Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Gabe Foreman

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Open Book is celebrating National Poetry Month with daily profiles of today's "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Find out what inspires, confounds and delights the poets behind this spring's new releases by following our series.

The days of the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman may be over, but Gabe Foreman's delightful and quirky first collection, A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People takes the reference book to new imaginative heights. And it's a good thing the travelling salesman has already moved on — according to Jeramy Dodds, "This compendium of bipeds makes all others obsolete. A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People is full of eclectic wisdom, uncanny beasts and refracted truisms. Foreman?s cerebral sleights-of-hand are so electric, my mind wouldn?t close my eyes. It?s about time someone got 'us' down for what we are."

Gabe Foreman will launch A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People at Revival on Wednesday, April 27th at the Coach House Spring 2011 Launch. Visit our Events page for details.

Open Book:

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

Gabe Foreman:

I have a longstanding habit of scratching out words on mail-outs and newspaper headlines and then penciling in words that I think are funnier. I do this lazily, half-consciously, like doodling. I don?t think that the end result is poetry, but the act of fooling around with words seems connected to how I like to write (and re-write) poems. I have always enjoyed playing around with the sounds, idioms and ambiguities of language.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


I read Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in high school. I remember enjoying that even though it rhymed so merrily, the tone was dour and gloomy. This was an intriguing mix to me. It still is.


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


I don?t know. Many of my favourite poems are lingering mysteries. I don?t exactly "get" what?s going on in them. Perhaps it?s best for me not to understand those poems from the perspective of the writer. I may end up enjoying them less.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


For fun, I once put a bunch of Leonard Cohen poems from the internet into a single document and ran it through the find-and-replace function on Microsoft Word, replacing some of Cohen?s nouns with new nouns, his verbs with new verbs, and so on. Eventually, I started subjecting drafts of my own writing to similar experiments. This treatment typically results in reams of nonsense, but sometimes yields interesting gems, weird phrases and compelling metaphors. I find something inspiring about trying to incorporate accidentally generated material into a greater web, so that it looks like part of a master plan.


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


Usually I destroy it, try to extract the good parts, or just exile it to my hard drive. As mentioned above, I often try to make the functions on my word processor fix a troubled fragment before I say Sayonara.


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


All This Could Be Yours (Biblioasis, 2010) by Joshua Trotter.


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


The best thing for me is fiddling around with sounds and meanings. I?m not sure if that makes me a poet. I hope that doesn?t sound too glib. It?s hard to play the part of a certain type of person.

Gabe Foreman was born in Thunder Bay. He has worked as a tree planter in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. He?s a co-founder of littlefishcartpress, and his writing has appeared in a number of literary journals, including Grain, The Fiddlehead and Event. His work placed second in CV2?s two-day poem contest and a selection was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards. Currently he lives in Montreal, where he manages the soup kitchen at a long-established mission.

For more information about A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People please visit the Coach House Books website.

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

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