Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why George Murray turns to other art forms when poetry fails him

The author of Quick answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
George Murray is the author of Quick, a book of aphorisms. (John W. MacDonald)

Over 450 short bursts of wisdom and humour comprise George Murray's latest book of aphorisms, aptly titled Quick. The Newfoundland poet has penned nine books, including the 2010 bestseller Glimpse.

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

1. Lorna Crozier asks, "If you could come back as a musician, what area of music would you choose, and are you secretly a songwriter, and if so, what is your song about?"

I'd probably want to be pre-rock and roll, 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Crooner stuff. I have written several songs, but am definitely no songwriter. I draw and paint too, but no one would call me a painter, let me tell you. I did collaborate on a song with folk band The Once. It was a very rewarding experience. When I write on my own, however, I mostly end up sounding like an Eagles cover band.

2. Gregory Scofield asks, "If you could change one thing about anything you've written, what would it be? And why?"

Things I've written are what they are and there's no point complaining about it. If I could change writing decisions from the past, it would be to not publish about half of the material from my first two books. But here we are.

3. Douglas Coupland asks, "Do you ever say to yourself, 'I'm just tired of doing this. I'm going to stop.' If so, what do you then say to get yourself back?"

I say that after every book. Sometimes after every poem. I often dabble in other arts during those times. Sometimes inspiration comes from these experiments. Sometimes I guess I just get bored of them and return to what I'm best at. It might take more or less time, but so far I always find my way back.

4. Kathy Page asks, "Are you synesthetic? Do you 'see' or have a physical sense of the structure of your book, perhaps as a picture, or in musical terms?"

I am a functional synesthetic. I associate colours with numbers and days and months and I have music that goes with places and books. When I'm writing I'll sometimes latch on to an album or artist and listen to it over and over. Diversion, my most profane book, was bizarrely written almost exclusively to the cantatas of Bach (with some Radiohead on the side).

5. Diane Schoemperlen asks, "I have two as-yet-unattained writerly dreams. The first is to have one of my books issued as a mass market paperback. The second is to find one of my books for sale at Loblaws. Do you have any similar fantasies?"

HAHAHAHAHA! I'm a poet! I had a guy on an airplane recognize me once and that was enough.

6. Madeleine Thien asks, "When does talking to oneself become a problem? Or, when does not talking to oneself become a problem?"

Talking to oneself is like praying without a god in mind. I see no problem with it. I imagine it only becomes a problem when someone starts answering. But even then.

7. Vivek Shraya asks, "What is your favourite writing snack?"

This is an amazing question. Beer. Cheese. Pickles. A single olive a night.

8. Shilpi Somaya Gowda asks, "Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing again?"

I switch disciplines and enjoy failing at them. I watch some TV. I listen to my children. I pursue encounters with non-artists. I listen to music and willfully try to mishear the lyrics. I unfocus my eyes and see what grabs my attention when I'm looking nowhere.