Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Adam Sol

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Adam Sol

Winner of the prestigious Trillium Book Award for Poetry and a member of the newly-formed McClelland & Stewart poetry board, Adam Sol is a household name in Canadian poetry, having been praised for his "sly integrity", "wise-ass charm" and "breathtaking insight". This month he launches his brand new and anticipated collection, Complicity (McClelland & Stewart). With Adam's trademark wit and verve, the collection explores the tensions of pursuing love, happiness and fulfillment in a world underpinned by violence and injustice.

Today Adam speaks with Open Book about the unexpected benefits of ignoring the teacher, banishing poems to the basement and loving the work.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Adam Sol:

I was writing poems and songs as young as 8. And my high school had a program that linked students with “real live” artists in the field. But the big story for me was when I was a first semester undergrad and happened into a class taught by Philip Levine. Game over.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


I never liked my high school English teacher (I had the same one for Grades 10, 11 and 12), and I was sitting in class one time, ignoring him, and leafing through the pages of the textbook we were using. Happened on Randall Jarrell’s “Death of a Ball Turret Gunner.” “In the end they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” And I thought, “You can do that in a poem?” I’ve got to try this!


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


I don’t love poems that way — possessively. It seems odd to me. There are poems I aspire to — Shakespeare sonnets, Bishop’s “One Art,” Richard Hugo’s “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg,” Levine’s “What Work Is.” But I can’t say I wish I wrote them.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Jacques Derrida. There are plenty of more predictable ones: music, fatherhood, religious traditions, love, politics, language, etc. But for a while I held off on plunging into literary theory for fear it would destroy me, but instead I feel inspired, impelled.


What do you do when a poem is not working?


I start by hand on paper and there are plenty of sheets of paper that just end up in the trash. If it gets as far as the computer, but still ain’t working, I have a folder on my hard drive called “basement,” which is where bad poems get banished to. Sometimes I visit the basement and dust off some things. Sometimes I pillage it for stray lines (coupons).


What was the last book of poetry that really knocked your socks off?


Adam Dickinson’s The Polymers.


What is the best thing about being a poet….and what is the worst?


The best is the work. I still love the work of it. The thinking, the music, the reading, the medium itself. I love getting my fingers dirty with the paint. The hardest thing is finding time. I’m a dad with a teaching job and a busy wife and clearing the space sufficiently is very difficult.

Adam Sol is the author of three previous books of poetry, including Jeremiah, Ohio, a novel in poems that was shortlisted for Ontario's Trillium Award for Poetry; and Crowd of Sounds, which won the award in 2004. He has published fiction, scholarly essays, and reviews for a variety of publications, including The Walrus, Critique, the Globe and Mail, Lemonhound and He is an Associate Professor of English at Laurentian University's campus in Barrie, Ontario, and lives in Toronto with his wife and three sons. The author lives in Toronto, ON.

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