Interview with Ben Ladoucer,
author of Otter (Coach House, 2015)
You released your first collection, Otter, in 2015. How do you feel about the whole experience?
I feel good. And exhausted. And a lot more knowledgeable regarding the book-publishing process, of course. Earlier this year, immediately after a long meeting with Coach House to discuss fonts and spacing, I went to a huge bookstore in Toronto called BMV. There were all these books on the shelves and I felt spiritually ill, seeing all of them. It was overwhelming to see so many books that had been made from scratch, and to think of all the hours of labour and desk-work that went into making all of those manuscripts/Word documents into actual books. The process of writing a book is obviously hard work, but I hadn't realized there was so much stuff that comes after that. Blurbs and paratext, and editing every line to fit the page, and arranging things well, and dealing with the cover. None of this work was unpleasant -- just the opposite, because Coach House is such a great team. But it was comprehensive.
Speaking of those shelves and shelves of books—amongst all the books on those shelves in 2015, yours was recently named one of The National Post’s best books of the year—do you let yourself enjoy those accolades? Did you celebrate with a shot of tequila?
I recently read an interview with Hanya Yanagihara, who is obviously having a great year with her book A Little Life, where she said that she doesn't read any reviews, and doesn't pay attention to any accolades, etc. I thought, how is that possible?? I read so much irrelevant crap on the Internet—of course I'm going to read the stuff that's related to me! But this is my first time at the rodeo, which is something I have to keep in mind. I do see how awards and shortlists and stuff can infiltrate the poem-making part of the brain, which I once considered a lot less pervious than that. And maybe that's not a good thing. Maybe with future books I'll make great effort to give fewer shits and write in as much of a vacuum as I find realistic.
I don't drink tequila. A nice little gimlet is my celebratory beverage of choice.
What is the poem-making part of your brain?
Agnes Martin says you should make art when you're suddenly very happy, and more and more I understand why that is good advice. I guess before it's a poem, the "thingy" comes from the same place as emotions. Then it shoots through various screens: vocabulary, personal experience, technical aspects of writing verse, fun facts about sea creatures I want to share. And then it lands as a poem.
“No one knows what love is anymore. Not America. Not me, my students.” Morgan Parker over at The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Blog discusses why Love Poems Are Dead.
I think we all need a holiday poetry break. Check out At the Office Holiday Party by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz over at The Poetry Foundation.
for Arc 79?
It's coming in February.
Poems by Lorna Crozier, Gabe Foreman & Doyali Islam.
Plus an interview with Arc's new Poet-in-Residence, Robyn Sarah, who recently won the Governor General's award.
American poet Amy Lowell once bought 10,000 of her favourite cigars because she feared an upcoming shortage – and she claimed she needed them to write. We wonder how long it took her to get through them.