Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Sean Braune

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Sean Braune

Poet and academic Sean Braune brings readers immediately into his new chapbook, the vitamins of an alphabet (above/ground press) with not even a capital letter to slow the entry. This energy and immediacy continues through the chapbook as Braune explores sound and shape, digging into the very foundation of language.

We welcome Sean to Open Book today as part of one of our longest-running series, Poets in Profile, where we talk to poets about their process, influences, and writing life.

Sean tells us about the book that reminds him what poetry can be, some surprising sources of inspiration, and why he doesn't think poems should "work".

Open Book:

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

Sean Braune:

My first primal scream and the subjective emergence of language.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

SB:

The first poem that affected me was “Cuddle Doon” by Alexander Anderson. I read it at the age of nine while traveling with my family across Canada — with the express purpose of visiting New Brunswick — and my mother, aunt, and myself read from a collection of world poetry. The sounds of “Cuddle Doon” were explosive: “The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht / Wi muckle faught an’ din.” I loved the sounds and recited it to myself constantly.

OB:

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

SB:

I don’t want to have written anyone else’s poems: their poems are their poems — unless I’m writing a cento or in an appropriative style. However, when I first read Lisa Robertson’s Debbie: An Epic the whole book completely and utterly blew my mind. To this day, I return to it at least once a month to remind myself what poetry can be. Also, Catriona Strang’s Low Fancy.

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

SB:

Industrial wastelands and awful, schlocky TV.

OB:

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

SB:

I don’t think poems should “work.” I prefer an anarchist practice where poems “go on holiday.”

OB:

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

SB:

I despise picking one: Kevin Davies’s Lateral Argument — which has been out for a while now (2003) — but I recently came across it. But mostly Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.

OB:

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

SB:

“Being” a poet — linking “poet” to poiein or maker — is a strangely heady experience that inevitably forces alternative perspectives of language and “reality”; however, claiming that you are a poet (to friends or family) will often result in head-shaking and glances that make you know that they find you tedious and pretentious. Sometimes this effect is okay… depending on the crowd. However, for this reason, I have never claimed to be a poet. Sometimes, I accidentally write “poetry.”

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Sean Braunes theoretical work has been published in Postmodern Culture, Journal of Modern Literature, Canadian Literature, symplokē, and elsewhere. His poetry has appeared in ditch, The Puritan, Rampike, and Poetry is Dead, and elsewhere. For the past three years he has been invited to speak at the graduate level at Yale University on the topic of avant-garde visual poetry. His dissertation focuses on retheorizing the semiotic sign in response to new materialist philosophies.

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