Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Carolyn Smart

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Ten Questions with Carolyn Smart

Carolyn Smart will be reading from her latest collection of poetry, Hooked (Brick Books), at McNally Robinson at Don Mills on Thursday, September 3rd. See our events page for details.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book, Hooked.

Carolyn Smart:

Hooked is a collection of seven persona poems. It's a book about obsession and love, from the points of view of seven intriguing women who all lived life to the max in the 20th century.

OBT:

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

CS:

I guess I always write for myself. I'm a tough reader and get bored easily. I like writing that surprises and moves, so I was aiming for that.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

CS:

I have a room with a desk and lots of books and I write there in silence. I can't have music or talking or people sharing my oxygen. My dogs are ok though, because they never talk back and often don't even appear to be breathing. Outside the window is the wilderness of eastern Ontario Shield country, and it's like a jungle this summer.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

CS:

It was a poem entitled "And After April" published in an anthology entitled Vibrations (Gage Publishing, 1969) when I was in high school. My teacher – adored and feared in equal measure by my whole English class - submitted it without my knowledge. I was hooked, so to speak, from then on.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

CS:

Leonard Cohen's tour-that-never-ends just gives me the hugest pleasure. He even came to the small town near where I live to play (my dream come true) and I was on the other side of the Atlantic so missed it entirely. I don't even want to think about it. But it feeds my writing just to know he was near. I met him when I was 16, but I've never heard him play. I think it's fate.

OBT:

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

CS:

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart is truly one of the great books of all time; Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro offers the reader the finest short fiction around today and in particular the mind-blowing story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain;" Michael Ondaatje's The Cinnamon Peeler - Selected Poems needs no explanation at all.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

CS:

I'm reading Calm Things by Shawna Lemay and February by Lisa Moore. Both are stunningly good books. And I'm about to read The Russian Jerusalem by Elaine Feinstein, which promises to be astounding.

OBT:

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

CS:

Writing is an endurance sport. Don't forget that.

OBT:

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

CS:

Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. And read as widely as you can. Write for your own pleasure, write for your interior tough critic. Send out to magazines and anthologies and prizes and whatever you do, don't quit trying.

OBT:

What is your next project?

CS:

It's something that I'm just starting – poetry – that doesn’t have a name or true form yet, but it's cooking in my head, and that's exciting.


Carolyn Smart's previous collections of poetry have been Swimmers in Oblivion (York Publishing, 1981), Power Sources (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1982), Stoning the Moon (Oberon Press, 1986) and The Way to Come Home (Brick Books, 1993). Her memoir At the End of the Day was published by Penumbra Press in 2001, and a section of that book won 1st prize in the CBC Radio Literary Contest, Personal Essay Category. Her poems have appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies, and several have been translated into Spanish, German, Hindi and Japanese. Her long poem "The Sound of the Birds" was runner-up for the National Magazine Award in 1993.

She has taught Creative Writing in workshops as well as on-line for Writers in Electronic Residence, and since 1989 has been in charge of the Creative Writing program at Queen's University. She is the founder of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.

For more information about Hooked, please visit the Brick Books website.

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

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