Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Adam Sol

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Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Adam Sol

Adam Sol's third collection of poetry, Jeremiah, Ohio (House of Anansi Press, 2008), has been nominated for the 2009 Trillium Book Award. He is also the author of Jonah's Promise (Mid-List Press, 2000), which won Mid-List Press's First Series Award for Poetry, and Crowd of Sounds (House of Anansi Press, 2003), which won the Trillium Award for Poetry.

Enter Open Book's June contest to win an Ontario Authors Prizepack that includes the nine English-language Trillium-nominated books.

Open Book interviewed Adam Sol earlier this year and we are re-running that Ten Questions interview below along with the Trillium-related question we asked him this week: "What were you doing when you received news of your Trillium nomination?"

OB:

Could you tell us about your latest book, Jeremiah, Ohio?

AS:

Jeremiah, Ohio is a novel-in-poems about a would-be prophet who takes to wandering around rural Ohio, preaching at people at restaurants, bus stations, and such. He’s befriended by Bruce, a lost soul of sorts, and the two of them wander around, eventually working their way to the “center of iniquity,” New York City. The book alternates between poems written in Jeremiah’s voice, poems written in Bruce’s voice, and some poems in the voices of characters they meet along the way.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Jeremiah, Ohio?

AS:

Everyone! Well, maybe not everyone. But I do hope that the book, because of its narrative, its story, will attract more readers than the average book of poetry. On the other hand, I hope that the poems are good enough to stand on their own in many cases, so that it isn’t just a “novel-in-verse,” but a true novel in poems.

OB:

What poets got you interested in poetry?

AS:

I was extraordinarily lucky my first semester as an undergraduate at Tufts University. Somebody told me I should take “Levine’s class on Poetry.” Turns out that was Philip Levine, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and arguably one of American poetry’s great elder statesmen. He was my first influence, on the page, and in person, although he barely knew I existed. From there I probably went to Richard Hugo and Deborah Digges, Robert Hass and C.K. Williams.

OB:

What was your first publication?

AS:

While I was still an undergrad — 3rd or 4th year -- I was published in a dinky litmag called the Atticus Review. I remember very clearly getting that acceptance letter — it was written on a post-it note and said something like, “We like this. It’ll be out in the spring.” But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. For a while, I papered my wall with rejection letters. Then I ran out of wall space.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AS:

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I get a large chunk of my writing done in coffee shops, particularly my local Starbucks. I have 3 young boys in the house, and sometimes you just gotta get outta there if you want to concentrate. I find the public white noise of coffee shops helpful, and the caffeine is also crucial.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

AS:

The semester has started so I’m mostly re-reading the books I’m teaching — Hemingway in my American Lit class, Pound and Eliot for 20th C Poetry, Plato for my Intro to Literary Theory class. But I’ve committed to working my way slowly through Don Quixote, and am really enjoying the stolen time.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

AS:

Hm. As an American immigrant, I take that question very seriously, but I’m afraid that most of my answers will be typical. I think Michael Redhill’s book of poems Lake Nora Arms gave me a real sense of some of the way that Torontonians feel about Muskoka, which was very useful. But that would only be a good “Welcome to Canada” gift if the person was moving to Toronto! Atwood’s Survival was an eye-opener early on, of course, but that’s the cliché answer. Pierre Berton’s book about the War of 1812 was also a big help to me, but that’s because I’m a geek. What about Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies? Still pretty typical. I know, Robert Munsch! Canadian weird, funny sweetness. Maybe as an American I don’t take this question very seriously after all....

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

AS:

Two things:

First, from Yusef Komunyakaa: “Don’t write what you know. Write what you’re willing to discover.”

Second, from a tall blonde woman: “Get over yourself. You’re not so special.”

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

AS:

Two answers again:
First, see tall blonde woman above.
Seriously, the responses that are memorable to me don’t make particularly good stories. What makes them memorable for me is who says them. Earning the respect of someone I admire is hard to condense into a bite-size anecdote, especially if that person isn’t famous. But those little moments are what drives me to work hard at an art form that is, let’s say, a bit under-appreciated.

OB:

What is your next project?

AS:

Next?! Sheesh! I just finished this one! I’ve got a handful of things I’d like to work on, but in all honesty, I don’t have the emotional concentration to dive in just yet. I’m just in the tinkering phase. But I tend to write well when I’m in transit, so hopefully the traveling I’ll be doing with this book will help me make the next one.

OB:

What were you doing when you received news of your Trillium nomination?

AS:

I got an email from Lynn Henry, the Publisher at Anansi, in the middle of the afternoon. I was very excited but I was alone in the house, getting ready to give a lecture that night. Then my wife got home late and I was all confused about whether to be mad at her for making me late or to tell her the good news and jump up and down. I think I did both.

Jeremiah, Ohio
Read more about Jeremiah, Ohio by Adam Sol at the House of Anansi Press website.

For more information on the Trillium Book Award, go to the Ontario Media Development Corporation's website.

3 comments

Sounds very intriguing to say the least, an interesting take on poetry. Although, I haven't been an avid fan of poetry itself, I'd like to take a look inside the book.

I love the idea of this book. I must get my hands on it... a novel told in poetry in rural Ohio. I haven't sunk my teeth into any poetry in so long I think it will be a real treat to switch gears an enjoy wordplay.

“Don’t write what you know. Write what you’re willing to discover.”

I find this the best and worst advice depending on the person's level of "discovery." And dependent upon how well what or whom you are 'discovering,' is willing to be discovered. The subject(s) voices of Jeremiah Ohio could be accurately captured or not at all depending on how connected the author can be with the 'voice.' I'm looking forward to finding out. I find this advice also helps prevent the recycling of subjects and perspectives some authors tend to fall into. It's a fine line and I feel research is key to this advice.

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