Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Barry Dempster

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Ten Questions with Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster talks to Open Book about his latest books and books he's reading, and he offers advice for writers who are trying to get published. This spring, his collection of poetry, Love Outlandish, was published by Brick Books. His poetry collection, Ivan's Birches, will be published by Pedlar Press in fall 2009. The launch for Ivan's Birches is on September 24th. See our events page for details.

OBT:

Tell us about your latest book.

BD:

This has been quite a year for me. In April, I published Love Outlandish with Brick Books, my tenth collection of poetry, and in September I will publish my eleventh poetry book, Ivan’s Birches, with Pedlar Press. (This book will be launched at The Victory Cafe in Toronto on September 24 at 7:30 p.m. Everyone welcome.) The former is a collection of love poems, from that first swoon to the last heartache, while the latter is a book about seeing deeply into the everyday world of art and nature: the poem as a phenomenological tool.

OBT:

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

BD:

I don’t write with a specific readership in mind, though I’m often aware that the audience for poetry is highly literate and has an uncommon love of language, which encourages me to take risks and go as deeply into the craft of poetry as I can to try and find new ways of tackling the unsayable.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

BD:

A quiet place is the only thing I absolutely require. I need a place where I can pass through the everyday distractions without being jarred or forced to unfocus.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

BD:

I had a poem titled “Fog” published in a magazine called Art and Literary Digest over thirty years ago. The poem was dreadful, leaving me lots of room for improvement.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

BD:

Every time I pick up a book of poetry written by a Canadian, I am influenced by the energy on the page, by a twist of phrase or a bit of music created by a combination of words that might never have shared a line before. These are good influences, making me a better human being as well as a better poet.

OBT:

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

BD:

First book I’d hand over would be Don Domanski’s All Our Wonder Unavenged. Then Don McKay’s Camber: Selected Poems. Finally, The Life of Pi by Yan Martel. What a world class country, the new arrival would exclaim.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

BD:

I’m reading Andrea Levy’s The Fruit of the Lemon, having loved her Small Island. And Roo Borson’s Personal History, a book I’m taking my time with. As for poetry, I’m dipping in and out of recent collections by Jack Gilbert, Gerald Stern and Galway Kinnell.

OBT:

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

BD:

Write, write, write. Read, read, read.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

BD:

Same as above. I’d also add that it’s important to care about getting better more than getting published. They are not always the same thing.

OBT:

What is your next project?

BD:

Half a dozen poetry manuscripts are in various stages of undress. And a hopefully final draft of a second novel.




Read more about Love Outlandish at the Brick Books website.

Buy Barry Dempster's books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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