25th Trillium Award

NEW SERIES! The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Abby Paige

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Abby Paige

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) is our newest interview series at Open Book, and gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Today we welcome Open Book: Ontario's first WAR Series participant, Ottawa-based poet, playwright and performer Abby Paige. Read on to find out Abby's recommendation for a great book to nurse a newborn by, her confession about the book she's ashamed to admit she hasn't read, the title that's on her bedside table... and more.

Other Brief Discourses, a chapbook of her poetry, has just been published with above/ground press. Abby launches the book in Ottawa at The Factory Reading Series on Friday, February 22 alongside Brecken Hancock, Hugh Thomas and Michael Blouin. Visit our Events page for details.


The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
It wasn?t a book, but the first solo reading experience that I remember was reading the word APPLES on a crate in our basement. I remember the little jolt of excitement when I figured out what the crate said.

A book that made me cry:
I re-read Einstein?s Dreams by Alan Lightman last year after my son was born. It?s the perfect book to nurse a newborn by, because it can be read in short bursts, and because it?s all about relativity, fitting for the sleepless haze of new parenthood. It has the wonderful telescopic effect of making you feel both immense and then impossibly small.

The first adult book I read:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. My mom gave it to me when I was in the sixth grade. I don?t know what she was thinking. I?m not someone who?s namby-pamby about kids? innocence, but I say with confidence, I was too young for it. It scared the shit out of me. But that was a good experience, an important one. I had always been a good reader, and it was probably the first book I struggled with in terms of language, and I certainly struggled with the subject matter as well. Now I feel like that kind of reading experience is too rare, and I hope that at some point I can give that kind of reading experience to my son — something that?s just a little beyond his capacity to understand, that will give him a hint about how little he will ever understand of the world.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Joy Is So Exhausting by Susan Holbrook. There are a lot of things that are innovative about Holbrook?s poems, but there is something about how she combines the deeply smart and the deeply funny that seems delightfully transgressive to me. I liked this book so much that I wanted it to like me back.

The book I have re-read many times:
Judevine by David Budbill is a collection of poems set in rural Vermont, where I grew up. This is a book that I?ve carried with me all over the world. I?ve turned to it many times when I was feeling homesick, partly because it reminds me of home, but mostly because when I read it, I feel recognized, and I think homesickness is really about that, wanting to be seen.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I can?t believe I just admitted that in public.

The book I would give my 17-year-old self, if I could:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

The best book I read in the past six months:
Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker. It?s still working on me.

The book I plan on reading next:
Jacques Cartier Errant / Jacques Cartier Discovers America by the Franco-American playwright Gregoire Chabot. My impression is that anyone familiar with Chabot?s book would probably think it was an influence when I wrote Other Brief Discourses. I had the good fortune to meet him a couple of years ago, after most of the poem was written, and just from a brief interaction I suspect he will be an influence in the future.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Accidentally On Purpose.

Abby Paige is a poet, playwright and performer, currently based in Ottawa. Her poetry chapbook, Other Brief Discourses, was released this month by Ottawa?s above/ground press. Her solo show, Piecework: When We Were French, explores the legacy of French-Canadian immigration to New England and is currently being adapted for DVD. She posts updates about her work at www.abbypaige.com.

For more information about Other Brief Discourses please visit the above/ground press website.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at www.robmclenan.blogspot.ca

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