Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Amanda Jernigan

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Amanda Jernigan

Celebrate National Poetry Month and find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our Poets in Profile series. Today, Hamilton poet Amanda Jernigan tells us how learning Thai turned her into a poet, how a bad poem is like a kangaroo and how a poem that seems too off the wall to fit just might find a home.

Amanda Jernigan's second book of poetry, All the Daylight Hours, has just been released with Cormorant Books.

Open Book:

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

Amanda Jernigan:

When I was fifteen years old I spent a year in Thailand as an exchange student. By the end of the year, I could carry on a basic conversation in Thai & mdash; but I never got to the point that I could be articulate or expressive, in any sophisticated way, in that language. So my whole intellectual and emotional life — at least so much of it as could be Englished — went down on paper, in the form of letters home and, eventually, poems. By the end of that year, though everything I wrote was still mawkish and maudlin, I had become a writer in Rilke’s sense: writing had become necessary to me.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


I remember being at once thrilled and unnerved by Ralph Hodgson’s poem "Eve", which my grandfather read aloud to me, relishing the demonic toast at poem’s end: ‘“Eva!” the toast goes round, / “Eva!” again.’


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


The poem I wish to have written is always the one I am currently struggling to write.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I once wrote a poem about literary fights, for which I thought I had no earthly use. The poem is called "On Modern Verse," and is in my new collection.


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


When I was a child I had a book called What Do You Do With a Kangaroo? The kangaroo is a bossy character, who moves in and takes over; the refrain is, "You throw it out, that’s what you do." Well, that’s what I do with a poem that isn’t working.


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


Peter Sanger’s John Stokes’ Horse. And, in a very different way, Jason Guriel’s Pure Product.


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


The best thing about being a poet is what happens in that space between your poem and a reader’s true response to it: real communication. The worst thing is the absence of that.

Amanda Jernigan is the author of Groundwork: Poems (Biblioasis, 2011), and the editor of The Essential Richard Outram (Porcupine’s Quill, 2011). All the Daylight Hours was just published with Cormorant Books. Amanda lives in Hamilton, Ontario, with her husband, their dog, and their young son.

For more information about All the Daylight Hours please visit the Cormorant Books website.

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

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