Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Nick Thran

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Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our series. In today's feature Toronto-based poet Nick Thran, whose second collection, Earworm, has just been released with Nightwood Editions, talks to Open Book about early poetic influences: Pound, Kerouac, Eliot — and of course, Dennis Lee's unforgettable Alligator Pie.

Nick Thran launches Earworm at Type Books (Queen West) in Toronto this evening, Thursday, June 9th. Visit our Events page for details. You can also catch him in Jordan Village on Saturday, June 11th as part of the Niagara Literary Arts Festival.

Open Book:

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

Nick Thran:

English class with a great high school teacher named Mr. Thompson. He loved Springsteen and Stevens in equal measure. We’d read Pound and Kerouac with equal reverence and intensity. He had me read Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi” out loud at a school performance. I left the class curious, with a sort of invisible invitation in my hand to find my way through all of the ground we didn’t — and wouldn’t ever entirely — cover. Now every time one of my friends who writes and reads poetry goes into high school teaching I do a little fist pump.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


"Alligator pie, alligator pie. / If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die.”


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


This is the sort of train of thought that blunts my imagination. When I encounter a poem that moves me, I try my best to put a simple sense of gratitude for its existence at the centre of my thinking — even as I’m taking it apart later on to see how it works. I’m happiest writing and failing at my own poems.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Well, if it’s truly a source, then I don’t think it can be described as unlikely. That said: for me one of the great charges of the writing process occurs while considering a small thing — a pineapple, say, or a cricket. All of a sudden the lines start to edge towards the end of the page.


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


Loot the house for the best bits. Burn the house down. Maybe I picnic on the lawn for a while, feeling sorry for myself. Better to move into the new place right away. Start to unpack the fridge magnets.


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


Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Wow. Canadian? Probably Sachiko Murakami’s The Invisibility Exhibit (Talon Books, 2008), which did some things that I did not know poetry could do, and which saved me from a particular bout of despair after reading section four of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. Maybe Erín Moure’s O Resplandor (Anansi, 2010), which I asked to review last year as both a challenge to myself and as a long overdue immersion into her work. It kept challenging me, kept immersing me.


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


There is an erasure of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein done by Matthew Rohrer, Joshua Beckman and Anthony McCann called “Fakes,” from their collaborative book Gentle Reader!, that answers this perfectly. Try to track down one of the authors through the American publisher Wave Books. They would probably mail you a copy.

Nick Thran is the author of Earworm (Nightwood Editions, 2011) and Every Inadequate Name (Insomniac Press, 2006). He recently completed an MFA at New York University, where he taught creative writing in the undergraduate program and at a long-term care facility on Roosevelt Island. His poems have appeared in Arc, Geist, Maisonneuve, The National Post and The Walrus, among others. He currently lives in Toronto.

For more information about Earworm please visit the Nightwood Editions website.

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

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