Ian Williams takes the Magic 8
Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Ian Williams answers questions from the Canadian literati on the questions no one has ever asked him, when he knows a book is finished, and if he thinks his work will still be around in 50 years.
The deadline for the CBC Poetry Prize is May 1st! Find out how to submit.
1. From Sharon Butala: What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?
No one has ever asked me that or this: What’s the single, most important story of your family?
2. From Cathy Marie Buchanan: How do you know when your book is finished?
Around draft 6, the microwave beeps. By that time, I’m eating more than cooking, reading more than looking.
3. From Kate Pullinger: Is there anything in your own life that you would never write about?
Absolutely. Most of it.
4. From Zsuzsi Gartner: How do faith and science intersect for you as a writer?
You know, I always wonder about characters’ orientations to God. When they get shoved up against a wall with a knife to their throats, some bargain, some imitate, some irritate. As a writer, there are moments when I’ve blunted every tool at my disposal and I still can’t get a technical frog off my back, then, lo, a scalpel descends on a string and—boom—it’s like dissection day in grade-10 Bio.
5. From Charlotte Gill: If you could ghostwrite the biography of a famous person, alive or dead, who would you choose?
Among the living, I’d ghostwrite for Rafael Nadal. The helicopter forehand, the snarl, the public grooming, the unsmiling Uncle Toni and his folded arms—don’t you want to know what’s up with all that? Among the dead, I’d ghostwrite the biography of George Balanchine. He was unbelievably inventive as a ballet choreographer. When ballet had maxed out the arabesque, he introduced a new vocabulary, new iconic frames, a range of motion so startling, it seemed like he had redesigned the human body.
6. From Cordelia Strube: Do you think your work will still be around 50 years from now?
Future Ian has returned from 2063 to answer this question. Pastians, th’ansr=evrythng b still arOnd in the fute. Evry last wrd b on th’internet. As Presentians, we still deb8 th’ethics of immortal info given the mortality of mortals. + Todd says hi + don’t worre. (U will kno who he b.)
7. From Sharon Butala: What do you think of the age-old notion that the best writing comes out of a life led outside the bourgeoisie, where so-called "rules" of normal middle-class life are deliberately broken and impulse is your guide, rather than duty or convention?
That’s a doozie. Folks can exist outside of the bourgeoisie without abandoning their lawns, cutting up their cards, and moving to the Yukon (beautiful word, Yukon. You con. You can. You can, you con.). You can, Bob-Marley-style, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.” You can resist the numbing middle-class existence that deadens your capacity to experience the world in its multiple, invisible, intuitive dimensions while embracing the good will of sanitation, juicers, and Marilyn Denis. I find that some IKEA furniture and a room in the suburbs is far more conducive to good writing than a floe in the Yukon, driven by impulse.
8. From Todd Babiak: Do you ever feel so scared in the dark, when you're alone, that you have to turn on a light? If so, what are you afraid of?
Sometimes I wake up burning, almost certain that the books are open to my page and my soul is being negotiated.
Ian Williams’ previous books are Not Anyone’s Anything (2011) and You Know Who You Are (2010). He is the winner of the 2011 Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first English-language collection of short fiction, a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry, and was named as one of ten Canadian writers to watch by CBC. Williams completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and works as an English professor. His writing has appeared in Fiddlehead, Arc, Contemporary Verse 2, Rattle,jubilat, Confrontation, The Antigonish Review, Gargoyle, Folio, Pebble Lake Review,Callaloo, Descant, and Matrix Magazine. He currently lives in Brampton, Ontario.