Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Kayla Czaga

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Kayla Czaga

It might be quicker to mention the poetry contests that Kayla Czaga's work hasn't won or been a finalist for — even before her debut collection, For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions), was officially published, this bright new talent was racking up accolades. The list includes winning The Fiddlehead's Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize and The Malahat Review's Far Horizon's Award for Poetry, being shortlisted for The New Quarterly's Occasional Verse Contest and the CBC Canada Writes Poetry Contest, amongst others. With that list of successes, it's no surprise that For Your Safety Please Hold On is garnering praise for its playful wit and incisive observations.

We're speaking to Kayla today as part of our Poets in Profile series, where we talk to Canadian poets about their craft, their reading and how poetry first came into their lives.

Kayla tells Open Book about professors with cats, an unlikely source of inspiration and mining dead poems for gold.

Open Book:

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

Kayla Czaga:

I took a variety of classes in university. Most of them were large dry lecture courses where I was one of several hundreds of students copying dry notes and completing midterms. Poetry classes were small — we sat in a circle and we talked about what we wanted to do with our poems, what we were reading, what we thought of other people's poems. The professors were other poets and they had the best stories about poetry and life and cats.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


Like every other teenage girl, I fell in love with Plath. Her poem "Lesbos" was my favourite.


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


Mayakovsky's “A Cloud in Trousers."


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Reading soviet history.


What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?


I put it into a folder called "Dead Poems" and I forget about it, or else I pull out the lines I like and use them in another poem, trashing the rest.


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


I really liked Mayakovsky's Revolver by Matthew Dickman.


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


I get to do my favourite things — reading and writing poems — practically every day. The worst part is being asked about what I do and having to come up with some answers and statements about my finances.

Kayla Czaga grew up in Kitimat and now lives in Vancouver, BC, where she recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. Her poetry, nonfiction and fiction has been published in The Walrus, Best Canadian Poetry 2013, Room Magazine, Event and The Antigonish Review, among others. For Your Safety Please Hold On is her first book.

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

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