#NPM22 – Intimacy Poem a Day
The Intimacy of Laughter
lives in the agreement
that these words
our shared sounds
stir up the blood
hip-check the heart
stutter the breath
on its release of joy
meant to harm
the negation of agreement
Guest Poet Interviews featuring Christopher Lawrence Menard & Terry Ann Carter
Today and tomorrow I will be featuring a two-part interview featuring the latest Black Moss Press/University of Windsor Publishing Practicum published poets Terry Ann Carter (who currently lives in B.C.) and Christopher Lawrence Menard (local fella!). As it is National Poetry Month and their double book launch is happening next Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at Kordazone (details/links below!), and they’re poetry is pretty damn amazing, I sent some questions to them to answer to better get to know them, their poetry-writing process, and more!
Q & A with Christopher, Part I
“…you’re off again but we’re at your sideExcerpt from ‘Into the Woods’, at the end, beginnings, a memoir in poetry by Christopher Lawrence Menard
we lift when you relax your body
when you sit mid-air
let us absorb your weight
swing carefree between us
test to see if you can trust us to carry you…”
1) How long have you been identifying as a writer? When did you first know you were a writer?
I’ve identified as a writer since high school, for a strange mix of reasons. First, I wanted to get out of a research-heavy history paper about war, so I asked if I could instead write about the life of a soldier in the trenches through a poem. The teacher told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was “good, meaningful, and met the spirit of the assignment.” I don’t have the poem now, but I remember it rhymed, and I remember it started with “I awake every morning to the stench of the dead / no place but the ground to lay my head / muddy water to my waist, rats all around / there are lice in my hair / my friends’ bodies all around”. I got an ‘A’ on the assignment. He called me a poet, a storyteller. That stuck with me. Second, I had difficulty paying attention in classes that came easily to me – Religion, History, Science – so when I finished my work, I spent the remainder of my classes drawing a comic strip soap opera. It featured my close-knit group of friends as the main cast of characters, and I put us in storylines that belonged on Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, and The Young and the Restless. I’d add to it each day, then pass it around for my friends to read. We all loved it. We looked forward to it. I called it Whispering Winds. It was ridiculous, but it was storytelling, and it was writing, and finding interesting ways to connect with an audience, and using writing as an absolute outlet. I wrote an entire novel called Mirror, Mirror about a young man replaced by his wicked twin. It was campy and over-the-top. My Mom and best friend read it. That was it. But it was real, and it represented an achieved goal, and it showed me that I could really accomplish something when I let myself create. By the time my OAC Writers Craft and Drama classes had me delving into monologues and scene writing, I knew I was a writer. If I look way back, into my childhood… into the paper people I used to cut out, and the stories I made up for them… I thought I was just playing out the kinds of stories I wanted to see and couldn’t find anywhere. I was writing even then. I just didn’t know it.
I called it Whispering Winds. It was ridiculous, but it was storytelling, and it was writing, and finding interesting ways to connect with an audience, and using writing as an absolute outlet.
2) Your first published solo collection of poetry, at the end, beginnings, is launching on April 6th. How are you feeling about the launch? Do you know what you’re going to wear? What you’re going to read? How is your body feeling with this momentous happening coming up?
I’m in my head and my heart about the launch right now. For starters, I have no clue what I’m going to wear. I only know that it’ll likely end up being something from my closet that I would typically wear to something ‘like this’ – even though nothing else really feels ‘like this’, and though I know I should go pick something ‘new’ and something ‘important’, I also want to be comfortable and feel like me, so I’m not sure what I’ll settle on. I’ve tried not to think too much about it, which is a mistake – I know. LOL. I’ll regret not giving the whole look of me more thought, I think.
I wanted to wait until I held the finished book – which just happened a beat ago – before deciding what I would read. I’ve been away from the depth of these poems for awhile now. I sat with them so intimately when I wrote them, and in the month immediately following the writing. I climbed back into them during the final edits, but then took a big step back and let the whole process of it all – edits and cuts and layout and design and printing – to take centre stage. Now that it’s real, tangible, this artifact and uber-snapshot of my life in my hands, I feel like it’s time to decide which pieces of it I’ll read at the launch. I want to read about my father and my son mostly. There’s lots of ‘me’ to find in all of the poems about them.
I want to give the audience at the launch a sense of the story, the arcs, which will mean showing them who my father is, who I am, who my son is.
