Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Fish Quill Poetry Boat Interview Series, with Helen Guri

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Helen Guri

Looking for a new and unique literary experience? Look no further than the Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour, a series featuring six Canadian poets who embark on a reading tour via (you guessed it) canoe. The tour runs from August 4-13 with a launch in Toronto and various stops through southwestern Ontario.

Open Book is thrilled to be featuring interviews with several of the talented poets from the tour, beginning today with an instalment from Helen Guri, author of Match (Coach House Books).

Read on for Helen Guri's thoughts on the tour, a book that doesn't exist and what sort of amphibian authors most resemble.

You can also visit Open Book's event listing for the tour. And stay tuned for more interviews with the fabulous FQPB poets!

Open Book:

Tell us why you decided to become involved with the Fish Quill Poetry Boat tour.

Helen Guri:

In the past, when I?ve attempted backpacking or wilderness trips, I?ve usually ended up sheepishly toting my own weight in books while others remembered the food. The attractive thing about travelling in a Poetry Boat is that there is no need to feel sheepish about this habit. (Though I?m not sure who will bring the food. )


What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to this unique approach to the public reading?


Writers tend to worry that no one will come to their readings. And they also worry about being sweaty on stage, so much so that they dress in uniformly dark clothing and seldom move their arms above the elbow. It makes them look like salamanders.

Arranging to read in a series of small towns and campsites and then travelling to them by canoe in the heat of summer seems like an ideal way to confront both of these anxieties head-on. By the end of the trip, I imagine we will all be thoroughly desensitized, which could either be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective.


What are some of your favourite memories from past readings, in this tour or others?


My favourite readings are really other people?s. I especially love when a group of writers bands together to read a piece written for more than one voice, the kind that doesn?t really make a lot of sense on the page because of all the overlapping text and italics. It?s about as close as a reading can come to music, and it?s exciting, because it might totally fail.


What?s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


People say this often, and it sounds a little depressing, but ?nobody wants to hear you read? is the best advice I?ve been given. Of course people do, in some cases, want to hear you read — more than they want to, say, hear you talk about your family?s genealogy or sing — but never for longer than five minutes.


Tell us one or two of the best outdoors/exploration/wildlife-themed books you?ve read (we?re getting in the mood for the tour!).


I was really excited to read a book that turns out not to exist — I had misheard my partner talking about some other book, whose title now escapes me. But the book I thought I wanted to read was called A Book of Boring Birds, which I imagined was a no-nonsense field guide to unremarkable little brown songbirds. Somebody should write it.


What are you most looking forward to about this year?s FQPB tour?


The food. And sleeping in my Poetry Tent, which is quite striking when lit from inside.

Helen Guri graduated from the University of Toronto?s Creative Writing program, and has taught writing at Humber College. Her work has appeared in many Canadian journals, including Arc, Descant, Event, Fiddlehead and Grain. Match is her first collection. She lives in Toronto.

For more information about Match please visit the Coach House website.

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

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