Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Shane Rhodes

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Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our series. In today's feature, Ottawa-based poet Shane Rhodes talks to Open Book about his childhood in an Alberta ghost town, his work with HIV/AIDS patients and his most recent collection of poetry, Err (Nightwood Editions), which led him to accumulate a basement full of beer and other spirits.

Shane Rhodes launches Err at Type Books (Queen West) in Toronto on 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?

Shane Rhodes:

I grew up on the prairies in Alberta, in a small farming town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by soon-to-be ghost towns as the spur-lines closed. Nobody in that town cared about poetry or ever would. I think that desolation, that passive neglect on the verge of active abuse, prepared me for poetry.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


It probably wasn?t something by Emily Dickinson, but I would like to say that it was.


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


Memoria del Fuego by Eduardo Galeano.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I have worked for a number of years in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support at various levels, from a community-based organization in Calgary to the federal government. This work, and the issues I have dealt with and the people I have met who have died from HIV/AIDS or are living with it, has inspired a number of my poems.


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


Relegate it to a dark corner of my hard drive.


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


Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002) by Harryette Mullen.


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


The best is the complete freedom to try anything you want because there really aren?t that many people watching. For example, in my new book, Err, I approached Canadian distillers and brewers to see if they would exchange some of their product for a poem dedication in a section of the book on alcohol. A crazy idea. A crazy idea that resulted in a basement full of beer and, over a two-month period, getting bottles of vodka, rum and gin in the mail. The worst part now has to be having other poets know that I have a basement full of beer.

Shane Rhodes is the author of five collections of poetry: The Wireless Room (NeWest Press, 2000), which won the Alberta Book Award for poetry; Tengo Sed (Greenboathouse, 2004); Holding Pattern (NeWest, 2002), which won the Archibald Lampman Award; The Bindery (NeWest, 2007), which won the Lampman-Scott Award; and Err (2011). His poetry has also appeared in a number of Canadian poetry anthologies including Seminal: The Anthology of Canada?s Gay Male Poets and Breathing Fire 2. Rhodes lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

For more information about Err 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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