Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Jean-Marc Desgent

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Ten Questions with Jean-Marc Desgent

Open Book talks to Jean-Marc Desgent, author of more than 20 poetry collections, including Twentieth Centuries and Portraits de famille (Pictures of My Family).

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Jean-Marc Desgent:

My latest book is entitled Portraits de famille (Pictures of My Family). It consists of two sections: the first is in prose and the second is made up of short poems in verse. This book confronts us with the problem of the individual and his or her relationship with “the family” as a delimited sociological concept and as the “nation” – both aspects formulated as threats to a person’s integrity.

OBT:

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

JMD:

Two dimensions of reading were kept in mind: the private dimension (the reader and his book) and the public one (the listener and his or her sonorous perception of the poem).

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JMD:

The room where I work, in which I easily find my favourite books, my notes, my computer, my everyday mess…. However, I think that I could just as well write anywhere….

OBT:

What was your first publication?

JMD:

My first publication was the outcome of a competition in the college I attended: I had won the first prize, and the reward was the publication of the winning poem in the journal OVO. It was in 1971.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

JMD:

I know it is not recent, but I once went to Toronto to participate in an evening of poetry called "Poetry of America" I met Canadian and American poets who really left a mark on me through the types of poems they were writing. These I perceived as very different from the ones I was writing…. These poets and these poems made me aware of poetic forms I did not know very well.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a « Welcome to Canada » gift, what would these books be?

JMD:

Without having precise titles in mind, I would choose three books of poetry: For me, the poets (despite their subdued voice) are the ones who best understood the Quebecois and Canadian soul.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JMD:

For the last two months, I have been devouring Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

OBT:

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

JMD:

To live a lot, to read everything, to write truthfully.

OBT:

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

JMD:

Write truthfully.

OBT:

What is your next project?

JMD:

To write a series of short stories that all take place in Italy: they are about the white "blues."

Interview translated by Stéphanie Roesler.


Jean-Marc Desgent is the author of more than 20 poetry collections, including La Theorie des Catastrophes and Transfigurations.

For more information about Twentieth Centuries please visit the Guernica Editions website.


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

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