Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile, with Orville Lloyd Douglas

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Orville Lloyd Douglas is a poet, essayist and social justice activist. His latest book, Under My Skin, is a collection of poems that ask a lot of questions about the lives of young, gay, black men in Canada and the daily challenges they face in dealing with multiple oppressions in relation to race and gender. Professor and author Sheila L. Cavanagh calls Douglas' poetry "visceral and emotionally compelling."

In today's Poets in Profile interview, Orville tells Open Book about the best and worst parts of being a poet, his most unlikely source of inspiration and the first poem he remembers being affected by.

Open Book:

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

Orville Lloyd Douglas:

When I was a teenager back in the 1990s, I always kept a journal writing down my feelings and emotions. Eventually, I started to write poems in my diary. I noticed I had started to collect my poems in my journal which eventually became my first poetry volume You Don?t Know Me.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


Langston Hughes poem "Harlem" is the first poem that I feel touched me at an emotional and psychological level. Hughes poem was about the discrimination African Americans were experiencing in America in the mid twentieth century.


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


I wish I had been able to write the a poem called "The Eyes of My Regret" by Angelina Weld Grimke. Grimke?s poem is just beautiful so poetic, so romantic, so powerful.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


From experiences in my own life, the dark parts, the times when I am feeling sad and depressed. I know it sounds cliché but for me this is the truth. I can?t just write a poem it isn?t automatic for me. Something has to trigger, something has to happen. For me poetry is cathartic and it allows me to heal from pain.


What do you do when a poem is not working?


I take a break from the poem and I come back to it in a couple of days. If I feel after having some distance from a poem for a while and it isn?t working I scrap it and move on.


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


Evelyn Lau?s book Living Under Plastic which is about the discord in her family. Lau?s poetry is an eye opener because she allows the reader to peak into her personal life.


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


The best thing about being a poet is being able to express myself and also reach an audience. I am shocked when I go on the internet and see that someone in Sydney, Australia or Auckland, New Zealand actually checked out my first book You Don?t Know Me because it was published nine years ago! The worst part about being a poet is the fact the poetry genre is not treated with the same respect as fiction or non-fiction. Visit any bookstore and the poetry section is so small and usually at the back of the bookstore.

Orville Lloyd Douglas is a writer and social activist. His writing examines image versus reality of tolerance and multiculturalism in Canada from the perspective of a young, gay, black man. His poetry has received critical acclaim from George Elliott Clarke, who described Douglas? first collection, You Don?t Know Me, as ?bold and brash? and Ginsbergesque in ?the same pell-mell rush of ideas and images that drives Howl.? Douglas resides in Brampton, Ontario.

For more information about Under My Skin please visit the Guernica Editions website.

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

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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