Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Lorna Crozier

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Lorna Crozier

Open Book is celebrating National Poetry Month with daily profiles of today's "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Find out what inspires, confounds and delights the poets behind this spring's new releases by following our series.

Lorna Crozier's absorbing, transcendent new collection, Small Mechanics (McClelland & Stewart), is described as both a modern bestiary and a book of mourning. Her wide-ranging poems strike upon Bach and Dostoevsky, dancing wood rats and a religion founded by cats. There's even a poem that turns into a dog…

Lorna Crozier will be reading at several spots in Ontario this spring. You can catch her in Cobourg at the Cobourg Public Library on Saturday, April 16th; at Toronto's Art Bar Poetry Series on Tuesday, April 19th and at the Ottawa International Writers Festival on May 1st and 2nd. Click on the links or visit our Events pages for more details.

Open Book:

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

Lorna Crozier:

In Grade 1, the teacher tacked a poem I’d written on the bulletin board. It was an elegy for my dog, Tiny, though she hadn’t died. I killed her in the poem because I knew there would be a greater emotional impact. I got both praise and sympathy from my teacher and fellow students, and I was hooked.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

LC:

When I 18 I taped “I am a rock, I am an island” on my wall, a quotation, of course, from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” I was trying to be tough and stoic about all the new frightening things coming my way. The poems in school that knocked me off my feet were soliloquies from Shakespeare, especially “To be or not to be…” from Hamlet, and all of MacBeth’s.

OB:

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

LC:

Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art,” Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan,” John Newlove’s “The Weather,” Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “The Death of the Loch Ness Monster” and Patrick Lane’s “Fathers and Sons.” I can’t possibly choose just one.

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

LC:

The gravel on country roads in Saskatchewan. I’ve written an entire prose poem about gravel and it occurs as an image in many of my poems. One of the things I like about it is that it resists comparisons and is not beautiful in any way.

OB:

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

LC:

I let it sit, sometimes for years, and if I still can’t figure out what to do with it when I go back to it, I toss it in a box for my archives.

OB:

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

LC:

Karen Enns’s That Other Beauty. It came out with Brick Books in the fall of 2010 and it’s her first book.

OB:

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

LC:

More than the actual writing of the poem itself, I love the attention to the world that poetry demands. It takes me out of my self and engages me with the other, whether that be a person, a dragonfly, a cat, a field of grass. Trying to find the words to say the impossible depends upon seeing in an incomparably intense way. The act of writing takes me into a state of rapt attention and things start to show themselves to me in new and surprising ways. I feel connected, then, to what is outside myself.

This is no worst thing about being a poet unless you let yourself get mired in the politics of poetry. Schools get formed with narrow views on what good poetry should be. That’s destructive to the art form and the writer. In the small world of Canadian poetry, reviewers can be vicious and it’s easy to get hurt. As a writer you have to constantly tell yourself that it’s the poem that matters, not who wins the prizes or gets the grants, even if that’s you.

Lorna Crozier has published 15 books of poetry, including The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems; Whetstone; Apocrypha of Light; What the Living Won’t Let Go; A Saving Grace; Everything Arrives at the Light; Inventing the Hawk; Angels of Flesh, Angels of Silence; and The Garden Going On Without Us. She has also edited several anthologies, among them Desire in Seven Voices and, with Patrick Lane, Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast and Breathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets. Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, she now lives in British Columbia, where she teaches at the University of Victoria.

For more information about Small Mechanics please visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

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

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