Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Sandra Ridley

Share |

Sandra Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Also in 2012, Ridley won the international festival Of Authors’ Battle of the Bards and was featured in The University of Toronto’s Influency Salon. Twice a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, Ridley is the author of two chapbooks: Rest Cure, and Lift, for which she was co-recipient of the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her latest book is The Counting House (BookThug 2013). She lives in Ottawa.

You can contact Sandra throughout the month of September with questions and comments at writer@openbooktoronto.com.

The Dirty Dozen, with Sandra Ridley

Poet Sandra Ridley is Open Book: Toronto's September 2014 writer-in-residence. Get to know her by checking out her edition of our Dirty Dozen interview series! Sandra's most recent book is The Counting House (BookThug), which has been praised for how it "soothes and bites" and "lives fiercely". Amongst other honours, Sandra has been shortlisted for the Ottawa Book Award, the ReLit Award and the Archibald Lampman Award. She also captured the coveted title of winner of "Battle of the Bards" at the International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront Centre.

The Counting House

By Sandra Ridley

From BookThug:

PRAISE FOR THE COUNTING HOUSE:

"Sandra Ridley has revealed our closest contradictions in poems where harm is exhausted in both pleasure and pain. These poems find a blackbird baked into a pie, and our own drooling expectation of dessert, the edible object, is replaced by the excitement of the bird that escapes it, somehow alive. We revel in the spectre of the creature’s death and resurrection. How close we are to pain and destruction here, but Ridley surprises us with life that stubbornly and lovingly continues. In language that soothes and bites word by word, The Counting House is a book that lives fiercely in the complex in-between of love and punishment, pleasure and pain, coo and cry."
– Jenny Sampirisi

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Eppur si muove/and yet it moves

Eppur si muove. And yet it moves. This is what Galileo supposedly said, speaking of the earth, upon being found guilty of heresy in 1633 for promoting the Copernican model of heliocentricity. In its move away from the sun, the earth has turned a full thirty rotations since I began posting here at Open Book. The earth’s speed at the equator is 1,100 miles per hour. I’m mystified by how we can’t really sense this, as the earth moves, with the seasons, towards and away from the sun. Always there is movement and here we are, continually hurtling forward with the face of the earth, whether we do feel it or not. None of us are suspended and motionless, and we are not at the centre of the universe.

On Janus

Sonnet IV

New yeare forth looking out of Janus gate,
Doth seeme to promise hope of new delight:
And bidding th’old Adieu, his passed date
Bids all old thoughts to die in dumpish spright
And calling forth out of sad Winters night,
Fresh love, that long hath slept in cheerlesse bower:
Wils him awake, and soone about him dight
His wanton wings and darts of deadly power.
For lusty spring now in his timely howre,
Is ready to come forth him to receive:
And warnes the Earth with divers colord flowre,
To decke hir selfe, and her faire mantle weave.
Then you faire flowre, in whom fresh youth doth raine,
Prepare your selfe new love to entertaine.

—Edmund Spenser

*

On pseudonyms: Q&A with Writer "X"

On pseudonyms a.k.a. aliases a.k.a. handles a.k.a. avatars a.k.a. monikers a.k.a. sobriquets ak.a. epithets a.k.a. pen names a.k.a. nicknames a.k.a. noms de guerres, a.k.a. anon.:

Q&A with Writer “X”, on writing under “Sweet Baboo”

Sandra Ridley: What drew you to using a pseudonym for your work? What are the benefits and/or disadvantages for you? Do you see yourself as being part of, or extending, or arguing with a particular tradition of writing under a pseudonym?

On pseudonyms: Q&A With Amanda Earl

On pseudonyms a.k.a. aliases a.k.a. handles a.k.a. avatars a.k.a. monikers a.k.a. sobriquets ak.a. epithets a.k.a. pen names a.k.a. nicknames a.k.a. noms de guerres a.k.a. anon.:

Q&A with Amanda Earl, on writing with a variety of aliases

Sandra Ridley: What drew you to using a pseudonym for your work?

Amanda Earl: I have more than one pseudonym. And some of them are group pseudonyms. How it starts for me is that I get an idea for a character, a separate voice I want to try out. Rather than a pseudonym, I think what I create is a heteronym, a whole character. I imagine their personality traits, their environment, their history.

