Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

TTQ's Toronto Poets 5 Questions Series: Roger Knox

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TTQ's Toronto Poets 5 Questions Series: Roger Knox

Interviewed by Darryl Salach (The Toronto Quarterly)

The Toronto Poets – 5 Questions Series is a new series initiated by The Toronto Quarterly that is geared to providing the talented poets living and writing in the city of Toronto with a bit of a broader platform in which to explain who they are as poets and what they're writing about these days. The hope is to provide this information to not only lovers of poetry residing in the city but to the casual reader of poetry who might not be aware of some of the names being featured in the five questions series. Ultimately, the hope of this series is to inform Torontonians that poetry is indeed vibrant, alive and kicking ass in our city.

Roger Knox is a Toronto composer, poet, reviewer and music educator/researcher. His poetry appears in Rampike and The Toronto Quarterly, and he has reviewed for The Malahat Review and Prairie Fire Review of Books. Originally an award-winning classical pianist, his compositions have been commissioned by the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council and broadcast on the CBC and on U.S. National Public Radio. He taught at McMaster University and Douglas College, and worked at Bloorview Kids Rehab as a music educator and researcher in the area of music technology for people with disabilities. Currently he reviews recordings of contemporary music for Whole Note and enjoys playing folk and blues harmonica.

TTQ- How would you best describe your writing style, and do you feel that form is important when it comes to writing poetry?

RK- My style is still coalescing as I have written poetry seriously for less than two years, after attending a reading by Desi Di Nardo. I was a composer and pianist but left the professional music field because of disabling arm injuries. I write free verse and read the poems aloud over and over to get the right flow and sound quality. Probably the aural focus is associated with my musical background. The importance of form in my poetry now is in the timing, sequences and processes that shape the work, rather than in traditional forms.

TTQ- How would you best describe the local poetry scene in the city of Toronto? Do you manage to attend many poetry readings, and do you find they inspire you and your writing in any way?

RK- I think the Toronto poetry scene is vibrant and exciting! People are very welcoming and willing to provide context, and it's been a great experience getting to know poets at readings. I go around once a month to connect and get a sense of what people are writing. But it is hard to take in a number of poems at one hearing and that is what leaves me unsatisfied. Maybe having an on-stage respondent to point up a few highlights after the reading would help.

TTQ- Do you feel riot police used too much force in dealing with protesters at the recent G20 protests this past June, and should there be a public inquiry? Do you find poets in Toronto to be far too apathetic when it comes to writing about socio-political issues or should we simply leave it up to politicians to incorporate change as they see fit?

RK- Yes, the police went overboard and that whole situation deserves a public inquiry, especially the role of the federal government. Socio-political issues are worth addressing in poetry when the poet's imaginative and expressive powers are up to the challenge. By now many of us, poets included, have reached a state of learned helplessness in the face of massive concentrations of wealth and abuses of power. Yet I think poetry and the readings and meetings associated with it are valuable spaces for dissent and the raising of alternatives.

TTQ- Who is your favourite poet and why?

RK- Currently it is Eustace (W.W.E.) Ross. He is known for his imagery and is a nature poet. But poems like "The Diver," "The Walk" and "If Ice" set up meditative and spiritual spaces that resonate with the mindfulness work I have been doing. For me it is a process of settling into the poem and finding that although nothing much happens, everything has changed. Also, Ross's own situation of having been shell-shocked and gassed in the First World War, yet emerging with this wonderful imaginative life, is very moving.

TTQ- What poetry-related projects are you currently working on, and should we expect a book of your poetry any time soon?

RK- I did my first reading at the Creative Spirit Art Centre Festival of disability arts in Toronto on October 23rd, which incorporated a little music as well as poetry. No book yet. Maybe you publish when you are finally fed up with sending poems to journals! But until a book starts kicking in the belly I will stick to journal submissions.

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This interview was first published in The Toronto Quarterly blog.

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