Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Robert Currie on the time machine that is poetry

The author of The Days Run Away answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Robert Currie is the author of The Days Run Away, a poetry collection. (Thistledown Press)

Robert Currie grew up in the Moose Jaw river valley, and he describes his youth as being "like a chapter out of Huckleberry Finn." It's no wonder that the poet's childhood has made it into every one of his collections, including The Days Run Away.

Below, Robert Currie answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Susan Juby asks, "What is the most painful literary rejection you ever received?"

My most painful rejection came from Oberon Press after I submitted a novel in 1975 (following the gamble of taking an unpaid leave of absence from teaching to write full time). Like many a young writer I was positive they'd be thrilled to take my manuscript and turn it into a book. I even had a recommendation from Hugh Hood. The rejection letter was kind enough, but my disappointment was huge, and I had trouble living with it. Luckily, I'd had a poetry chapbook come out about then, and I sent a copy to Oberon asking if they'd be interested in seeing some poems I was working on. Michael Macklem replied that they'd like to have a look. Which lessened the pain — especially after they published Diving into Fire in 1977.

2. Shyam Selvadurai asks, "What is the hardest thing about being a poet?"

The hardest thing about being a poet is the fact that poems are short and you have to start over again so often. It's not easy finding inspiration day after day for new poems. What makes up for that is the fact that you can spend many days on revision.

3. Tomson Highway asks, "If you were a musician, which instrument would you play? That is to say, which instrument would you choose to tell your story with?"

I think I'd play the guitar. Mind you, I think one big reason I became a poet was because I'm not a musician and couldn't carry a tune even in a tanker truck.

4. Kate Pullinger asks, "What relationship does your writing have to your own childhood, both in terms of where you grew up as well as whether or not you were a happy child?"

I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan and in Moose Jaw, and the days of my youth have prompted poems in every one of my poetry collections. In many ways, time spent in the Moose Jaw river valley was like a chapter out of Huckleberry Finn, with no Pap to flee. By grade six our gang was camping out overnight. A happy childhood indeed.

5. Vincent Lam asks, "For you — what does the 'Ultimate Literary Event' look like?"

I've watched the Giller extravaganza on TV, and that looks good. So does the annual Saskatchewan Book Awards gala.

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

Nah, let's keep the GGs for people.

7. Lynn Coady asks, "Is there a fiction writer, philosopher, musician, painter or any other type of artist outside the world of poetry who has inspired your work in a concrete way at some point or another? If so, who?"

Yes, Wilf Perreault is an inspiration. This Regina artist is famous for his paintings of back alleys, for his knack of finding beauty in the ordinary, thus providing a fine example for us all. In fact, you can't help but gaze at his alleys and remember places you've walked in other days. At least, I do.

8. Claire Holden Rothman asks, "Why do you write?"

I write because, whether writing something new, or revising a poem for the twentieth time, I feel very much alive while doing so. When I'm working well, I can hardly believe how much time has whipped by.


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