Wednesday 29 April 2020

I Want A Poem I Can Grow Old In

Irish poet Eavan Boland, who died suddenly on April 27 at the age of 75, has been called “a formidable teacher, a force who would cut through the noise, get down to the elements and push writers to think about what truly mattered to them.” That persona blazes forth in her interviews, where she had knack for saying smart, powerful, piercing things about poetry. Gathered up here— plucked from eight interviews spanning her career—are some of those moments.
“I began to write in an Ireland where the word 'woman' and the word 'poet' seemed to be in some sort of magnetic opposition to each other. Ireland was a country with a compelling past, and the word 'woman' invoked all kinds of images of communality which were thought to be contrary to the life of anarchic individualism invoked by the word 'poet.' I found that a difficult and resistant atmosphere in which to write. I wanted to put the life I lived into the poem I wrote. And the life I lived was a woman's life. And I couldn't accept the possibility that the life of the woman would not, or could not, be named in the poetry of my own nation.” 
"I once saw a rock musician interviewed, and he was speaking about the past, and he said, “You know what? Even your influences have influences.” And so you want to hear about these cascading influences that produced the poem. When I read a poem that I admire particularly, like “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop, I think to myself, where did that come from? Where did that stanza form come from?”
“There has always been a difference, a very important difference, not always recognized but there, between the canon and tradition. The tradition is based on what Virginia Woolf called the common reader, the person who looks at poetry and reads it and makes it their own and says to someone else, 'You really have to read this.' The tradition trumps the canon in almost every way.”
“In poetry, one rule is true: it is the margin that defines the center, never the center that defines the margin. Look at the history of poetry. Look at 1804, when the 18th century was finished, as the central model, Wordsworth, was on its margin. People in the locale think he’s a French spy. Nobody’s interested in him. He’s out in lake country. And he writes the preface to the Lyrical Ballads, which sets the terms. So it is always the margin that defines the center.”
“Nothing seemed effortless when I was young. Nothing seems effortless now. I wrote poems when I was young which I couldn’t write now, and I write poems now which I couldn’t write when I was young. As much as possible, I’ve taken an unstressed approach to that. In the end, one fact is always going to be there; no one is going to write your poems but you. You just have to do your best with that.”
“One of the biggest changes in poetry over the last century is that the 'we' of traditional poetry—the shared purposes poems explore of society, nation, religion—began to fade at the start of the twentieth century. A poet could no longer write we with certainty and be absolutely sure they were making a poem out of shared values. Poets from the Middle Ages to Victorian times had certainly been able to do that. But after two world wars, the decline of organized religion, and the huge changes in society, the audience was now more fractured and far less willing to share their world with the poet. A poet can still write 'I,' of course. But without the 'we,' that 'I' was inevitably going to seem much more subjective and self-involved. I know it sounds strange to say that two pronouns could influence an art as old and established as poetry, but they did and they still do.”
“I'm a feminist. I'm not a feminist poet. I've said somewhere else that I think feminism has real power and authority as an ethic, but none at all as an aesthetic. My poetry begins for me where certainty ends. I think the imagination is an ambiguous and untidy place, and its frontiers are not accessible to the logic of feminism for that reason.”
"It's too much a received truth of poetry critics to talk about formalism in a young poet as something negative, or as covering an evasion of feeling. I don't quite see it that way. There is a fear of feeling in almost every emerging poet. You're not sure what's the proper self and what's simply untransmuted egotism."
"Good nature poets are always subversive. Someone like Frost, or the best of John Clare, for example. Their lexicon is the overlooked and disregarded. They are revelatory poets. They single out the devalued and make a deep, metaphorical relation between it and some devalued parts of perception. That's why the good poem about ice cracking on the apple trees or the name for the ladybird is so satisfying, and at levels that have little to do with the exact subject. What happens is that the poet becomes the agent in the poem for a different way of seeing. And not just for seeing that particular thing."
"I want a poem I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in. That's a very different undertaking for a woman poet than for a poet like Yeats who had the precedents and voices behind him. A women poet has to try to grow old in poems in which she has been fixed in youth."
“I often say to students, if it is a really strong poem, you never really put it down and say ‘that’s beautiful.' You put it down and say ‘that’s true.'”

