Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Dirty Dozen, with Adrienne Barrett

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Adrienne Barrett is the author of The House is Still Standing (Goose Lane Editions), her first collection of poetry. Published on April 23, 2023, this book is filled with poems about charlatans, gingerbread men, children and savants. Adrienne will be in Waterloo reading from her new book on May 13, 2023 alongside Ailsa Kay, Andrew Faulkner, Andrew Kaufman, Amanda Leduc, Sara Peters and David Seymour. Click here for further details. She will also be launching her debut poetry collection in her hometown of Woodstock, Ontario on May 30, 2023. Head over to Open Book: Ontario’s Events page for further details.

Today Adrienne takes on the Open Book Dirty Dozen, which gives authors the chance to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves. In this interview, she explains how she feels when she returns to Toronto after not being there for a long time, tells us a funny story that her daughter loves to hear at bedtime and reveals her challenges when it comes to reading poetry.

Adrienne Barrett’s Dirty Dozen

1. I thought compiling a Dirty Dozen would be easier than an interview — that it would sidestep the problem of answering difficult questions. As it turns out, freedom is a different problem. It’s just me here, wrangling this enormous, messy blob of ego.

2. I recently read an interview with Linda Besner in which she said she can feel the new neural pathways forming when she reads challenging poetry. I felt ashamed. When it comes to poetry, I’ve always been a lazy reader; I want to understand quickly, get my rush and move on. I actually think that I expect more effort from readers than I’m willing to give other poets, which is unreasonable at best.

Only now am I learning to put some sweat into it. Reading and re-reading Kate Hall’s The Certainty Dream (Coach House Books) was almost a physical effort. That book brought me joy, and I think it temporarily improved my posture.

3. I love to eat and hate to cook. How do people get the eggs, bacon and toast finished at the same time? Nearly everyone I know seems to be able to do this.

4. Every night at bedtime, my four-year-old daughter asks for a story about my childhood. Here’s one she particularly liked:

When I was around ten, I was playing inside my grandparents’ cottage with a neighbour boy, Michael, who was freckled, shrimpy and girl-crazy. Michael started following me around the cottage, asking for a kiss. I said no a whole bunch of times. To get away from him, I finally told him I had to go to the bathroom.

“I can come with you,” he said, all friendly.

So I tried to disgust him into leaving me alone. “I’m actually going to the bathroom so I can clean the snot out of my nose and wash it down the sink,” I told him.

“Can I watch?” he asked.

Sadie and I laughed our heads off.

5. My paternal grandma has said that whenever she returns to Montreal, where she lived as a child, she feels a little drunk. When I return to Toronto, where I lived for 12 of my adult years, I feel jacked up — as excited and nervous as the small-town kid I used to be. There’s so much.

6. There’s also a sense of loss; it’s hard to see that the city is going on without me, and easy to feel irrelevant. As a human being, I mean.

7. I recently hit a new low when I googled “Anthony Wiggle nose job.” (Results inconclusive.)

8. I recall reading ages ago that Russian women don’t understand why North American women think it’s so important for their love interests to have a sense of humour. For Russians, apparently, it’s all about passion; laughter doesn’t come into it. I seem not to be Russian. My love is enflamed by my husband’s attempts at a Cockney accent.

9. I have dropped library books in the bath.

10. One time, I said to my brother-in-law, “I’d love to meet Nicholas Campbell. I just feel like I’d know exactly what to say to Nicholas Campbell.” Then we turned the corner, and Nicholas Campbell was standing there. He was really kind; I was really awkward. I’m forever cured of wanting to meet anyone.

11. My dream job is sorting buttons. It would be nice to do this beside a window, or below a skylight.

12. I am eating a cream cracker and the crumbs are falling on the keyboard.

Adrienne Barrett is a writer and bricklayer. A graduate of Trent University and the University of British Columbia, she has seen her poetry published in Arc, Prairie Fire and The Fiddlehead. Her work has also appeared on the longlist for the 2011 Montreal Prize. Born in Hamilton, she kicked around Peterborough, Vancouver and Toronto before settling in Woodstock, Ontario.

For more information about The House is Still Standing please visit the Goose Lane Editions website.

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

1 comment

Your "dirty dozen" had me in stitches, Adrienne. I cannot wait to read your poetry!

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