25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: Jan Conn

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Jan Conn

Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our Poets in Profile series.

Jan Conn has recently published her newest book of poetry, Edge Effects (Brick Books). The term "edge effects" refers to the ecological term that has to do with the effect on an ecosystem of the juxtaposition of contrasting environments. Edge Effects's poems are concerned with ecological matters, but also explore other edges, such as the edges of reality, of time and space. You can listen to Jan read from Edge Effects here.

In her interview with Open Book, Jan tells us her visual experiences that contributed to her becoming a poet, her unlikely source of inspiration and why being a poet is not a bad thing whatsoever.

Open Book:

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

Jan Conn:

For me the initial shaping experience was a visual one. The contrast between the intimate, natural surroundings at our summer cottage on Brompton Lake, and the intensely damaged landscape, with the enormous tailings surrounding the open pit mine in Asbestos, where we spent the rest of the year, was hard for me to bridge or grasp. There were many mysteries: why were miners and engineers so intent on extracting this odd, fireproof mineral? Was the daily siren a prelude to an emergency? Was there really a monster lurking near the rocky shoals at one end of the lake?


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


?New York (Office and Attack)? by Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by Robert Bly in his book Leaping Poetry (Beacon Press, 1975). I read this in Vancouver, when I began to read and try to write poetry seriously (or playfully) for the first time.


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


Elizabeth Bishop?s ?Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance.?


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Want ads.


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


Sometimes I put it away for awhile to gain perspective on it; other times I take the stanzas or fragments that I like and use them elsewhere; I also sometimes flip the poem upside down, to shock the narrative or the non-narrative into doing something more unexpected.


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


Adam Zagajewski?s Unseen Hand, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009).


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


The best thing is the time I have (or make, or take) to play with words and language. Endlessly entertaining, and so frequently arriving unexpectedly at some previously unexplored place. I don?t think there is a worst.

Jan Conn was brought up in Asbestos, Quebec. She now lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and is a professor of Biomedical Sciences whose research is focused on the genetics and ecology of mosquitoes. She has published seven previous books of poetry, most recently Botero's Beautiful Horses (2009). Whisk, with Yoko's Dogs, is forthcoming 2013 from Pedlar Press. Please visit yokosdogs.com.

For more information about Edge Effects please visit the Brick Books website.

Buy this book at Brick Book's website, your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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