The question Molly Peacock wishes someone would ask

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In her compassionate new collection The Analyst, renown poet Molly Peacock documents the recovery of her psychoanalyst, who turns to painting after surviving a serious stroke.

Below, Peacock takes the CBC Books' Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight randomly selected questions from eight fellow authors.


1. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"

Here's the question I'd love to be asked: What is your wish for everyone in the world?

Here's my answer: My wish is that all of us in the world could lie down and contemplate our lives with a sympathetic witness just behind us. Just think how this would help our parents and our politicians! And my wish for writers is to discover that looking deep inside doesn't destroy the muse; it just makes writing more fearless - and wiser.

2. Riel Nason asks, "Do you have pets? Do they keep you company while you write?"

A diva of an 18-year-old calico cat named Emma presides over our bed. She can see into my study and when I have been at my desk too long, howls like an alarm for her treats.

3. Lorna Crozier asks, "If you could come back as a musician, what area of music would you choose, and are you secretly a songwriter, and if so, what is your song about?"

I would come back as a pianist and I would play classical pieces and jazz. I'm curious about what I would write, because it wouldn't involve words, just pure emotion. I'd make an emotional diary in notes.

4. David McGimpsey asks, "If a robot wrote beautiful poetry, should the robot be eligible to win the Governor General's Award?"

Only if the robot revelled in recognition and needed money. (It would help if the little robot decided to examine its life with a kind therapist.)

5. Karen Solie asks, "Do you remember who you were reading when you first realized, not that you wanted to be a writer, but that you were intrigued by writing and what it can do?"

I was rereading Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden at the age of 12 and came across a description of a memory that rang like a bell across mountains. It was the first time I became conscious of a description that created a vision in my head.

6. Nazneen Sheikh asks, "Have you ever been frightened by what you write? How and why?"

Yes, sometimes I've terrified myself with the truth. As a young woman I re-read a poem that I wrote three painful years before. I realized that the poem had foretold my youthful divorce, even though I had not admitted that to myself consciously. Being frightened that my writing revealed truths that I had ignored prompted me to make an appointment with a psychotherapist. That appointment changed my life. And the process of therapy profoundly changed my writing.

7. Paul Yee asks, "Do you think writing is a talent that you're born with or is it a skill that can be learned?"

Writing is both a gift and a skill. The gift has to be discovered, often by an adult who appreciates the child writer's talent. (Let's hear it for teachers!) But the skill of writing can absolutely be taught. Let us not call technique a dirty word; all writers need their tools. (So let's hear it for writers as teachers.)

8. Tracey Lindberg asks, "What book is on your nightstand right now? How long has it been there?"

The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki has been at my bedside for 52 years. My boyfriend, who is now my husband, gave me the book for my 18th birthday. For our 25th wedding anniversary this year I am determined to finish it!

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