Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, With Jade Alyssa

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Jade Alyssa, also known as Jade Wallace, is a St. Catharines poet who lives in Toronto. She has been a student of formal education and is in a band called The Leafy Greens. She has published with Grey Borders Books, Dead (G)end(er) magazine, Conversation Poetry Quarterly and Poetry Sz and performs regularly at the St. Catharines Poetry Slam.

Jade will be reading in St. Catharines with Andrew Faulkner (Need Machine, Coach House Books) and Sarah Pinder (Cutting Room, Coach House Books) for the Grey Borders Reading Series on February 22, 2023. Go to Open Book: Ontario's Events page for more information.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Jade tells us about her greatest extravagance, her favourite poets, where she would like to live and much more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.


What is your dream of happiness?
I have dreams of happiness every night. They?re always different, but I always wake up.

What is your idea of misery?
Misery is a place where obedience is praised and blossoms are cut from the stem.

Where would you like to live?
The top floor of an old house with a big porch on a street full of trees on Vancouver Island with my cat and an aloe vera plant. Or, in a farmhouse surrounded by pastures full of clover where I could care for horses who have no home.

What qualities do you admire most in men and women?
Man, woman or otherwise, I most admire someone who has a big enough imagination to be able to understand the feelings of other creatures.

What is your chief characteristic?
Probably my incorrigible skepticism. But I can?t be sure.

What is your principal fault?
No matter what I undertake, I always hold something in reserve. Passion, honesty, effort. Something is always held back just a little bit.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Clothing. I think every day deserves a costume. Possibly because I answer Foucault?s question ?But couldn?t everyone?s life become a work of art?? with a yes and then interpret it too materially.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Their melancholy, their unpunctuality. Whatever I see in them that I also see in myself.

What do you value most about your friends?
That they are not wholly like me. God that would be boring.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Cruelty for its own sake.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
The way I sulk sometimes and can?t be prodded out of it.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
Poetry and anything related to it.

What would you like to be?
A tree.

What is your favourite colour?
Blue. The mottled slate blue of an iris, or storm clouds.

What is your favourite flower?
Lilies, for their ambiguous symbolism.

What is your favourite bird?
Ravens. (The juxtaposition of these questions really highlights my morbidity, doesn?t it?)

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I?m a lot more interested in the everyday people of history than I am in the pivotal figures.

What character in history do you most dislike?
I don?t know if he counts as historical, but God, of The Bible fame, has to be on the list of characters I don?t like.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
James Joyce for short stories, Friedrich Nietzsche for philosophy and F. Scott Fitzgerald for sentences. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote exemplifies everything I like about prose.

Who are your favourite poets?
Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Ozaki Hosai and whoever the anonymous Chinese folk poets of this stunning anthology I have were.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Yossarian of Catch-22.

Who are your heroes in real life?
No one you?ve heard of. I?m not trying to be esoteric; I mean they are genuinely common people who are probably unheard of outside of their sphere of friends, family and other acquaintances.

Who is your favourite painter?
I don?t know much about the form.

Who is your favourite musician?
Right now, Patrick Wolf. Last year, Bob Dylan.

What is your favourite food?
Grapefruit, because it mirrors my own bitterness.

What is your favourite drink?
Earl Grey tea, because if you put milk and sugar in it, it tastes like that infamous fruity toucan cereal.

What are your favourite names?
Lilith, Persephone and Ari. (The latter two were names I gave to my cats. Nothing but the best for my felines.)

What is it you most dislike?
Watching people suffer.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could play guitar like Jimmy Page does.

How do you want to die?
I want to die before I get tired of living.

What is your current state of mind?
Uncharacteristically cheerful.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I don?t feel a sense of accomplishment. If there?s a part of the brain that?s responsible for saying ?Yay, you did it!? I don?t have it.

What is your motto?
If it requires a motto, don?t do it.


Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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