25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: Nicole Markoti?

 
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Nicole Markoti? (photo credit: Don Denton)

Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our Poets in Profile series.

Today Nicole Markoti?, author of the new collection Bent at the Spine (BookThug), tells Open Book about the surprising results of writing "dumped" poetry, visiting the town dump and dumping (and retrieving) poems-in-process.

Nicole will be launching Bent at the Spine in Toronto at the BookThug Spring Launch on Tuesday, May 22nd at Supermarket. Please visit Open Book: Toronto's Events Page for details.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Nicole Markoti?:

Being in love, but getting rejected — by poets teaching a class, by poetry editors for a journal, etc.) — which was completely devastating because it proved, so obviously proved, that I wasn?t a poet, would never be a poet, should never be a poet. And then getting rejected by the guy I was in love with and then publishing the whiniest, most satisfying ?dumped? poem, which became the basis for my first book.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

NM:

Whenever my family drove out of town, there were huge billboards that I didn?t notice inside the city. I?d always read them, even though they touted cheesy ads. When I was nine, an entire billboard shouted: ?Gotcha!? with smaller letters spelling out: ??reading outdoor advertising again.? I imagined there were groups of people (ala Jenny Holzer) pooling together money to remind drivers about the sway of commercials and marketing tactics. No matter how many other ads blared out, this one text-only billboard convinced me — even before I knew what they were — that poets speak to, and about, the world. Disappointing as it was years later to learn that ?Gotcha!? was just another marketing ploy to get people to buy advertising space, that single ad forms my first memory of the power of language.

OB:

What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?

NM:

?Excerpts from the real world? by Robert Kroetsch. Those prose pieces blow me away now as much as when I first read them. Kroetsch takes the lyric address, the format of a journal entry, prose grammar, literary theory, the ubiquitous cucumber, and twirls them all around on the page, till they belong together, sing together, hatch together: ?Gimli Proverb? We?ve been promised a weather of grasshoppers? Praxis makes perfect? I have come especially to like the smell of your right hand? And besides, we were in a rowboat? [239]. What sentential logic!

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

NM:

Visiting the dump when I was researching my first long poem.

OB:

What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?

NM:

Recycle bin. And then dig it out and cross out every second word. And then dump the entire thing. And then turn the page upside-down and try to read the words as if they?re in German and then translate them into English. And then send it to my harshest editor and listen to absolutely everything she says. And then hide it in my desk for several weeks and then come across it by accident and wonder what the hell is going on here? And then trash the entire piece, because, really. And then dig it out again. And then turn it face down and start all over again.

OB:

What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?

NM:

Nikki Reimer?s [sic] (Frontenac House, 2010). The book just attacks you with language: inappropriate, upending, discombobulating, in-your-face, knock-kneed, socially-infused poems that subvert and promise and reveal and disturb and excite and diagnose and swoon: ?this conundrum rock this party grow this beach blanket bingo? [29].

OB:

What is the best thing about being a poet?and what is the worst?

NM:

That most people don?t give a hoot (or two hutes) about poetry.

Nicole Markoti? is a fiction writer and poet who has published the novels Yellow Pages and Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot and two previous books of poetry, Connect the Dots and Minotaurs & Other Alphabets. Her chapbook, more excess, won the bpNichol Chapbook award. A former resident of Calgary, she now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, specializing in Canadian Literature, Poetry, Children?s Literature and Disability Studies.

She has edited a collection of poetry by Dennis Cooley, By Word of Mouth, has worked as a freelance editor, has edited special issues for the literary journals Open Letter and Tessera and has co-edited a collection of critical essays on film and disability. She was poetry editor for Red Deer Press for six years and has recently joined the NeWest literary board as one of its fiction editors. She publishes a poetry chapbook series, Wrinkle Press, which includes work by Robert Kroetsch, Nikki Reimer and Fred Wah.

For more information about Bent at the Spine please visit the BookThug website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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