I want to give the audience at the launch a sense of the story, the arcs, which will mean showing them who my father is, who I am, who my son is. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fifth section of my book. It’s called ‘wake’ and that’s such an important word for it. I wrote the bulk of the poems in that section during the two weeks immediately following my father’s death. In the literal wake of that loss. Many of the pieces in that section deal with his actual wake and memorial service, as well as the idea of the wake that comes after the crash of waves, all that gets left in a wake, all that we see through calming waters, the questions we ask, the answers that find us. I know this launch will mean stepping back into the memories that fueled those poems. I’m nervous about that. My body is nervous about that. My husband always tells me that I don’t understand or feel the difference between ‘excited’ and ‘nervous’, that I often mistake one for the other. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think they’re frequently interchangeable for me. That’s often been my experience when it comes to my writing… my creations… my stories… my performances. And all of those things that bring me excitement, that bring me flurries of nerves… those things will all be part of this.
3) What is the difference in how you’re feeling between an opening night for one of your original plays, and your book launch?
I’m feeling a vulnerability in connection with this launch that I don’t always – or often – feel on opening night for one of my original plays. The similarities, of course, are that I’ve written the content in both situations. But an original play has been through months of out loud rehearsals, with the words shared across characters, and the story told across scenes, and the emotion brought to life by actors shaped by a director, with my words as the foundation of it all. It’s a loud and interactive process from start to finish, so that by the time I’m at opening night, I have a strong sense of what it is that I’m about to share. Additionally, I’ve always been a main player in my original stage plays. So the writer-me sort of gets left back stage (deep down in my brain, really), while the actor-me takes centre stage and borrows the rest of me for the duration of the performance. That allows writer-me to be removed. He’s still in there. He still feels accepted, welcomed, wanted when the audience laughs at the jokes, cries at the poignant moments. This time around, as a poet, I feel exposed in a very different way. First, this is not a play and I am not a character in it. The writing is primarily in my voice, unless I’m quoting my father, my son, doctors, nurses, etc. And it’s me standing up there speaking the words. No costume but my own clothes. No character but the me I offer every day. And, some of this work, these words, some of it is heavy. I feel exposed. In a way I’m not accustomed to. Then there’s the extra layer of this launch taking place at The KordaZone Theatre, which has been the home site of my theatrical performances for twenty years. I’m not used to stepping onto its stage as myself. That’ll be… new.
This time around, as a poet, I feel exposed in a very different way. First, this is not a play and I am not a character in it. The writing is primarily in my voice…
4) Has writing this collection of poetry – the process, the editing and revising, the ‘final’ creation being so close at hand – feathered your desire to write anything else?
The writing of this collection has been a true joy, super challenging, and also incredibly important for me. I’m someone who starts and stops a lot of writing projects. The stories come to me in fits and starts, often. And, I don’t often make the necessary room for myself to tell the stories – neither the physical room needed to sit and right, nor the life / heart / soul room required to really dive in and create. There was a moment, early on in this process, when I told Marty Gervais, my publisher, that I didn’t think this would be the year for this book. My father’s health was getting worse by the day, and I said I wanted to focus on the journey, on being where I needed to be and who I needed to be, and I likely wouldn’t be able to write. He suggested I pay attention to what was happening around me, and that I be open to the moments when the writing would be screaming out at me to let it come. That advice stuck with me when my father took a turn, when he moved into long term care, when he began palliative care. By the time he had passed, and I’d taken time for bereavement, I knew the book had to happen. There was so much I wanted to remember, to capture, to process, to share. I flexed a writing muscle, and found that it was strong enough to lift me through. Knowing that I was able to carve out the time when it felt impossible, and that I was able to turn it into something really… special… it’s left me feeling like I want to write. More. Soon.
5) Can you compare your emotional journey in writing this poetry collection to an emotional journey when writing one of your plays? For example, when writing The Best Man, a play about love, relationships, and family, did you feel the same creative juices flowing? Grief, loss, family – in a different perspective?
As a writer, I’m interested in what happens to people, what they say to themselves and to each other about what happens, the words they use to say it, and everything that gets left unsaid. As a result, my stage plays, screenplays, and now poems have all required me to spend uncomfortable amounts of time with memories – good and bad. The good ones have the side-effect of making me miss people, places and experiences that have gone. The bad ones have the danger of weighing me down, making it difficult to climb back out of them. Interesting, when I wrote The Best Man, it was on the heels of an intense relationship coming to an intense end. And while it was mostly fictionalized, there was enough truth in the characters and the dynamics that I was writing it while I was processing the experience. The writing was cathartic. I think that’s part of why it resonated with so many people. It felt real, unfiltered – audiences could find themselves in the characters, which made it easy to lose themselves in the story. I wrote this collection in the literal grip of grief. Even the beautiful, positive poems – those focusing on my son – were created through the lens of grief. I think that’s important because grief has a way of stripping life and relationships down to the naked skin and bare bones of it all. I think readers will find many ways into the poems, the stories, the heart and soul of the collection because it’s unfiltered again. Because it’s real. The take away for me is that I’m at my writing best when I’m not shying away from my real life, but rather when I’m using my real life as a jumping off point to tell a story that’s universal, that has something for everyone, that matters because it comes from a place of what matters to me. Love. Relationships. Family. Loss. What we create. What we share. What we take. What we leave. Those things matter to me.
Even the beautiful, positive poems – those focusing on my son – were created through the lens of grief. I think that’s important because grief has a way of stripping life and relationships down to the naked skin and bare bones of it all.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part II of Christopher’s vulnerable, provocative, illuminating interview!
Q & A With Terry Ann Carter, Part I
“…of walking on water (as one doesExcerpt from, for my husband, for christo, First I Fold the Mountain by Terry Ann Carter
in love) or a whale’s back
or whatever floats the heart
in shades of red and gold…”
1)When did you know that you were a ‘poet’ – so, beyond your identity as ‘writer’ and into this focused style?
I think I knew I was a poet (of some kind) very early…I wasn’t actually writing poetry but I saw the world in a very poetic way. By that I mean metaphor. When I was quite young my father read to me from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ” A Child’s Garden of Verses”…..Windy Nights was a real favourite…
Whenever the moon and stars are set,
whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then,
By he comes back at the gallop again.
Later I became a high school English teacher and had so many beautiful examples of poetry in my life each day. I was daunted at first, but finally I decided that I wanted to add “my verse” to all the others.
2) When did you become enamoured with haiku? What is it about this form that livens your poetic heart?
I was visiting a friend in Toronto and we happened to be on the campus of the University of Toronto. We saw a poster for a haiku reading at Hart House. It was a Japanese monk and he actually chanted his haiku. I didn’t know very much about the form (except what I had learned in grade school) and did some research. Later I found my “haiku tribe”. I also had a marvellous experience of meeting William J. Higginson who wrote “The haiku Handbook” while I was attending the basho Festival in Ueno, Japan. Bill became my mentor for several years. It was what he taught me that stays with me even now. A haiku tries to establish the small potatoes (ourselves) inside the larger potatoes (the cosmos). This concept “enlivens my poetic heart”.
“I didn’t know very much about the form (except what I had learned in grade school) and did some research. Later I found my “haiku tribe”.”
3) What do you believe is the relationship between writing/poetry and book-making/paper art?
Becoming a paper artist only happened later in my life, after I moved out to BC, actually. I had always been interested in making small books to “house” my poems, but once in Victoria, I met so many wonderful visual and paper artists…I learned from all of them, and still continue to do so. I often work on a paper project when I am “stuck” in a poem. Working with my hands seems to help the process.
I often work on a paper project when I am “stuck” in a poem. Working with my hands seems to help the process.
4) ) How does place inform your writing?
I have been shaped in many ways by the island I live on….I am far more aware of the sea, the pull of the sea, the magic and peril of the sea. I have written many haiku about this place…Vancouver Island.
5) You’ve had many books published, across genres and from different publishers, how do you know when a new ‘story’ is ready to unfold from you, and at what point in the unfolding do you begin to think about submissions?
I always wait until a project is finished before I submit. I have had copy editors to help with research on some of my collections of essays on women pioneer haiku poets (Moonflowers, catkin press, 2020) and on the History of haiku in Canada (Ekstasis Editions, 2020).
To order a copy…
OR – Come to the live launch on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 – 8pm – 10pm at KordaZone Theatre
*Terry Ann will not be there in person, but she will be there via video, spirit and her poetry will be read aloud by Windsor’s Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Mulhern.
To watch a video of Terry Ann talking about her passion for books and bookmaking, CLICK HERE! (This is a Facebook video link.)
STAY CONNECTED! SOCIAL MEDIA DEETS HERE!
“at the end, beginnings” social media info:
Facebook: at the end, beginnings
“First I Fold The Mountain: A Love Letter to Books” social media info: