Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Sonja Greckol

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The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Sonja Greckol

In Skein of Days (Pedlar Press), poet Sonja Greckol uses the lives of women in the 20th century as a narrative jumping off point for a collection that is by turns playful, moving and witty.

Today we speak with Sonja as part of our The WAR Series: Writers As Readers, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Sonja tells us about being terrified by poetry, the magic of cottage reading and the lessons she's learned from workshopping with writer friends.

You can catch Sonja in person at the launch for Skein of Days on Tuesday, April, 22 2014 at The Paintbox (555 Dundas Street East, Toronto). The launch runs from 5:00pm to 8:00pm.

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The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
Oliver Twist in 4th grade and it took me another 20 years to read Dickens willingly. In a very small school, there was no intermediate step between kid books and the high school library.

A book that made me cry:
M. Nourbese Philip's Zong! made me cry the second time I read it. The perfect fusion of form and content just opened the flood gates.

The first adult book I read:
The two first poems I remember are "The Creation of Sam McGhee" and "The Highwayman". Though they both terrified me (I was an easily terrorized child), I was riveted by the rhythms and the drama, of course.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Most recently, parts of Red Doc made me laugh.

The book I have re-read many times:
I've read and re-read Ann Lauterbach's The Night Sky and Helene Cixious's Three Steps. I go back to Erin Moure, Lisa Robertson, Paul Celan, Margaret Christakos, Rachel Zolf, Wallace Stevens, Pierre Joris, and Frank Bidart many times. Two novels I have read and re-read, Anna Karenina which I first read as a very young woman and later, The Golden Notebook as a young feminist.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Proust, Remembrance of Things Past — I'd need a long period at a cottage to read it and don't do that anymore. In one of my last cottage summers, decades ago, I read Bleak House and War and Peace.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
The novel would be Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead which haunts me like no other and the poetry book would be — I can't decide. I'd be curious about what a 17 year old me in 2014 would think about The Edible Woman.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
I've workshopped extensively with 3 poets: Lucie Brock-Broido, Frank Bidart and Erin Moure. From Lucie I've learned the value of the word, from Frank the arc of a poem and from Erin, the uncoupling of it all into explorations of sound, word and thought. Susan Howe's work pinions me each time I go back because she works in and on time and page.

The best book I read in the past six months:
I read for different reasons so 'best' befuddles me. Richard Power's novel Orfeus is a powerful exploration of experiment in music, in science and in communication. Each of his novels, braids and combs out a conceptual triad. Julie Joosten's Light Light and Margaret Christako's Multitudes are the outstanding poetry of my last readings; they move in multiple directions in samely opposite ways.

The book I plan on reading next:
Stacks, stacks around my desk, around my favourite chair, none sorted along any axis other than "will this one topple it?" I should read with a clearer plan perhaps but I don't, I wander along. Now I'm reading snippets of medieval Mediterranean-based history including the crusades from the other end of the telescope and the Inquisition.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Being in Time

Sonja Greckol began to write poetry when Mike Harris was re-elected in Ontario. Since, her work has appeared in Literary Review of Canada, Canadian Literature, Dalhousie Review, CV2, Canadian Women's Studies, Fiddlehead and Matrix. She coordinates poetry for Women and Environments International Magazine and has served as the Associate Rep representative on the National Council of the League of Canadian Poets (2006-08). She has taught college and university, studied order and disorder in jokes, done human rights and gender-based research and consulting, and does local activism while she writes. Her long poem, 'Emilie Explains Newton to Voltaire,' was short-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2008.

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