Thursday 1 August 2013

Australian poet John Wainwright interviews me before I head to Brisbane for the Queensland Poetry Festival

Paul, what do you intend to present at the Queensland Poetry Festival this year?

Well, John, I guess I’m bringing the kitchen sink! Most likely, I’ll have poems about cavemen and cartoons, about gorillas and grizzly bears, about dogs that get shot into space. All those things are in my most recent book, The Reinvention of the Human Hand, which was published in 2010. It was received quite favourably here in Canada, so I will definitely be reading from that. I will most likely read some older work, as well: more bears and cartoons, and maybe something a little more frightening. I’ll be reading in front of an Australian audience for the first time, so I’m hoping to give them something memorable.

Well that sounds very Canadian! What are your main sources of inspiration?

Interesting. Can you tell me why that sounds very Canadian? Is it the bears?
I get my inspiration from everything around me, I suppose. From books and film and television. From people I know, or people I don’t know. I think the creative mind is a lot like an oyster. I will encounter a certain thing, like a gorilla using sign language or a video game or a cave painting, and something about that thing sticks in me, like a grain of sand inside an oyster. My mind starts spinning a poem around it the way an oyster makes a pearl around a grain of sand. But poems are more tricky than pearls, and the human mind is not as perfect a craftsperson as the oyster. The hard part is polishing the pearl (or poem) well enough so that you want to show it to other people; then, when you have enough of them you can string them together to make a necklace (or a book, if you prefer).

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