Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft Interview: Sina Queyras

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Sina Queyras

This spring, Toronto high-school students from two Writer's Craft classes conducted interviews with some of Canada's finest poets. The interviews will be posted on The Great Canadian Writer's Craft page on Open Book in June and July 2011.

Alexis Genik:

Hi Sina! I would like to start by thanking you to take the time to answer these questions — it’s definitely appreciated as it lets me get a closer look at you as a poet, as well as inspirations for your poetry! I look forward to hearing from you!

In a previous interview with Sharon Caseberg, you said: “I am a fan of writing that hums — Dionne Brand, Lisa Robertson. I would love my writing to hum. I aim high, as you can see, and am therefore bound to be disappointed.” I was curious if you have ever experienced anxiety of influence when relating your work to these authors. If so, how did you overcome this? If not, how do you think you avoided this?

Sina Queyras:

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Influence is tricky. One needs to read, to be inspired. I think one avoids anxiety of influence by grounding oneself in root questions and concerns. I am not Brand, or Robertson, though the reason they speak to me so precisely is that something about their work resonates for me, and illuminates my own desires. Without my own concerns, my own consciousness, my own palette, my own twist, it would simply be mimicking.


The first poem I read (“The Lover”), I noticed a theme of love and relationships. I then noticed a similar theme when reading parts from “Euphoria”. Through further research I found that your first book got a review from Tanis McDonald calling it “the year’s sexiest book of poetry.” Sounds a little all over the place, but I’m just curious if this is a theme that you enjoy writing about in particular or just a pattern that I’m noticing. Also, if so, do you pull your inspiration from your imagination or from real life?


In the face of being labeled a Romantic, yes, I’ll go for love. I’m ultimately a hyper-conscious lyric poet.


Speaking of inspiration, what or who (or otherwise) has inspired you and influenced you to write poetry? Do you think, if it were not for these influences, you would still be writing poetry? If not, what do you think that you’d be doing?


I would likely always have written poetry had I not become a part of a community. I just think it would have been very bad. I likely wouldn’t have grown if I had not given myself over absolutely.


I notice that a lot of your poems have a similar form and design to their shape — almost paragraph like. I personally like this form of poetry because I find it very straight forward. Is there a specific reason you write like this? Has there been any comment on this from any other readers?


At the moment, line breaks seem like too much artificial pink icing on an otherwise healthy muffin.


When reading up on some information about you, I couldn’t help but notice the array of places that you’ve lived — from Toronto to New York. Has all this moving around influenced your writing in any way? Do you have any future plans to move again?


I intend to keep moving, yes, though perhaps not as frequently, and perhaps I’ll maintain a home base now. I don’t think poets should get comfortable. I don’t take the title of poet for granted. If you’re looking for job security, be a lawyer. Poets, to my mind, need to put themselves at risk. Be willing to leap at a moment’s notice. Be willing to lose it all… Be willing to say things, even if it means that their life will be uncomfortable…we have a role to fulfill beyond simply speaking, or innovating. So yes, all this moving has given me an enormous perspective, and it has helped me understand that permanence is an illusion.


If you were forced to move to one place in the next year, where would you find yourself? Why could you see yourself here?


Just one place? I would like to end up in Vancouver. But likely only half the year. Other half? London, Paris, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, Reykjavík…for many different reasons. If I had to chose one, at the moment it would be London because the art scene there is amazing. All these young, talented, daring artists who are not trying to formulate a winning entry, but rather, go as far as they can in whatever direction they are looking. That, the general bookishness of the city, the design, the fabric — I mean that quite literally — the architecture, I am craving that intense level of stimulation.


Thank you!

Sina Queyras grew up on the road in British Columbia and has since lived in Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Philadelphia and Montreal, where she currently resides. Her poetry can be found online at the Poetry Foundation and in journals internationally. You can find and an essay on Expressway at While you’re there you can also find an essay on NourbeSe Philip’s Zong.

Queyras edited the anthology Open Field, designed for those coming to poetry (it’s an excellent introduction to creative writing text, for example) and for those coming to Canadian poetry. Queyras has taught creative writing at Rutgers, Haverford and Concordia. She is associate editor at Drunken Boat and maintains the literary blog Lemon Hound.

Alexis Genik is a published author, with many prestigious awards to her name. Kidding. Her work has been published in her binders and notebooks, and once in a book on young literature published by the GECDSB. She writes for fun, but finds fun in many other things as well, including riding her horses, hanging out with her friends and partying on the weekends. When engaging in these activities, you can find her visiting her parents and looking onto the Detroit skyline in her native city of Windsor. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft

Each year, students from Malvern Collegiate Institute's Writer’s Craft class interview Canadian poets as part of a class project. The students study Canadian poetry under the collaborative tutelage of teacher John Ouzas and poet a.rawlings. We are delighted to feature the interviews on Open Book.

Go to The Great Canadian Writer's Craft’s Author Page