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National Poetry Month

Poetry Month Q&A: Jeramy Dodds

In honour of Poetry Month, we're checking in with former CBC Poetry Prize winners to see how their craft has developed since winning the prize. Today, 2007 winner Jeramy Dodds on Canada's poetry renaissance... and his growing obsession with teacups.

image-dodds.jpgWhat have you been up to since winning the CBC Poetry Prize?
I published a collection of poems called Crabwise to the Hounds, which included poems from my CBC entry. Lately I’ve been working on a translation of the Poetic Edda (from Old Icelandic to English) and a second collection called Gods’ Girls. I’ve also amassed quite a
teacup collection, which I’ve been madly expanding. I recently purchased a museum-quality display case for the little darlings. Life is good.

What did winning the CBC Poetry Prize mean to you?
After winning I briefly felt like I was above the law, that I could use the prize money to buy my way out of any number of misdemeanors. Unfortunately, I just used it to buy more writing time. Yeah, sure, it meant more teacups, but it was such a nice pat on the back from my peers, it gave me more confidence to continue doing what I am doing, it exposed my work to a larger number of people and it let me know someone was reading it. It was a really big step for me.

What is it about poetry that compels you as a writer?
Not having to always step onto the conveyer belt of narrative, being able to explore alchemic
word orders that may alter our interpretations of the mental and physical landscape around
us, to play with sound, to adjust for truth, or the lack thereof, using metaphor, being able to
simultaneously test and celebrate language… I don’t know. There’s a certain brand of
freedom I don’t always feel with the other arts, yet still it’s rooted in such a long tradition…
that mix turns me on.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everything. Although I firmly believe in the Chuck Close saying, “Inspiration is for
amateurs,” I do try to leach from anything and everything I come into contact with. I’m still
quite an amateur really, I hope I always will be, and even though I don’t believe in it I’m
always hoping it’ll come my way.

Who are some of your favourite Canadian poets working today, and why?
I’ve got a good-sized list but a few that jump to mind are Linda Besner, Mark Callanan, Jordan Scott and Tonja Gunvaldsen-Klaassen. I love them because they do things I can’t but want to.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that poets in Canada face
today?
I wonder if Canada isn’t having a bit of a poetry renaissance, maybe I’m out to lunch or just
blinded by “being in the moment,” but there seems to be such a buzz around Canadian
poets abroad, along with so many phenomenal new poets coming out all the time. I don’t
think Canadian poets have any challenges other than to keep that momentum up.

Will the changes we have been seeing in technology and the publishing industry
(e-books, mobile technology, etc.) affect how people consume, or interact with, poetry?
I’m sure it will, it better, after all, some of poetry is text based and these technologies alter
how we access text. I think this is a positive thing, the book hasn’t changed in so long, it’s
overdue. I don’t really care if someone reads from a scroll, a book you can butterfly on your
nightstand or a backlit tablet. It’s all text to me. There is definitely a restructuring of the
publishing industry happening at the moment. Any such change is always traumatic at first,
but I doubt the ‘book’ will disappear. If the ‘book’ does sink I don’t plan on going down
with the ship just because I fetishize it.

How do you work to bring your poetry to the public?
I can’t say I take any concrete steps to entice my audience. I care about the audience quite a
bit, I don’t know who they are or what they wear when they read me, but they are my sitcom
family. I always hope, when I’m working on a piece, that it’ll be both accessible and
challenging, a healthy mix of pretention and nonsense. I don’t know if this is achievable but
I get some joy in the trying.




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