Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Gutter Series: Between Projects, Poetry Edition with Leigh Nash

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Leigh Nash

For the final instalment of our series celebrating National Poetry Month, we talk to Mansfield Press poet and Coach House Books staffer Leigh Nash. Her first book of poetry, Goodbye, Ukulele was published in 2010.

Check out all the interviews in our National Poetry Month Gutter Series: Between Books, Poetry Edition. (The gutter, as any good book geek knows, refers to the inner margins of two facing pages — literally, the in-between.) This series gave us a rare chance to chat with writers who haven't published in the current season, letting us in on the details of life between launches.

Leigh talks to Open Book about juggling her many roles, her favourite places to write and, of course, a bunny wearing hot pants.

Open Book:

Where do you look for new project ideas? What is one of the most surprising places you've found inspiration?

Leigh Nash:

I have a strange fascination with objects and design; Pinterest is a gold mine for me. I recently ordered a tiny ceramic sculpture of a bunny wearing shiny gold hot pants from artist Jen Ray; it's sitting on the dining room table and I know that it's part of a poem, but I just haven't gotten there yet. And like most writers, I get ideas mostly from reading widely — fiction, nonfiction and other poets. I also steal relentlessly from other writers, music, overheard conversations, TV shows.

OB:

Do you celebrate when your books come out? How did you celebrate the first time?

LN:

The launch for my first (and only!) book, Goodbye, Ukulele, took place on Mansfield Press's 10th anniversary, so the celebration was built in. And my partner, Andrew Faulkner, bought me a ukulele, and I'm finally learning how to play it — it's great to be learning something new, and every time I pick it up it's a reminder of my book.

OB:

Do you tend to overlap projects or wait until what you're working on is finished to start something new?

LN:

I don't think I work on projects specifically; my book was the culmination of ten years of writing individual poems. But I'm usually working in more than one genre at once, bouncing back and forth between fiction and poetry. I've had a novel on the go for the last few years that briefly saw the light of day as my MFA thesis, but I'm more interested in writing poems right now. It may have something to do with being absurdly busy, but there's also something satisfying about working in a smaller space.

OB:

Do you have a day job? If so, do you find it helping or hindering your writing? How do you balance writing with other professional pursuits?

LN:

I have two days jobs; the more the merrier, right? I work as a publishing assistant with Coach House Books, and I run Re:word Communications, an editorial firm, with two other partners. Most of my work at CH is numbers-based, and at Re:word I work on sales and marketing, so there's not too much overlap between my day jobs and my writing — I'm using different parts of my brain. So while it doesn't help, it doesn't hinder either. The only thing that keeps me from writing is a lack of time — I need about six more hours in every day. Balance isn't one of my strengths, either. I tend to binge on projects — writing poems, publishing chapbooks, learning to play strange musical instruments — but it works for me. I'll sometimes go several months without writing a line and then bang out a half dozen poems in a matter of weeks.

OB:

What would your ideal writing environment look like?

LN:

A hammock, a beach and a scribe. But I make do with a comfy couch, TV on, stacks of books on the coffee table. I like music and noise, sitcoms and dramas playing in the background that I can steal from. I'm fine in coffee shops, and I really like writing in certain restaurants, like Nirvana, but I tend to stay home because that's where my books are. When I get really into something I have the irritating habit of listening to the same song on repeat for hours. And I also have a terrible time writing in longhand. I honestly don't know what I did before I had a laptop.

OB:

What's up next for you?

LN:

I took about a year off writing after my first book came out, and I spent that time reading a ton, and remembering what it was like to enjoy reading and writing — it's supposed to be fun, right? Now I'm working on new poems; they're a strange blend of surrealist feminism and kitschy Americana; I'm reading about Louise Bourgeois and looking at pictures of abandoned mid-western towns. I'm still figuring out how they intersect and complement one another. But I'm excited about the direction of the poems and the plan is to get back to the novel someday.


Leigh Nash is a partner with editorial firm Re:word Communications, a publishing assistant with Coach House Books and co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. She is the author of one poetry collection, Goodbye, Ukulele (Mansfield Press, 2010). She lives in Toronto.

For more information about Goodbye, Ukulele please visit the Mansfield Press website.

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

Check out all the Gutter Series: Between Books, Poetry Edition interviews in our archives.

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