Shauna Kaendo. She’s all kinds of sparks.

What’s next on your reading list? 
I feel like the entire process of reading is like opening a closet door bursting with books and they all come tumbling out and it’s a wonder you can finish anything at all as you grab snatches of pages here and there. Having said that, I try to read widely and deeply. I’ve been working my way through all of Sebald with a brief detour through The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W. G. Sebald. I also have bookmarks in Ian Williams’ novel Reproduction, Lucy Ellman’s Ducks, Newburyport, Jericho Brown’s book of poetry The Tradition and Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn. In the next day or two, I’m going to start The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand and I have chapbooks to review from Gap Riot Press, which I guess finally answers your question, but I had to get entangled in metaphor and process and a bunch of name-dropping (but these are all good names that I hope you take to heart.)

And Yet
by John Steffler

What sparked the idea for And Yet?
I’ve often written about the relationship between humans and the natural world. In And Yet I’m interested in that same relationship or interface but I look for it not out in the landscape but closer to home, in the domestic world and the personal inner life. I see wilderness in the things we haven’t made and can’t control, in aging and mortality, in the limits to what we can recall, in the unclear mixing of memory and invention, in dreams, in accidents and failures, in lost loves, in the limits to what we know and understand, the limits to how well we even know ourselves – how easily, sometimes, we say, “and yet” and completely change our minds.

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
I wrote my first real poem when I was about sixteen. It was about a memory of sleeping outside on a hot summer night on the ground-level porch of the house I grew up in and hearing something very strange and mysterious. Horses from the neighbouring farm, for some reason, had jumped their fence or somehow got out and had come over to our place in the wee hours. I lay listening to those huge animals snorting and pacing around nearby in the dark.

Saturn Peach
by Lily Wang

What do you do when you aren't writing?

Do you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
I wrote a rap song about Club Penguin. Filmed it on a flip phone then the flip phone got stolen.