Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Allison Grayhurst

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Allison Grayhurst

Allison Grayhurst is the author of The River is Blind, a chapbook of poetry from innovative Ottawa publisher above/ground press.

Today Allison speaks to Open Book about the Rilke poem that had a huge impact on her, the value of trees for writers and the best part of being a poet.

Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our Poets in Profile series.

Open Book:

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

Allison Grayhurst:

Three things. First, was my father reading Shakespeare’s poetry and other poetry at the dinner table in his powerful and dramatic voice. Second, was moving around a lot as a child. It was difficult to form friendships, so I had to rely on my imagination for comfort. The third experience was pivotal in accepting myself as a poet. I was living in Montreal and working at a centre that helped injured birds of prey. There I was offered the opportunity to travel and work with wildlife, which was always my childhood dream. It was in receiving my dream which made me realize it was not what I was meant to do or who I was meant to be. It was then that I reluctantly accepted myself as a poet.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

AG:

“There Is No Oblivion” by Pablo Neruda”. In fact finding his book Residence on Earth was like a homecoming to me. It was the first time I understood the value of poetry, that poetry could be significant. I had been inspired by many writers before, but never by a poet, until reading Neruda.

OB:

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

AG:

I have never felt that I wished I wrote something. But reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Duino Elegies” was the poem that resonated, and still does, the most for me. Reading it fills me the strongest with my own voice — which I think all great art and true inspiration, should do.

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

AG:

Trees. Walking the streets looking at trees, their bark — sometimes touching it, and their many shapes, towering or small. I encounter them individually, no one tree is the same, and they are not always peaceful.

OB:

What do you do when a poem is not working?

AG:

I throw it out. If the essence, the innate movement isn’t in the poem, I trash it. If it is there, but one or two lines don’t work, I sit with it, walk with it, trusting that the right line or word is already there and I just have to find it.

OB:

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

AG:

To be honest I can’t think of one. Books/poets who have knocked my socks off other than the ones I’ve mentioned are Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas and Theodore Roethke… loving “The Meadow Mouse” as one of my favourite poems. Recently I read Mark Strand and was inspired by the authenticity and spiritual force of his work.

OB:

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

AG:

The best thing about being a poet is the lead up just before the poem arrives; it builds, until it becomes a necessary expression. Then seeing it in images, hearing it in words and rhythm, writing it — that is wonderful. It is where I am the most open, the closest I’ll ever be to God. The worst part of being a poet is everything else.


Allison Grayhurst has had her poetry published in over 115 literary magazines in Canada, the U.S., England, India and Australia. Her book, Somewhere Falling, was published by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, two children, two cats and a dog. She also sculpts, working in clay.

For more information about The River is Blind please visit the above/ground website.

Buy this chapbook from above/ground online via paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com or via postal mail by sending a cheque for $4.00 (add $1.00 for postage; outside Canada, add $2.00) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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