25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: Nora Gould

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Nora Gould

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

"I've gone to Joel's / to boil deer skulls / love Farley" writes rancher and poet Nora Gould. The poems in her debut collection, I see my love more clearly from a distance, just published with Brick Books, are always surprising, haunting and bold. It is "a journal of intensity lived," says Brian Brett, "tough and ambrosial — the land as it is when recorded by a fearless voice."

Today, she tells us about the poetry in her genes, a mysteriously bruised shoulder and the secrets in the stance of cattle.

Nora will be reading in Vancouver on July 13th. Visit the Brick Books website for details.

Open Book:

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

Nora Gould:

From the womb I heard my mother read poetry aloud to my siblings and her reading continued after I was born. On the other hand, my sister says that it?s not my fault that I write poetry — it?s a genetic defect.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


The earliest and most notable would be ?Up the Airy Mountain? by William Allingham. Another is ?Little Orphant Annie? by James Whitcomb Riley. These are both from books that my grandmother read to my mother, she read to me and I read to my children.


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


?Some men say an army of horse?? from If Not, Winter; Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I think sources of inspiration are too variable to call unlikely but here are two linked examples.

I didn?t grow up here on a ranch in Alberta: I was puzzled by linear bruises/scratches on the front of my shoulders. I wondered if a pathologist would also have to ponder the source of such marks: it would depend on his/her background and gate-opening experience.

In a lecture, Dr. Ted Clark, pathologist extraordinaire, commented that information can be gathered from the stance and movement of cattle before confining them to a squeeze for examination.


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


I generally take it for a walk: I leave the actual paper on the table and don?t think about the poem. For thornier problems I rely on patience.


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


I have been re-reading Don McKay?s work. I might say Apparatus for ?Alibi?:

?because the notes
we left in their holes, full of love and envy
and lament, were never answered?

...and because
the swallows had departed.

and ?Song for the Song of the Wood Thrush?:

?There?s a place
between desire and memory, some back porch
we can neither wish for nor recall.

but I can?t manage just now without Another Gravity because I need, among others,

?Kinds of Blue #41 (Far Hills)?:

?It says we ought to mourn
but not to grieve, it says that even loss
may be a place, it says


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


The best is time at my table, exploring, pushing words around the page. The worst seems to be what, at first glance, is not poetry — unless I find inspiration in this other.

John Steffler, in The Grey Islands:

it?s enough to record
what?s obvious.
here in the foreground.

but always this is what?s
hardest to see.

the habit of straining your eyes
craning to get above obstacles
is the biggest obstacle.

the doubt that there?s any value
in daily things.

Nora Gould writes from east central Alberta where she ranches with her family and volunteers in wildlife rehabilitation with the Medicine River Wildlife Centre. She graduated from the University of Guelph in 1984 with a degree in veterinary medicine.

For more information about I see my love more clearly from a distance and to purchase your copy from the publisher, please visit the Brick Books website.

You can also buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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