Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Susan, a lesson in awesomeness (part 7)

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Today we have an interview with Susan Gillis,a fantastic poet who grips you at the first line and doesn't let you go until you've read the whole book through. I'm glad to finally find out the secret of what makes her so awesome.

1)What makes you so awesome?
I'm secretly a Cubist portrait of myself.

2) What inspires you to write when you’re feeling stuck?
Great poetry. And tiny, tiny white shells in a mile-long stretch of white sand. And the certainty that if I don't write soon I will throw up.

3) What fascinates you?
The seasons: all the small and large ways our physical environment changes -- drastically, here in central Canada, and we just roll with it! Also, days. Morning light especially fascinates me -- it offers a way of seeing depth in things that isn't obvious at other times of day. I could watch things get light -- the same things, why not -- every day and never tire of it.

4) What poem do you wish you had written? Why?
This question's hard because while there are many poets I wish I could write like -- in various ways: tone, style, craft, subject matter -- Milosz comes to mind; Szymborska too -- a poem I wish I had written would have to be something I held onto as a mantra, an Ars Poetica, I guess. There are so many! And for so many different reasons. More often when I read something that has immediate impact (as opposed to the slow quiet burn) I feel for awhile I wish I had written that. There are some poems by the Japanese masters Issa and Basho I wish I'd written: "even in Kyoto/ hearing the cuckoo/ I long for Kyoto" that's Basho; and "in this world/we walk on the roof of Hell/gazing at flowers" -- that's Milosz reading Issa, translated by who knows? --and Milosz's own first few lines in that poem ("Reading the Japanese Poet Issa"): "A good world--/ dew drops fall/ by ones, by twos // A few strokes of ink and there it is./ Great stillness of white fog,/ waking up in the mountains,/ geese calling,/ a well hoist creaking" I wish i'd written that: a few strokes of ink and there it is. Voila.

5) What do you wish you had known when you started writing?
In many ways I think it's a good thing I didn't know anything; otherwise, how could one go on?

6) What’s your best joke?
I can't remember.

Susan Gillis has lived on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada, and now lives most of the year in Montreal, where she teaches English. Her poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies. Her first book, Swimming Among the Ruins was shortlisted for the 2001 Pat Lowther Award and the 2001 Re-Lit Award, and in 2003 she won the A. M. Klein Award for Volta. Her most recent books are Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau, 2012) and The Rapids (Brick , 2012). She is also a member of the poetry collective Yoko's Dogs, whose first book Whisk will appear from Pedlar Press in 2013.

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.

Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010), Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books, 2011), Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (Annick Press, 2011) and Warriors and Wailers: 100 Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled (Annick Press, 2012). Her latest picture book, Stone Hatchlings, will be released in fall, 2012.

Go to Sarah Tsiang’s Author Page