Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Monty Reid

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Monty Reid (photo credit: Max Middle)

She was asked to be part of a production of the Vagina Monologues
but after a couple of rehearsals they said she wasn't convincing

Convincing enough at what, she thought? It's your moan, they said,
it needs some work.

You have to moan as though you werent doing it for an audience.
You're going to need some help.

Moan Coach, by Monty Reid

The 20th anniversary party of above/ground press, the little press that could, is coming up this Friday, August 23rd! To celebrate, Ottawa poet Monty Reid will be joined at the Mercury Lounge by Gary Barwin, Marthe Reed, Wanda O’Connor and Marcus McCann. As part of the festivities, Monty will be launching his fourth above/ground press chapbook, Moan Coach. Visit our Events page for details.

In today's edition of our Poets in Profile series, Monty explains the great absence that awakened the poet within — a poet who would later come to enjoy the occasional free drink at Ottawa's place for poetry, the Manx pub.

Open Book:

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

Monty Reid:

Hard to describe the experience, but my father died when I was very young. I have only a couple of memories of him. In a way, I think much of my work is an attempt to come to terms with that absence. My mom was left isolated and poor, a piano teacher in small-town Saskatchewan, and she too had to deal with the absence. She compensated, in part, by becoming a rather stern disciplinarian, which has left me with deep ambivalence towards authority figures of any kind. It also left me with music.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." We were studying it in high school, and as we gradually understood the tugs and deflections of desire that animate the poem, our teacher, Mr. Goodburn, became increasingly uncomfortable. I was affected more by his discomfort than by the poem itself at that point, but it certainly made me read more attentively.


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


"In Praise of Limestone" (Auden)


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?




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


Set it aside and work on something else — sometimes another poem, but a song, or weeding the garden, work just as well. The poem will call you back when it wants you.

This means, of course, that you need to have a few other projects on the go, and accept that you’re probably going to have a healthy number of poems that aren’t finished, and may not ever get finished. For me, this is a better alternative than forcing your way through a poem, or completely abandoning it.


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


I no longer wear socks. But I really liked Erin Moure’s Little Theatres. And then there was Laura Elrick’s Propagation. And I thought Dave McGimpsey’s L’il Bastard was excellent. And I keep going back to writers as various as Yehuda Amichai and Gertrude Stein, and bp Nichol, and Williams, and Robert Hass’s Praise. And watch out for Bardia Sinaee. See what I mean about socks?


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


The best thing about being a poet is the free drinks poets get at The Manx in Ottawa. The worst thing is all that writing.

Monty Reid is an Ottawa writer. His most recent full-length collections are Disappointment Island (Chaudiere) and The Luskville Reductions (Brick Books). Recently he has published chapbooks with various small presses, including above/ground, Apt. 9, Gaspereau, corrupt, red ceilings and manyothers. His new mistranslation of Nicolas Guillens, El Gran Zoo is forthcoming from BuschekBooks. He currently works as Managing Editor of Arc Poetry Magazine and plays guitar and mandolin in the band Call Me Katie.

This is Reid's fourth above/ground press chapbook after Six Songs for the Mammoth Steppe (2000), cuba A book (2005) and In the Garden (sept series, 2011).

For more information about Moan Coach 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 via Paypal at

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