Kathryn MacLeod lives in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, and works at Malaspina University College. She is currently completing a Doctorate of Education at UBC. Her poetry has been published in journals, books and anthologies in Canada and the US.
1 - How did your first book change your life?
It didn’t. I think publishing my first poem in a literary journal, as an undergrad, was more significant for me. An affirmation of the work I had been doing.
2 - How long have you lived in Vancouver, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?
I’ve lived on Vancouver Island for the last ten years, in the small town of Ladysmith, after living in Vancouver for a decade or so. Geography does have an impact, of course, because it affects one’s day to day life—the contexts one moves through. There is an island culture that is very different from the urban experience of Vancouver. I think this has affected, more than anything, the language I use. Probably not my major philosophical preoccupations, but the frames through which I explore them.
Gender politics have always been a part of my work, whether explicitly or not.
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?
Short pieces. Time is an issue for me, so writing and thinking about shorter pieces is more practical for me.
4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?
An integral part. The sound of language is critical to how I work, so I always read aloud as I write. Performance is just another step in the process.
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?
That is a very large question. Currently, my theoretical concerns reflect my academic work. On a very broad level, I am asking the question of whether art (in its general sense) can do good in the world. I am attempting to answer this question both creatively, in poetry, and philosophically, in academic writing.
6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Challenging. But worthwhile.
7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?
8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?
Months ago. I prefer apples. It’s all about texture.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I often think about the Buddhist writer, Pema Chodron’s words: Stay, Stay.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
Very easy. I don’t see the process as all that different. The “rules” of presentation are different, and how one gathers material, but the act of writing is similar.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I try and write every morning (or at least during the week) for one to two hours when I get up. I get up before five, write until seven, go to work.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Reading. Right now I am reading philosophy, which is very generative.
13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?
I think my poetry has gone through various stages of exploration. When I first started writing, I wrote very traditionally, which corresponded to what I was exposed to. Then I was introduced to postmodernism and the language writers, and was very influenced by those forms. I think now my work comes out of both of those places.
14 - 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?
All art. Visual, written, performance, film. Politics, documentary.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Right now, I am reading Kant and Lyotard on judgment, sublimity and aesthetics. They are influencing both my daily life and my writing. In particular, Lyotard’s concept of the différend has made me aware of how much I am seduced by the ideal of closure, even while resisting it.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Make a film.
17 - 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 have two occupations already, as many writers do. It would be easier just to have one.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I’ve practiced various art forms my whole life: theatre, writing, visual art, photography. Writing is something one can always do—it is portable, the equipment is cheap, you don’t need a stage or a studio or supplies.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: Releasing the Imagination, by educational Philosopher Maxine Greene. Very important for me as both a student of education and as an artist.
Film: No Country for Old Men, by the Coen brothers. Brilliant and painfully bleak.
20 - What are you currently working on?
My dissertation, which includes creative work.
12 or 20 questions archive