WITH LORNA CROZIER
TALKING ABOUT HER NEW BOOK SMALL MECHANICS
16 books of poetry, a Governor-General's Award, the
Dorothy Livesay Prize for Poetry, the Pat Lowther Award,
to name just a few honours you have received as one of Canada's
premier poets ... what's next in your remarkable career?
I've just had another manuscript accepted by Greystone Books.
Its called Book of Marvels: An ABC of Things and
it's a series of around 60 prose poems or lyrical meditations
on objects. I'm really excited about it right now. It's
been on the go for about three years and I worried about
placing it because it isn't easily definable. Greystone
got what I'm trying to do and they're willing to take a
risk on it. Since they did such a great job with publishing
my memoir, I'm pleased.
will your tour to promote "Small Mechanics"
It's already taken me to Dawson Creek in northern B.C.
and Vancouver to read at the Public Library. In April
and May I'll be at the Arts Bar in Toronto, your festival
in Cobourg, the Ottawa Literary Festival, Sechelt (BC),
the Drumheller and Medicine Hat Libraries. In the fall
I'll be reading at the Eden Mills' Festival and back east
to Toronto, Guelph, London and then to Calgary. After
that, it's Winnipeg, and Deadwood, N. Dakota, believe
it or not. I have a pair of cowboy boots (I bought them
in 1992 from my Governor General's Award money) so I'll
be ready to kick some dust up.
are several veins that course through your poetry; even
though you now live and work in Victoria, your growing-up
years in Saskatchewan, farm life, family, nature, childhood,
seem to draw you back. Reading "Small Mechanics",
at times, I felt I was browsing through an old photo album
of black and white, Kodak images. The poem "My Father,
Riding", acts as a prelude to things to come.
I don't think we ever get to leave our childhoods, whether
we want to or not. So much that is essential to our worldview,
the formation of our personalities, our moral stance,
gets shaped in those early years of living. I love this
quotation by the American poet Alice Derry: 'Within the
walled city, family,/ all the love and hate a body needs."
It's interesting that you say you felt you were browsing
through an old photo album. I don't own a camera--never
have--something about photos depresses me deeply. Instead,
I use language to frame the feelings that those lost bits
of time create in me. I've been told I'm a very visual
poet. Perhaps my avoidance of photographs pushes me to
depend more on memory than on snapshots to evoke a person
or place forever lost. I struggle to find words for what
words can never capture.
For me, one of the most powerful poems in the book
is "My Father Face To Face", a heartbreaking
poem of guilt written with brutal honesty.
Yeah. I had a troubled relationship with my father (see
my memoir, Small Beneath the Sky) because of his
selfishness and alcoholism. It took years for me to look
at him not with anger but with some kind of understanding
and empathy. Living with Patrick Lane helped a lot. One
of the things he taught me was to see my father as a person
beyond his being the disappointing parent in my life.
I loved him, too,of couse, or things would have been easier.
I've written quite a few poems about him. I don't now
if I'm done yet.
"The Dead Twin" and "The Dead Twin 2".
Twins have always fascinated me, maybe because I'm a Gemini.
The Greeks, of course, tell that wonderful story of all
of us being born as a creature that is a fusion of two
bodies. We get separated at birth and spend the rest of
our lives trying to get back together. The dead twin poems
try to turn into metaphor and language my deep feeling
of loneliness. Why, no matter what, is there this sense
of something missing, something lost? Could it be a result
of my having a brother or sister in the womb and only
one of us made it out? Then I discovered the reality of
"paper foetus"--it's a medical term that doctors
are familiar with and some of them have seen. Medical
science confirms that most of us do start out, just after
conception, as two but only the stronger one survives.
How fascinating is that? How sad? I think I share this
feeling of loss with many other human beings, whether
we're single or married, whether we have children or don't.
At the core of who I am is a vein of loneliness; writing
has become my way of trying to reach out and connect with
others, both members of my own species and of other species,
though I can't speak their language.
Nope. Writing as art.
capture rural life, farm life, so simply, so dead-on ...
from the elements, wind, snow, that thread quietly through
your work, to relationships between humans and, also,
in their interaction with nature and livestock.
--As a kid (again check out the memoir) every Sunday I
visited my grandparents' farm which was only 30 miles
from the town where I grew up. I loved the silence of
the country, the way the wind found a home there, the
chickens and their nests where I'd look for eggs, the
new-born calves. I was a city kid but I knew the rural
was in my bones. Unlike my cousins, who lived on the farm,
the chores like priming the pump for water and the day-to-day
images, like old barns, worn harnesses and swallows, were
magical. My brother and I were the first generation in
a long line of Welsh and Irish ancestors who didn't start
out on a farm. Now, I live on the edge of a city and I
can't make it through the day if I don't get outside.
There's a pond outside my office window at home where
I work. right now I'm looking at a turtle who's just drawn
herself up out of the mud to meet the spring and a robin
pulling worms from the moss.
honesty you bring to your poetry is, also, well displayed,
courageously, in more personal poems such as "My
Last Erotic Poem", "Taking the Measure",
"Getting Used To It..." (I hope you'll read
one or more in Cobourg)
I will read at least one of those. There's no sense in
writing poetry if you're not going to be honest. That
doesn't mean "confessional" but, in my case,
as close to the bones as I can be about living my short,
short life on earth. There are lies in poems, too, or
at least inventions that further the story or the lyrical
moment. I think what you're talking about is emotional
veracity, because the "I" in lyric poetry is
both the writer and someone else. This is one of the reasons
that poetry is not therapy. I want the reader to believe
the truth the poem is exploring not my "truth."
And what convinces me as a reader is the language--its
lucidity, its surprises--and the music of the words that
act on my subconscious, not my logical mind.They allow
me to create the story I want to be in as well as the
one "that really happened."
of the delights of "Small Mechanics" is the
uncertainty ... the anticipation of turning the page from
the delightful "The Bad Poem to Needles", about
raising a runt of a litter.
No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,
Robert Frost said. I have a magpie-like mind. I dive for
any bright thing. It doesn't have to connect with what
I've just written--at least not in any linear way. At
the end of three years or so, I find I have a bundle of
poems that can sit beside each other though their links
may be clandestine. That's the way I've been writing poetry--with
a couple of exceptions when the poems made up a thematic
book (one based on a retelling of the Old Testatment,
the other on Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House}--for
the last twenty years.
do you feel about "Small Mechanics", now that
its finished and bound?
--Don't know yet. It feels like someone I used to know
and am fond of who has finally found the time to drop
in and visit. I wonder where some of the poems came from.
How did I get that idea? I ask myself.
do you shift gears from teacher to poet?
It's hard to do so, especially right now, the last weeks
of classes. I'm drowning in meetings and marking and I'll
continue to be a teacher only until the term is done.
days, it seems that poetry has no boundaries ... Slam,
performance, prose, as well as the more traditional. Your
There's room for all kinds of poetry and all kinds of
reading at the POW Festival here in Cobourg is eagerly
Thanks. I'm looking forward to being there.
you'd like to add?
Nope. Thanks for taking the time to carefully read the
Copies of Small Mechanics can be purchased at POW!
Event # 5 - Saturday April 16 when Lorna Crozier will
be reading, starting at 7.30
Check out Lorna's Book
Signing on Sunday April 17th