Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Kateri Lanthier

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Kateri Lanthier

Kateri Lanthier is a poet who has published in many of Canada's magazines and journals. Her first full length collection is Reporting from Night (Iguana Books). You can read a sample of the collection online at the Iguana Books website.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Kateri tells Open Book about the dangers of vintage teacups, her love for her neighbourhood and a delicious Sunday lunch.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness?
Reading Five Children and It to my three children, putting them to bed early, then drinking a glass of wine and reading and writing poetry until late at night. That, and being able to walk for hours, wandering wherever I wish.

What is your idea of misery?
War.

Where would you like to live?
In a tree house by a lake, river or ocean. That’s pretty much where I live right now, in a tall house surrounded by trees, close to a lake.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Compassion and a sense of humour.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Compassion and a sense of humour.

What is your chief characteristic?
Dreaminess.

What is your principal fault?
Melancholia and remarking on typos.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Vintage teacups and teapots. Most of mine are from secondhand stores so they cost very little, but I own far too many. Early editions of illustrated children’s books.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Nostalgia and verbosity.

What do you value most about your friends?
Kindness and wit.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Speeding, in a dead heat with excessive sarcasm (although I have a high tolerance for sarcasm in song lyrics and speeding in ambulance drivers).

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Hesitancy.

What is your favourite virtue?
Humanitas.

What is your favourite occupation?
Cellist.

What would you like to be?
A novelist and poet. I am currently working on a novel set in the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood in the 1890s, 1920s-‘30s and the present.

What is your favourite colour?
Cerulean.

What is your favourite flower?
Rose. Jasmine is a close second.

What is your favourite bird?
The swallow, although a chickadee comedian's a close second.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Martin Luther King, Jr.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Every despot.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Joyce, Beckett and James are at the top of the list, followed by many others. Among contemporary fiction writers, I’d like to single out Marina Endicott and Helen Oyeyemi. Their work dazzles me.

Who are your favourite poets?
Donne and Dickinson are at the head of a list that would run to many pages. I keep discovering more and more contemporary poets whose work impresses me.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Newland Archer and Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Médecins Sans Frontières.

Who is your favourite painter?
Vermeer and Canadians painters such as Douglas Walker, Kate Wilson and Cliff Eyland.

Who is your favourite musician?
Can’t choose just one! Skip James. Glenn Gould. Thelonious Monk. Eve Egoyan.

What is your favourite food?
How about a Sunday lunch? La Sauvagine cheese, Swiss chard sautéed with garlic, lemon and olives, fresh baguette, walnuts, raspberries. (Yes, you’re invited.)

What are your favourite names?
Gregory, Nicholas, Julia and William.

What is it you most dislike?
Cruelty.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Wish I could sing a little better, dance much better, tell jokes better… I wish I were able to raise just one eyebrow — my husband and children can do that. Or cartooning. Again, my husband sketches extremely well — I’m envious of his skill.

How do you want to die?
With a stiff drink downed and the last line read.

What is your current state of mind?
Distracted.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
If I could regard my beloved children as “my accomplishment,” I would say “my children” — but, really, I don’t view them that way. So... Writing a poem that pleases some people.

What is your motto?
Plus ça change…


Kateri Lanthier was born in Toronto and has lived in St. Catharines, Sudbury and Kingston. She has a BA and MA in English from the University of Toronto. After working as an editor in educational publishing, she became a freelance writer for magazines, television and the web, specializing in design, architecture, decorative arts and fine art. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and magazines in Canada, the United States and England, including Descant, Grain, Matrix, The Antigonish Review, Acta Victoriana, The U.C. Review, The Greenfield Review, Saturday Night, Quarry, Writing Women and London Magazine. She lives in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood with her husband and three children.

For more information about Reporting from Night please visit the Iguana Books website.

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

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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