Books·Poetry Month

Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Eve Joseph on the poets that inspire her

Eve Joseph, author of the Griffin Poetry Prize-nominated book Quarrels, shares some of the books and poets that have influenced her work.
Quarrels is a poetry collection by Eve Joseph. (evejoseph.wordpress.com, Anvil Press)

Victoria, B.C.-based poet Eve Joseph is one of three Canadian finalists for the Griffin Poetry Prize, an annual $65,000 prize for the previous year's best work of poetry. Her shortlisted book is Quarrelsa slim volume of prose poetry that brings together a series of vivid scenes, revealing the fantastic in the ordinary and vice versa. 

CBC Books asked Joseph who her favourite poet is, and this was her response.

"I can't say that I have one favourite poet. In my experience, different books require different muses. For my first book of poetry, a collection of ghazals, I leaned heavily on John Thompson, Phyllis Webb and Hafiz. It's as if the form itself — whatever form I'm working with — draws certain poets to me at the time. Quarrels could not have been written without the help of the early French poets and surrealists: Baudelaire, Jacob, Ponge and, especially, Jean Follain. I was powerfully drawn to the surreal worlds they offered and to the freedom I felt as a writer to explore the boundaries between the literal and the metaphorical in my own life.

"I keep certain books close to me when I work on a manuscript. As I found my way into prose poetry, contemporary poets such as Charles Simic, David Keplinger and Carsten René Nielsen were never far from me. If, however, I had to choose only one poet, somebody who embodies the essence of poetry, who is there in the blood and the breath and in all that can't be articulated, I would have to choose Federico García Lorca. In my mind, I can't separate the poet from his poems, the singer from the song. The duende, he writes, is not a question of ability, it is related to that mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains. For me, there is no greater definition of poetry."

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