On pseudonyms: Q&A With Michael Redhill

On pseudonyms a.k.a. aliases a.k.a. handles a.k.a. avatars a.k.a. monikers a.k.a. sobriquets ak.a. epithets a.k.a. pen names a.k.a. nicknames a.k.a. noms de guerres a.k.a. anon.:

Q&A with Michael Redhill, on writing under “Inger Ash Wolfe”

Sandra Ridley: What drew you to using a pseudonym for your work?

Michael Redhill: I wanted to lead a secret life and watch it unfold from a distance. And I liked the idea of being two people for two distinct purposes. I also found that it allowed for a “performance” as a different writer. Writers are always getting into character, anyway, so why couldn’t the writer also be a character? That was perhaps the most satisfying part of the process, seeing how Inger wrote.

Which ‘I’ this ‘I.

After my second book, Post-Apothecary, came out, I was given the chance to read at some of our writers’ festivals. One event in Ontario had three poets and a host who introduced us and facilitated the tooth-pulls of the Q&A. Standard process. The night before, several colleagues and friends were gathering in the Hospitality Suite, and our host, a well-respected writer, was canvassing the poets in the room. She pulled me aside, as if wanting to whisper in my ear, then she said something like, “I would never ask you this on stage, but why were you institutionalized? What were you in for?” On the surface, there seemed to be no judgement or harshness in her questions. But still, it took me aback.

Under Surveillance at The Word on The Street, Toronto

Yesterday I participated in a panel called Under Surveillance at the New Narratives Tent, alongside Emily Horne, co-author of The Inspection House: An Impertinent Field Guide to Modern Surveillance (with Tim Maly), and hosted by Nick Mount. We'd been asked to talk about our interpretations of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish—how his work related to our approaches to writing and research regarding our books, and to give to a short reading.

Here's my response:

Q&A with Linda Lacroix, CEO and head librarian at the Lake of Bays Library in Baysville, ON

Coordinates: 45.3000° N, 79.0000° W

“Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission. No committee decides who may enter, no crisis of body or spirit must accompany the entrant. No tuition is charged, no oath sworn, no visa demanded. Of the monuments humans build for themselves, very few say "touch me, use me, my hush is not indifference, my space is not barrier. If I inspire awe, it is because I am in awe of you and the possibilities that dwell in you.”” Toni Morrison

*

Q&A with Linda Lacroix, CEO and head librarian at the Lake of Bays Library in Baysville, ON

Q&A with Lorie and Robert Wright, co-owners of the Tamworth Book Shop

Coordinates: 44.4667° N, 76.9833° W

“Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.” Virginia Woolf

*

On the idea of a secret—a conversation with Jennifer Londry

Part 3:
Q&A with Jennifer Londry

Sandra Ridley: How do you integrate the direct and personal ‘I’ into your poetry? Or does the ‘I’ tend to be an ‘other’?

On the idea of a secret—a conversation with Rhonda Douglas

Part 2:
Q&A with Rhonda Douglas

Sandra Ridley: How do you integrate the direct and personal ‘I’ into your poetry? Or does the ‘I’ tend to be an ‘other’?

Rhonda Douglas: I have used “I” to speak as myself, and to speak through a character (as I did with Cassandra of Troy, in Some Days I Think I Know Things.) It depends on the work and what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve also used “you” to mean myself, to mean the reader and to mean a third character or a group of people.

I don’t shy away from the personal, and at some level I think everything is personal, even when framed from a character’s point of view. It may not be my own lived experience but it’s something I can at least empathize with enough to create from it.

On the idea of a secret (Part 1)

“The idea of a secret that will be revealed always results in one of two scenarios: death and destruction, or self-discovery and recovery beyond our wildest dreams of unification. And in the greatest of sagas, both at the same time.” Mary Ruefle

*

My brother came home from school to find all but one of his angelfish floating, belly up, in his aquarium. I killed his fish—it’s taken me over thirty-five years to say it. Truth has a way of surfacing. Of course, I didn’t mean to kill them, but lack of intention didn’t mean I wouldn’t feel shame when his fish drifted up. I still feel badly about it.

On Silence in Poems

“To reveal all is to end the story. To conceal all is to fail to begin the story." Robert Kroetsch, The Lovely Treachery of Words.

