Thursday, September 27, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Michael Dennis

Born in London, Ontario, 1956. Published several books, most recently Arrows of Desire, General Store Publishing House, 2006. Lives and works in Ottawa.

Photo courtesy John W. MacDonald

1 - How did your first book change your life?

It didn't. Not really. It went virtually unnoticed except by thoseI forced it on. Like everyone else I had totally unrealistic fantasy type notions about what might happen. Of course the poetry wasn't that great either.

2 - How long have you lived in Ottawa, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

I've lived in Ottawa for over twenty years. It is a surprise to me. When I moved here it was reluctantly. But over the years I've come to love living here. It's changed quite a bit over time.

Geography isn't something I consider. Neither is race or gender. Not in any direct way.

3 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

Any number of places. A phrase from another poem, song, book, movie, conversation. It's never the same thing. I wish I knew what the trigger was.

I rarely write "related" poems although it's not something I avoid. I don't have a big plan at work most of the time. Generally I work on one poem and then the next without much thought of what came before or what is to follow.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

I like the contact with the audience at readings but I don't think readings are a barometer of much.

5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Nope. I want to write good poems. Good stories.

6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I don't find it difficult at all. Every editor I've ever worked with has made my work better. I like the process.

7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?

I worry about it less and less.

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

Never. Don't like pears. Love the shape, love the colour. Don't like the fruit. It's like eating sugary sawdust.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

The American poet Donald Hall said "don't ever do anything you don't want to do". That may not be the exact quote.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

Don't really have a routine. More like cyclical periods. I don't panic about fallow times as much as I used to. When I talk to friends who write it always seems like I'm producing a reasonable amount.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I like to read Auden when I get stalled. Or Bukowski. I watch a lot of movies. Listen to music.

12 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

My latest book, Arrows of Desire, is a book of erotica. Or at least it is supposed to be. I don't usually have a fixed theme to my books. This one was special. But it doesn't feel any different. It was as ignored as any of the others.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Hard to argue with David McFadden. I agree with Stuart Ross in his assessment of David. He is our most under-appreciated poet.

So he is entirely right. Books come from books and then also from everywhere else. It is all influencing you all the time. The news, music, art, friends.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I'm a big fan of Canadian poets. Just reread Karen Solie's most excellent Short Haul Engine.

There are so many more out there. I love the big guns Purdy, Cohen, Layton, Birney and that whole gang.

Toronto poet Stuart Ross is a big influence.

Auden, Bukowski, Szymborska. I could make a big list.

Sharon Olds is someone I've been reading lately. She writes perfect poems.

I wouldn't know where to stop. There are so many writers I quite simply love.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Learn piano.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I enjoy driving. I've worked as a cab driver, chauffeur, drove truck. In my fantasy world maybe I would have been a racing car driver.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I wanted to live an interesting life. All the writers I admired seemed to do the most wonderous things.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Pans Labyrynth was a hoot. So was The Last Mimzy.

19 - What are you working on now?

A book called You Must Remember Beauty When They Point The Gun. More poems. Go figure.

No comments: