Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Raised in the Ontario communities of Bancroft, Sioux Lookout and Stayner, Chris Banks took his BA at the University of Guelph, a Master’s in Creative Writing at Concordia and an education degree at Western. His first book, Bonfires, received the 2004 Jack Chalmers Award for Poetry and was also shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. His most recent book MidLife Action Figure will be published in the Fall of 2019 by ECW Press. Banks lives in Waterloo. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to his website http://www.chrisbankspoetry.com
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I was always looking for a creative outlet as a kid. I thought in images, and not in numbers, which is why I was always drawn to stories and poems. I was fifteen or sixteen when I started writing poems of my own. It was as if someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is what you are supposed to do, kid”. My math teacher thought I was useless, but I ended up winning the English award at my high school.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I had an English teacher Mrs. Tetzner who was instrumental in bringing me to poetry. She was encouraging and kind and thoughtful and never condescending. I wrote a lot of poetry in my last two years of high school before moving on to university.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I wasn’t actually until I went to the University of Guelph. Older poets seem to speak a different language that I wasn’t capable of speaking yet. Young poets need to learn what they can do with their language before they are going to start writing well and I needed to try to write, but there were still outlets for my early writing. I placed poems in student newspapers and journals. Older poets were so calm and self-assured and wise. Now that I’m older, I just realize so much of that writing is just hard work and stubbornness and experience.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I try to write usually in the morning. A poem, or an image, or a title either comes to me, and I tinker with it, or not. The main thing is to make time for your writing. I don’t believe in inspiration so much as working really hard. My developmental leaps as a writer have always come because of working hard.
5. What motivates you to write?
That has changed over the years. When I was young, it was the thought some day I might have my own book. Nowadays, after many books, I like to surprise myself. I don’t always succeed, but if I’m doing something new with language, I am quite happy.
6. What is your work ethic?
I am stubborn so I try to write a new MS every two to three years. I want to be known as someone who spends a lot of his time writing. I am most happy when I am prolific. I don’t care if I write a bad poem. I throw it away and immediately start working on another poem. Eventually, the good ones outnumber the bad ones.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Gwendolyn MacEwen taught me so much about lyricism and voice. She was unique. I learned to write narrative poems by reading the poems of Al Purdy or Philip Levine. I also loved Mark Strand and Larry Levis too!
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I really like Bob Hicok and Dean Young for their quick-wit, surreal associations, and how you never really know where one of their poems is going until you reach the conclusion.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
It is a vocation. It chose me. Writing poems is by far the thing which makes me most happy so I try to do it every day.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
My first thought is to say write, help build a community, learn to take criticism, learn the value of failure but don’t let it stop you from writing. These are the things which made me a better writer. .
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Well, I just launched my new book Midlife Action Figure with ECW PRess this month and so far the reviews are great! I also just finished a new MS entitled Deep Fake Serenade which I hope to see in book format in a couple of years.