25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: Kathryn Mockler

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Kathryn Mockler

London, Ontario is a great home to poets. Poet and filmmaker Kathryn Mockler is deeply involved in the city's creative scene as both a creative writing instructor at the University of Western Ontario and as co-founder and co-editor of the literary and arts journal The Rusty Toque.

In today's Poets in Profile interview, Kathryn tells us about her sister's bright red tape recorder, Arda Collin's cantaloupe lady and the corn canning factory near London that inspired her first collection of poetry, The Onion Man (Tightrope Books). Her second book, The Saddest Place on Earth, has just been published with DC Books.

Open Book:

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

Kathryn Mockler:

I was around 18 working for the summer at a corn canning factory outside London, Ontario, which also happens to be the setting for my first book of poetry, Onion Man. I worked on a machine called a Brite stack, and my job for ten hours was to watch the cans go by and make sure they didn?t get stuck. If they did, I had to straighten them out with a metal rod. The job left me a lot of time to stare and think. I wasn?t a poet or writer. I hardly read and was a terrible student, but one day a complete poem about my grandfather just popped into my head. I wrote it down quickly on the back of a cigarette pack, and when I got home I typed it up on an old typewriter we had around the house. I put it away and didn?t think about it again until I took my first creative writing class in university three years later.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


?Alligator Pie? by Dennis Lee. My sister Susan bought me this book. She had a plastic red tape recorder, and I used to read that poem into the tape recorder and play it over and over again.


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


?Crossing the Bar? by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It?s a good poem about death. I wish I could write a good poem about death. Also it reminds me of my grandmother.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I don?t think I have one. My sources of inspiration are other writers and artists, my experiences and the state of the world, but none of that is unlikely.


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


I just stop working on it. Nothing is worse than a poem that feels forced. Leaving a poem for a period of time — months or, in some cases, years — allows me to look at it with fresh eyes. It?s amazing how you can see problems in your own work when you have enough distance. Writers must be their own editors.


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


Arda Collins?s collection It is Daylight, published by the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 2009. It?s absurd, funny and harrowing at the same time. My favourite poem ?Pool #10? starts off with the lines ?The cantaloupe lady is ringing my bell / again.? Each poem hooks you in with startling and unexpected lines like this. You can?t help but read on.


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


The best thing about being a poet is that I can write a poem no matter how busy I am. The worst thing about being a poet is being called a poet. Poetry gets a bum rap. I understand it. I had some pretty bad experiences — having to recite ?In Flanders Fields? in Grade 4 and being forced to write Shakespearian sonnets in high school. When you tell people you are poet, they sometimes get a look on their face like you?ve just told them you sell lima beans or make cod liver oil.

Kathryn Mockler is a writer and filmmaker living in London, Ontario. She is the author of the poetry books Onion Man (Tightrope Books, 2011) and The Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books, 2012). She teaches creative writing and screenwriting at the University of Western Ontario and is the co-founder and co-editor of the online literary and arts journal The Rusty Toque. For more about Kathryn, visit her at www.kathrynmockler.com and follow her on Twitter @themockler.

For more information about The Saddest Place on Earth please visit the DC books website.

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

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