25th Trillium Award

Lonely As a Cloud, with Gillian Savigny of Fish Quill Poetry Boat

Share |
Fish Quill 2013

The Fish Quill Poetry Boat is set to launch their canoes down the Grand River once again, giving poetry readings and musical performances at cafes, farmers' markets and bookstores during the ten days of their adventurous tour from Elora to Six Nations. This year's poets are Linda Besner, Leigh Kotsilidis, David Seymour, Gillian Savigny and Stewart Cole, as well as musician Grey Kingdom. They kick their tour off today with a reading at Toronto's Tranzac Club on Thursday, June 13. Additional performances will follow in Elora, West Montrose, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford and Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Visit our Events pages for details.

These intrepid voyageurs have a special perspective on the writing life. To find out more about these paddling poets, we'll follow their lead as they drift down the Grand. Today, Gillian Savigny tells us about her new book, Notebook M (Insomniac Press), which re-imagines Charles Darwin's own journal of the same title.

Open Book:

Tell us about the book you'll be reading from during the Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour.

Gillian Savigny:

Notebook M is my first collection of poems. It takes its title from one of Charles Darwin?s notebooks, in which he brought his scientific sensibility to bear on decidedly unscientific notions of metaphysics, morals and expression. My book is a kind of re-imagining of that notebook. It brings together the techniques and procedures of poetry and science to explore the implications of the theory of evolution.


Where did you compose most of these poems?


I began the project as part of my Master?s Thesis for the English and Creative Writing Program at Concordia University in Montreal. Most of the poems were written there and in Ottawa, where I lived for two years after I left Montreal. Once the manuscript was accepted for publication a few more poems were written in Toronto (where I now live) and Vancouver (where I?m from originally). All these places left their unique imprint on the poems, which employ a range of poetic forms and techniques. Thinking about the book as a kind of notebook helped me embrace the eclectic nature of the collection.


How has travel (near or far) influenced you as a writer?


Travel has been a big influence on me as a writer. I started reading Darwin while traveling through Patagonia in South America. A section of Notebook M takes a chapter from his Voyage of the Beagle and pulls poems out of the prose. This technique is commonly referred to as ?erasure? but when I was doing it I was thinking of it more as a kind of ?natural selection? where the resulting poems are a sum of the fittest words. The chapter I chose to work with focuses on Darwin?s time in Patagonia, near the beginning of his voyage. There?s a tension in the chapter between his loosening religious beliefs and his excitement about the mounting scientific evidence for other ways of explaining natural phenomena. Travel?s potential to open us up like this and change the way we see the world is inspiring to me as a writer and one of the main reasons I?m willing to pay the expense and endure all the headaches of getting on a plane.


If you could go anywhere in Canada to research or write, where would you go and why?


In May I was at the Banff Centre in Alberta working on a new poetry project. It was a wonderful place to research and write, especially because my new project focuses on how humans relate to the wild. When I took breaks from writing, I went on hikes armed with bear spray and had to work through how I would react if I happened to cross paths with a grizzly. I?m pretty sure if I had encountered one, I wouldn?t have been able to respond rationally. Thinking about myself as potential prey definitely broadened my perspective, giving me access to those deep animal emotions that fuel a healthy fight or flight response.


Can you recommend a great book to be read "on the road"?


I always travel with a lot of books. It is impossible for me to know when I?m packing what I?m going to want to read while I?m away. New places bring out different things in me that draw me to certain books over others, somewhat unexpectedly. I recommend giving yourself options and being open to picking up new books wherever you touch down.

Originally from Vancouver, Gillian Savigny has studied and worked in cities across Canada. She holds a B.A. honours degree in English Literature from Queen's University and an M.A. degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University. She lives in Toronto, where she works in the nonprofit sector.

For more information about Notebook M please visit the Insomniac Press website.

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

Find out more about the Fish Quill Poetry Boat on their Facebook page.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Advanced Search