Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

On Writing, with Jill Battson

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Jill Battson is the author of The Ecstatic Torture of Gratitude (Guernica).

Both a poet and a poetry activist, Jill's first book Hard Candy was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award.

Jill talks with Open Book about the nature of gratitude, the importance of writing poetry and plans for future projects.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, The Ecstatic Torture of Gratitude.

Jill Battson:

It’s a collection of poems that focuses on the idea of giving thanks to people, places and objects.


You've collaborated with artists in many different genres and fields. How did that inform the writing of this collection?


I’m exposed to many different art forms through my collaborative work and these mediums open up new arenas of creative possibilities.


What was your starting point for this collection? Were there any surprises along the way as you put the collection together?


The starting point for this collection was the realization that I didn’t thank people properly for their support and kindnesses. I conceived this project with the idea that the poems should be little love poems for certain people and that I should visit them and read them aloud — a kind of praise poem idea.


What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your writing?


Sex and death, yearning and curiosity, travel experiences, but mainly the great operatic themes of sex and death.


What in your opinion makes a poem truly great? Are there any common elements to the poems you love best?


For me, part of what makes a poem great is a knockout performance of that poem. Whether it’s on the page or on the stage the beautiful and surprising use of language and ideas that resonate with me is what I’m attracted to.


Who are some people who have deeply influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?


In the beginning Sharon Olds and Charles Bukowski were the poets that influenced my writing, but what made me realize that writing poetry is both an art form and a job is a lovely little book by Donald Hall called Life Work. That book enabled me to say writing poetry was work, and that all the watching, listening, reading, gardening, travelling that goes, on that observers may say is a writer procrastinating, is actually part of the work of writing, and that writing poetry is as important and as legitimate job as being a neurologist or a lawyer.


Is there a book you’ve read recently that you wished you had written?


I’m envious of any book that makes money (kidding). But I would have liked to have written The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare by Doug Stewart. Or most things by Ian McEwan, Martin Amis or Will Self.


What are you working on now?


I’m about to start two new projects. The first is a suite of poems in honor of percussive instruments that will eventually be incorporated into compositions and performed. The second is a poetic memoir. I’m also halfway through the process of completing a play that should have its second workshop in the spring of 2012.

Jill Battson is an internationally published poet and poetry activist and the Poet Laureate Emeritus of Cobourg, Ontario. She was responsible for creating and running the successful poetry reading series The Poets’ Refuge and has initiated and produced many exciting poetry events. Jill is widely published across North America and the UK. Her first book, Hard Candy, was received to great acclaim and nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. She has written plays and solo works, opera librettos and electro acoustic sound projects. Dark Star Requiem, an oratorio for which Jill wrote the libretto, opened the 2010 Luminato Festival, and was recently published in book form.

For more information about The Ecstatic Torture of Gratitude please visit the Guernica website.

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

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