Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Alison Pick

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Ten Questions with Alison Pick

Alison Pick’s first collection of poems, Question & Answer (Raincoast Books, 2003), was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award and the E.J. Pratt Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award. In 2002, Pick won the Bronwen Wallace Award for most promising Canadian poet, and her poetry has gone on to win the National Magazine Award and the CBC Literary Award. Her first novel, The Sweet Edge (Raincoast Books, 2005), was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year. She will be reading from her most recent collection of poems, The Dream World (McClelland & Stewart, 2008), at the Harbourfront Centre on Wednesday, April 16. Visit our events page for details. Her website is www.alisonpick.com.

OB:

Tell us about your latest book, The Dream World.

AP:

I wrote The Dream World during the five years I lived in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I was what is referred to there as a “Come-from-Away,” and so the book is preoccupied with what it means to be a stranger in a new environment, both cultural and geographic. It also explores the relationship between language and place.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

AP:

I try to write work that is interesting to me, that pleases me. Books that I myself would be happy to stumble across. The paradox being, of course, that writing what is most compelling to you as an author usually translates into the writing that is most vivid and alive for a reader.

OB:

What poets got your interested in poetry?

AP:

Originally? Bronwen Wallace. Lorna Crozier. Michael Crummey. Jane Kenyon. Jane Hirschfield. Anna Akhmatova. Emily Dickinson.

OB:

What was your first publication?

AP:

The first poem I published was in The New Quarterly and was called, ironically, ‘The First.’ It was about my first love, not my first poem, although looking back there were some similarities between the two…

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AP:

I’m very flexible as to where I write, so long as it’s quiet first thing in the morning when I’m at my desk. My family has a cabin on the Boyne River in Bruce Trail country and I love to write there, on the glass porch looking over the river. During the writing of my first book I spent some time at a Benedictine monastery outside Saskatoon and wrote in a small hermitage at the edge of the never-ending prairie. My ideal environment is close to nature, away from other people, away from the internet, a place with simple amenities, where I can go for long walks in the afternoon and sleep with the sounds of a forest or the ocean in my ears.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

AP:

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.

OB:

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

AP:

Hard to say. I’d pick different books on any given day. The ones that come to mind now, though, are In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand, This All Happened by Michael Winter and To the River by Tim Lilburn. Wonderful books, all.

OB:

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

AP:

The best advice I ever received was threefold: read, read, read.

OB:

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

AP:

The kindest response I’ve received came from another writer, whose work I admire, and who told me that if she could write anything at all she would want to have written my poems. Which is a feeling I’m very familiar with, so I understood what a compliment that was.

OB:

What is your next project?

AP:

I’m working on two things right now, both big departures for me. The first is a novel set in Prague around the time of the Munich Agreement, in the fall of 1938. It focuses on the “Kindertransports” that sent Jewish children out of Europe just before the war. My own grandparents came to Canada around that time as well, renounced their Judaism and raised my father and uncle Christian. The second book I’m working on is a book of non-fiction exploring my family’s relationship to religion post-Holocaust, my own accidental discover of my family’s secret in my early teens, and my subsequent exploration of religious and cultural identity.

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