On silence

I grew up in a silent house, aside from the times when the silence was punctured with yelling. The crying was always quiet. The children did stay quiet—even when not crying—as best they could, to stay out of my father’s gaze. It was hard learned tactic. There is enforced silence and chosen silence—a malicious form of control or a necessity for survival. All of us know many manifestations and purposes. What of the silence of a silent house? What of the silence that follows the noise? What’s spoken and unspoken? Where do our chosen words come in—and what words? Why do we use them?

On the Handmade (Part 3): Q&A with Jennifer Still

(Part 3 of 3. I'm reposting the introductory text from Post 1 to set up the context for Jennifer Still's response.)

It’s been said that the hand-written letter is becoming lost to us, or that for many of us, it has already disappeared. I’ve heard too that longhand itself is no longer being taught in our schools. The physical nature of our hands is quickly adapting for work within the new digital realm. Small wonder that the word ‘digit’ experienced sematic drift; its emphasis of meaning shifted from ‘finger’ to the infinite zeros and ones of programming code. Our fingers came first; then we counted them. (Ah, but now, I’ve got your digits in my I-phone.)

On the Handmade (Part 2): Q&A with Christine McNair

(Part 2 of 3. I'm reposting the introductory text from Post 1 to set up the context for Christine McNair's response.)

It’s been said that the hand-written letter is becoming lost to us, or that for many of us, it has already disappeared. I’ve heard too that longhand itself is no longer being taught in our schools. The physical nature of our hands is quickly adapting for work within the new digital realm. Small wonder that the word ‘digit’ experienced sematic drift; its emphasis of meaning shifted from ‘finger’ to the infinite zeros and ones of programming code. Our fingers came first; then we counted them. (Ah, but now, I’ve got your digits in my I-phone.)

On The Handmade (Part 1): Qs and a response by Phil Hall

It’s been said that the hand-written letter is becoming lost to us, or that for many of us, it has already disappeared. I’ve heard too that longhand itself is no longer being taught in our schools. The physical nature of our hands is quickly adapting for work within the new digital realm. Small wonder that the word ‘digit’ experienced sematic drift; its emphasis of meaning shifted from ‘finger’ to the infinite zeros and ones of programming code. Our fingers came first; then we counted them. (Ah, but now, I’ve got your digits in my I-phone.)

Resurrecting Past Seasons

A note written for a Pedlar Press panel held last fall in St. John’s, NFLD, and in tardy response to a query from Robert Kroetsch:

I have a crush on Robert Kroetsch. I’ve had this crush for a very long time, and still do, and I’m disappointed with myself that I couldn’t properly answer the one question he asked me six years ago, in a dark country bar full of writers, in Lumsden, Saskatchewan. He asked if I wrote ‘political poetry’—in part, because I live in Ottawa and have a proximity to a wellspring of material, the politicos themselves, and that it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t bring socio-political issues to my work. I answered him by saying that I thought all poetry is political, that writing itself is an activist act. I’d heard that somewhere. (Hadn’t I?)

Hello, my name is Diane! (Part 2)

Some say that exposure helps dissipate the stress for people with performance anxiety—that old adage which claims the more you do the one thing that provokes fear in you, the easier it gets to manage it. It’s battleground language, emphasising success or failure in the individual. Are you strong enough? Confront and conquer your demon and your demon goes away. For some of us, for me, this idea isn’t true. I wish it were true. For years, in different ways, I’ve had several public engagements—exposures—and have found no relief. Sorry to say. But we anxious types do learn to develop crutches where and as we can, the classic healthy and unhealthy ones.

Hello, my name is Diane!

Well, no. It’s not. But this is what happens when I get nervous—the wrong words leave my mouth. I blurt statements I don’t believe. I say things that are incredibly, obviously erroneous and false. Many times, even within the most simple of friendly conversations, I’m unable to say anything at all. But I did say that though—“Hello, my name is Diane”—to a warm and approachable Diane, the real Diane, a writer from Alberta who had just introduced herself, fittingly and correctly, to me. This was in 2008 at the Banff Centre. A group of writers were meeting, eight of us to each round table, for our first dinner and stress-free conversation. I walked in, sat down beside Diane, and, cringingly, that’s how our conversation began. Good god, I thought. I’m an idiot.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.