Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Chantal Neveu

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Chantal Neveu: Passing in Laboratoire parcellaire, OBORO and La Peuplade, 2011

For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book’s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Chantal Neveu is the author of Coït (BookThug, translated by Angela Carr). Originally published in French in 2010, the new English edition brings Chantal's minimalist, graceful poems to a new audience.

Chantal's stunning workspace is inspiring, and her photographs have captured it beautifully. Today she talks with Open Book about writing "on stage," how words are like bodies and displacing words.

This interview, called Floor Touching Floor, a title taken from Coït, was translated from the French by Bronwyn Haslam.
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My worktable often begins with the floor. Literally. Following affinities and new research, I choose various sites of work or creation, dance studios for example, and I write there. I write what is said, what I hear, what I perceive. One could say, I write on the set. On site. On the floor or “on stage” — like the stage of a microscope. I am at once witness and object. My posture is like that of a medium, by which I mean it is not intentional, not intentionally expressive. Transmedial writing: it’s an action-passion via the language that passes through my body. To capture, filter and deliver a particulate of what comes about and what comes to pass.

Because writing — and poetry — is the movement of words, I move my body through various places to write. Words are like bodies. Physical. Each word — and each phrase, every sentence — is a singularity, a proposition, a question, a suggestion, an attempt, a plank, transporting, a passage, a sound, a variety of senses. Because writing is about connecting — and there is a vibration between words — I choose to write in the presence of people and in connection to them. Because language is given to us and is common to us, because we are others as much as we are ourselves, I write with the words of others as much as my own. In writing, there is as much listening as utterance, if not more. With the permission of the people I join — in a workspace, for example — I write down what people say to each other. I transcribe, that is to say I take down a sort of verbatim or verbal process, perforated with what they speak of. I accumulate words, phrases, sentences. Then, I move this transcribed material and let it rest. In moving words from the context of their emission, the semantics change; the words vibrate and can open up, resounding again in another way. Then I displace the words again. I move them onto another floor and spread them out, to see them, that is to say, to read them, to reread them, to air them out. Another step in the writing process begins: the literary step. Recollective recuperation, metamorphosis, deviations, new directions, reductions, ellipses, dilations of silences and apparitions — polysemic, sonorous, sensory, or even sensational — I mean, the apparition of new sensations and questions. And so, with this, from this, from this sort of solute, the poem emerges. Media, minima and maxima.

— Chantal Neveu, translated by Bronwyn Haslam

Chantal Neveu is a writer and an interdisciplinary artist. She is the author of the books Une Spectaculaire influence (2010), Coït (2010) and mentale (2008). Interdisciplinary textual projects include Èdres followed by Èdres | Dehors (2005) and Je suis venue faire l'amour. Coït, is her first collection to be translated into English. She lives in Montreal.

For more information about Coït please visit the BookThug website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the At the Desk interviews in our archives.

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