25th Trillium Award

Brick Books Coast to Coast: An Interview with Jane Munro

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This spring, Brick Book poets Karen Enns, Joanna Lilley, Jane Munro and Arleen Paré are embarking on a cross-Canada poetry tour, reading from their new collections to audiences coast to coast. The poets will make three stops in Ontario. You can catch their readings in Toronto on May 9, in Kingston on May 12 and in Ottawa on May 13.

In this interview, Jane Munro tells us about her sixth poetry collection, Blue Sonoma, why it?s important to leave space in a suitcase when traveling and what she?s most looking forward to on her cross-Canada tour.

Open Book:

Tell us about the book you?ll be reading from on your cross-Canada tour.

Jane Munro:

We need a third term, one that can describe the space between the state and the supposedly safe havens of the personal. Let us call this space "the social." 

Carolyn Forché came to this realization in her decades? long search for and selection of what she calls, in her new anthology, ?the poetry of witness.?

Blue Sonoma is not about being a prisoner of war, at least in the usual sense, but it bears witness to an irrevocable journey into dementia. This journey is ghosted by the witness?s emotional and spiritual shadowboxing with her own life. Blue Sonoma — the image of a beat-up GMC pickup — becomes a metaphor for a journey through this time on earth when the symptoms of dementia describe how the state is emotionally and intellectually withdrawn from the influence of reason and its responsibility to the social space: it is dependent on fossil fuels; it is destroying parts of the earth?s own mind as it allows species to go extinct; it clings to an unrealistic and out of date self-image, denying and attempting to destroy information about what is real now; it substitutes rigid control for imaginative interaction and creativity; it is incapable of meaningful discussion. Yet, soul cannot believe in scarcity. Blue Sonoma takes respite in witnessing what is neither personal nor political: ?A mountain, a river — fully this,? fully that.?


How do you manage the shift between being a solitary writer and a public reader?


For me, the composition of poetry doesn?t feel solitary. Yes, it?s easiest — necessary — to do it with the fewest possible external distractions. But that?s because it demands the divining of a poem from the abundance — the interference — of everything else. I?m not sure where the writing may lead, pay attention as best I can, and expect to abandon much of what I draft. Compared with writing, reading to an attentive audience allows me to feel clear and at one with them. It?s great to sense that gut-level ?thunk? when a poem becomes transitive — the ball hits a glove — and the listeners get it.


What is one luxury you allow yourself when you go "on tour" with a book?


My yoga practice.


What books will you pack with you for your cross-Canada journey?


Hard to predict now, but probably, some of Elizabeth Bishop?s poetry. After our tour, I?ll spend ten days on a writing retreat in the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, Nova Scotia. I often buy books when I travel so I?ve learned it?s important to leave space in my suitcase for the unexpected.


What are you most looking forward to about your cross-Canada reading tour?


The readings. Times with friends. The companionship of a group tour. Seeing parts of Canada I rarely visit.


Jane Munro's sixth poetry collection is Blue Sonoma (Brick Books, 2014). Her previous books include Active Pass (Pedlar Press, 2010), Point No Point (McClelland & Stewart, 2006) and Grief Notes & Animal Dreams (Brick Books, 1995). Her work has received the Bliss Carman Poetry Award, the Macmillan Prize for Poetry, been nominated for the Pat Lowther Award, and is included in The Best Canadian Poetry 2013. She is a member of the collaborative group Yoko's Dogs whose first book Whisk was published by Pedlar Press in 2013. She lives in Vancouver.

Listen to Jane Murno read from Blue Sonoma in this Brick Books podcast.

For more information about Blue Sonoma please visit the Brick Books website.

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

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