Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Fraser Sutherland

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Ten Questions with Fraser Sutherland

The Philosophy of As If, by Fraser Sutherland, concerns "fictions," ideas that may not correspond directly with reality but help us to interact with reality better. Fiction writers often say that they tell a higher truth, but poets like to pretend that what they write is sincere, direct truth-telling. However poems are also fictions, and deal with what might be. Poets behave "as if" the world matches their models. Fraser Sutherland's poems play on this tension between desire and disillusion, between actuality and fantasy. The real yields what might be: the actual becomes the imaginary. In this book, the poet's motto is: "I would like a different mind, a different body, a different life. Is that too much to ask?" The book fleshes out this wish in two sections, "Beggars Would Ride" and "If Wishes Were Horses." The third, "And All Shall Be Redeemed," deals with the ultimate fiction: images and consequences of the afterlife.

Fraser Sutherland will be signing copies of the book at upcoming OLA Superconference and Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, February 26th. See our events page for details.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book, The Philosophy of As If.

Fraser Sutherland:

The self-composed epigraph for this collection of poems is: ”I would like a different mind, a different body, a different life. Is that too much to ask?” It’s a rhetorical question, but nonetheless I try to provide multiple answers. Call them fictions to live by.

OBT:

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

FS:

People with open minds. But that’s not very specific, is it?

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

FS:

This subject could be a poem in my book. Basically a clean page or screen, and a minimum of distractions. Or, put another way, no Burmese cat strolling across my keyboard.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

FS:

On the documentary evidence, an editorial in the West Pictou Echo, a high school magazine, Dec. 17, 1964. A sanctimonious Christmas message.

OBT:

Who are your influences?

FS:

How well I slept, what I had for breakfast. A life lived. Oh, literary influences? Too many to list. Oh, Canadian poet influences? Let’s say Irving Layton and Al Purdy.

OBT:

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

FS:

Though they may seem irrelevant to the kind of urban life newcomers are liable to lead, these two nonfiction books and a short novel in translation. They point to certain mythic realities of the country. I’m tempted to add the Criminal Code of Canada, but for newcomers that might be too scary:

Maria Chapdelaine, by Louis Hémon, translated from the French by W. H. Blake, illustrated by Thoreau McDonald
Canada Made Me, by Norman Levine
The Legend of John Hornby, by George Whalley

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

FS:

Sandro of Chegem, by Fazil Iskander, translated from the Russian by Susan Brownsberger.

OBT:

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

FS:

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten good advice as a writer, let alone best advice. Well, perhaps, “See what the poem looks like after you’ve cut the last line.”

OBT:

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

FS:

One piece of standard advice is: Read, read, read. I agree. Read so you know whether you’re able or willing to join the people you read. Ultimately, writing is not about creativity, self-expression, or doing justice to something. Writing is about poetry and prose.

OBT:

What is your next project?

FS:

I don’t know. Something will come along.


Fraser Sutherland is a much-travelled Nova Scotian who now lives in Toronto, Ontario. Frequently a reviewer for the Globe and Mail, he's published fourteen books, including poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction in Canada and the United States. His work has appeared worldwide in numerous magazines and anthologies in print and online, and has been translated into French, Italian, Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Farsi. Having written and edited for many dictionaries in three countries, he may be the only Canadian poet who is also a lexicographer.

Fraser Sutherland was a reporter and staff writer for several major newspapers and magazines, among them the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the Wall Street Journal before he became a freelance writer and editor in 1970. He was the founding editor of Northern Journey from 1971-1976, a columnist for Quill & Quire, and the managing editor of Books in Canada. During 1981-82 he was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1982-83 he taught at David Thompson University Centre, Nelson, BC. His published fiction, poetry and criticism include books such as Madwomen (Black Moss, 1978), John Glassco: An Essay and Bibliography (ECW Press, 1984), The Monthly Epic: A History of Canadian Magazines 1789-1989 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1989), Jonestown: A Poem (McClelland & Stewart, 1996), and Manual for Immigrants (Tightrope Books, 2007).

The Philosophy of As If is Sutherland's ninth poetry collection ― and his most profound.

For more information on The Philosophy of As If please visit the Bookland Press website.

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

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