Monday, July 6, 2009

Blogging and the Creative Process - A Short Interview with Sina Queyras

Sina Queyras is the author most recently of the poetry collections Lemon Hound (2006) and Expressway (2009) both from Coach House Books. She edited Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets, for Persea Books (2005), and continues to serve as contributing editor for Drunken Boat where she most recently edited a folio on conceptual fiction with Vanessa Place, and a folio on Visual Poetry with derek beaulieu. Lemon Hound won the Pat Lowther and a Lambda Literary award, and an excerpt from Expressway recently received Gold in the National Magazine Awards. Her work has been published internationally in journals and anthologies. She has lived across Canada, in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Philadelphia and Montreal where she currently teaches. She keeps a blog, Lemon Hound, which BookThug will publish a selection of writing from in 2009.

Capacious Hold-All
: Lemon Hound, the book, came out in 2006 with Coach House, but the blog started in May of 2004. Can you talk about the ways in which the book and the blog intersected at the beginning and the ways in which you separate the poetry you write from the blog? How entangled do the two processes become?

Lemon Hound
: The processes are indeed entangled. I am not one to compartmentalize so the thinking in one area very much leaks into others.

CH: Your first post questions, wonders:

Now she is blogging. Now she is sitting on the black couch listening to the sirens wail and the rain fall. Now she is thinking of oysters. Now she is wondering why this is worth sharing. Now she is thinking how decipher what is worth reading? Who is to say? Sifters. She thinks we have become a nation of sifters. We dial up and sift through the wreckage. And what is the use of adding one more paragraph to the motherload? She supposes that soon she will find out.

CH: How far have you moved away from this first post, or is this the nature of the blog - this continuing questioning, deciphering, sifting?

LH: This post was written while I was working on and thinking about Lemon Hound the book. Being May I can say that I had likely just finished teaching and was finding my way back to the manuscript itself, which Coach House accepted sometime during the following spring of 2005 if I recall correctly. But during that silence I was editing Open Field. So yes, sifting is very much at the core of the book, and the anthology, and it is at the core of what I do here on this blog I think too, wanting to find a fresh way to compose, wanting, through composition to emphasize different aspects of words, sentences, narratives, notions. I am more interested in questioning, opening up, than I am offering some kind of master equation and then defending.

CH: Times passes. In September of 2005 you consider ending your blogging 'adventure' but resume in November of that year. How important was that lapse in blogging? What did you learn from it? In what ways do you see women shaping the (literary) blogosphere in say, the last year or two? Heartening or disheartening?
Back in September I posted a note that said I was likely going to end my blogging adventure. Clearly I have decided not to. There are a number of reasons why, but the most important one may be­, dare I say it­, a question of gender. Tired old dialogue that it is, I notice there are not enough women engaged in the discussion of poetry and poetics. Over and over again the voices seem to be male, shouting out about this or that school or lineage…deciding what is important and what not in such confident and reductive tones as to shut out the more cautious, or considered voices. Where, one might ask, are the women? Are there still more men writing than women? I think not. So why are there more men’s voices out in the world than women’s voices? I have my theories. Look to the deletions, the hesitations, the reflective responses…the women are still out there thinking, their voices not quite up for the often bombastic and instantaneous responses.

LH: In general I find things quite disheartening. There are women out there blogging, yourself among them, but these voices are marginal, no offense, I include myself in that description. The dominant bloggers are still men, the dominant discourses are still shaped by men, mostly white men by the way. Asher Ghaffar pointed this out in his recent interview with Rob McLennan. The over-riding core of whiteness, even in the avant garde poetry world, and in the lyric world, and in the discussions by journalists, and in the critical world, is very obvious, and very dull indeed.

I periodically take screen shots of the G&M list of authors, usually five white men all in a row. The National Post book bloggers are all men, most of the regular G&M reviewers are male. Most of the literary journals are edited by men. The "new" Canadian Notes & Queries for example--Dan, John, Alex, Zachariah, Carmine--sound familiar? There are a few women editing--Anita Lahey, Kim Jerrigan, and Jenny Penberthy over at the new and awesome Capilano Review, for example, but largely it's men that are doing this work: men who expect to have a voice in literary discourses, and men who are expected to have the voice.

I don't have a problem with the NP blog, in fact I like it very much, and I appreciate what the G&M does, and the Quill & Quire. But the fact that things can be so homogeneous, so conservative, that we can still be in a discourse where there is little self-awareness about the limited perspectives these conversations perpetuate is disheartening. Canada a cultural mosaic? Not in the literary world. I'm not sure it will ever change. I don't think people want things to change. I mean if not now, when?

CH: The discussion of art, photography in particular, has played a big part on your blog. You often post your own photographs as well. How do you see the photographs operating in terms of the way they might shape or personalize a blog, reconfigure the space, add or relieve tension to the text that has gone before or after?

LH: I love visual art, particularly photography, and I miss New York most for this reason. Visual art has always been completely bound to my writing, but New York really allowed me to play my fantasy out, to investigate the overlap between art forms, to trace the similar strands of inquiry in sculpture, installation, video, paint, so yes, it's certainly adjacent, or woven into how I operate in the world. I have occasionally thought I would try to see the blog only as a space for visual arts, both the discussion of and publication of photos etc., but again, it is all bound, all connected, so that seemed impossible to do.

CH: You have a book coming out that has been developed through the blog. Can you describe the process, how the blog shaped the book, and also how the book has shaped the blog?

LH: It would not have occurred to me to publish a book from the blog. Kate Eichorn approached me with the idea and the publisher in place. I am very grateful to her for that. She is an awesome force in publishing and totally gives me hope for the future. Of course now the book seems logical too, and I'm very excited about the project. There is so much to consider though, not only the selection but how it will be organized, how the page will look, and what it does that is different from the blog form. In a way I think blogging is already an outdated mode. My blog feels like an 8-Track cassette sometimes, you know, trying to fit it into a DVD slot.

What's next? If it's any comfort, I don't think we have any idea what's next. Kindle? I don't think so.