Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why Adeena Karasick describes writing as 'navigating the alphabet as fiery sparks of light'

The Winnipeg-born poet and author of Checking In answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
Adeena Karasick is a Canadian poet, performance artist and essayist. (

April is National Poetry Month and CBC Books is highlighting Canadian poets throughout the month!

Adeena Karasick is a Canadian poet, performance artist and essayist. The Winnipeg-born poet is the author of seven books of poetry and poetic theory. Her latest collection of poetry, Checking In, is a parodic exploration of contemporary culture, from Facebook updates to Fake News.

Below, Karasick takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.

1. Sharon Bala asks, "What is one sentence (from fiction, nonfiction, poetry) that you wish you had written?"

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2. Scaachi Koul asks, "What would you do if you couldn't be a writer?"

I can't imagine doing anything else as it defines and consumes every part of my life; navigating the alphabet as fiery sparks of light, passionately defining and recreating the world with each new articulation. Whether writing, performing, teaching it, I'm rockin' with its jouissance unmasking how language is inextricably connected to how we feel, think, see, and as such, is a powerful tool for transformation. To write is to breathe.

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

bill bissett inspires me every day — his attention to the physicality and materiality of language, his use of sound and texture and multi-trajectoral reference, his fierce commitment to play and politics and textatic desire, both on the page and on the stage. And also euphorically inspired by the music of trumpeter / composer Frank London, who's continually expanding the boundaries of genre and culture exposing how in many ways sound itself can be a powerful force for social change, on the front lines of struggle.

4. Aviaq Johnston asks, "What has been your biggest barrier to overcome in writing?"

Learning to balance a sense of philosophic / academic rigor yet have the work be utterly playful and accessible to a wide range of readers — be they literary, or media focused or those steeped in pop culture.

5. Tomson Highway asks, "What keeps you going — first as a writer and second as a human being?"

To be surrounded by so many language-focused colleagues, mentors, teachers, heroes, friends, warriors, who are challenging borders, power structures in the face of enormous cultural political and aesthetic adversity, controversy, outrage; and with commitment to transgression and at times anarchic intervention, continue to fight through their language.

6. Melanie Mah asks, "What are your daily rituals other than writing?"

Coffee. Chocolate. Malbec.

7. Hoa Nguyen asks, "Next to the dictionary and a thesaurus, what is your favourite reference book?"

The Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Formation), the 2nd century Kabbalistic text of how the world was created through letters.

8. Katherine Lawrence asks, "What do you say to that person sitting beside you on the plane/bus/train who tells you about the unwritten novel/poem/play that he or she intends to write one day?"

To Write. Write. Write. Every chance you get — recognizing that poem/story/vispo/play is hiding in every snippet of conversation, every advertisement, every bit of spam. Keep your senses open and allow yourself the freedom to speak the unspoken, say the unsayable, remember that everything is palimpsestically interconnected and steeped in history and tradition: weave a new world from all that surrounds.