Tuesday 28 April 2020

The Dustbin Of Former Cultural Importance

Joseph Epstein seems pretty bummed out about the state of the novel:
If you admire fiction and consider it at its best richer than philosophy and novelists as the true historians of the present, but, like me, find yourself easily resisting contemporary novels, the reason, I believe, is that recent novels no longer do many of the things that once made them so glorious. They want a certain weight, gravity, seriousness that has marked the best fiction over the centuries. They have turned away from telling grand stories issuing onto great themes. Some may admire the cleverness or the sensitivity of certain living novelists, but none seems as God-like in his or her omniscience and evocative power as the great Russian or Victorian or French or American novelists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Art, we know, is not on the same onward and upward progress curve as science and technology, but might it, in the novel, be demonstrably regressing?
The answer, for Epstein, is yes:
Can anyone say he is awaiting the next novel of any living writer with the same eagerness that those of us old enough to remember awaiting the next Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, or Kingsley Amis novel? Is there anything like the same sense of excited anticipation for the future novels of Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Safran Foer, or from England those of Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie? I don’t believe so. I keep a list of the books I read, and the past hundred of these books include novels by Denis Diderot, Heinrich Heine, Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, and Vasily Grossman, but no novel written after 1990.

Friday 24 April 2020

Wanting Life To Be Like A Story

In a review of Bronwen Wallace's Collected Poems, Anita Lahey digs into the late poet's legacy:
I first encountered Wallace’s poetry in 2000, through a gift of her second book, Signs of the Former Tenant. I was hypnotized by the evening light in “Red Light, Green Light,” the book’s opening poem, how it “seemed to round and soften” the day’s heat and “gathered the sounds” of the children playing into itself. I loved how the narrator in “I Like to Believe My Life” wanted her life to be like a story, “slowly tidying itself.” I moved on to other books, other poems, such as “Coming Through” (from her third volume, Common Magic),with its equating of a friend to a “country,” which sets up the moving metaphor that the loss of such a friend can lead one into a kind of exile. I feel at home amid her juxtaposition of indoors and outdoors, her homely streetscapes, her ever-present neighbours and gathering friends. But it isn’t nostalgia that ties me to these poems any more than it was nostalgia that propelled Wallace. Instead, as one reviewer wrote in 1989, Wallace was drawn to “the violent intrusions that disturb the surface of everyday life.”

Is Ambition a Healthy Part of Literary Life?

Christian Wiman doesn't think so:
I once believed in some notion of a pure ambition, which I defined as an ambition for the work rather than for oneself, but I’m not sure I believe in that anymore. If a poet’s ambition were truly for the work and nothing else, he would write under a pseudonym, which would not only preserve that pure space of making but free him from the distractions of trying to forge a name for himself in the world. No, all ambition has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self—except for that terrible, blissful feeling at the heart of creation itself, when all thought of your name is obliterated and all you want is the poem, to be the means wherein something of reality, perhaps even something of eternity, realizes itself. That is noble ambition. But all that comes after—the need for approval, publication, self-promotion: isn’t this what usually goes under the name of “ambition”? The effort is to make ourselves more real to ourselves, to feel that we have selves, though the deepest moments of creation tell us that, in some fundamental way, we don’t. (What could be more desperate, more anxiously vain, than the ever-increasing tendency to Google oneself?) So long as your ambition is to stamp your existence upon existence, your nature on nature, then your ambition is corrupt and you are pursuing a ghost.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Flash Interview #13—Joe Fiorito

Joe Fiorito was born in Fort William, Ontario, in 1948. The author of eight books, he is a veteran journalist, working first as a CBC Radio producer, and then as a city columnist for the Montreal Gazette, The Globe & Mail, The National Post and the Toronto Star newspapers. Fiorito won the National Newspaper Award for Columns in 1995; the Bressani Prize for Short Fiction in 2000; and the City of Toronto Book Award in 2003. He is married and lives in Toronto.

Fiorito's second collection of poetry, All I Have Learned Is Where I Have Been, was published this month by Véhicule Press.

The following interview was conducted by e-mail.

Carmine Starnino: Observation is a big part of your poetry—“no ideas but in things,” as W. C. Williams put it. How do you know you’ve captured a detail or an action appropriately? What tells you that something you’ve seen, then wrestled into words, has become poetry?

Joe Fiorito: There was a certain amount of violence at home when I was a child; it was unpredictable. In response I developed a quick, keen eye—I looked for clues, found them fast, learned to recognize patterns and remember them. Then, in my teens, just as I was beginning to write, I found Pound’s "In A Station of The Metro," and it confirmed what I knew instinctively: that it was possible to see a thing as it was, while at the same time seeing what it suggested. I have always written from an image or a vivid impression, on the theory that if something grabs me it will grab you. And I assume a smart reader: if I can show you a thing as I have seen it, then I know you will understand what I mean. If I have an image in mind, I trust it is there for a reason; if I can get close to the reason—if I sense danger, shock, or surprise, even after the 12th or 15th draft—then I know have found the poem.

CS: According to your notes, many poems come from stories people have told you—repurposed talk, as it were. Why do you look for music in the way people speak?

JF:  Wind, waves, voice, verse: I don’t have a long theory of how phrasing adjusts meaning, but I know in my bones that the way a thing is said reveals not just the song, but the singer. We speak as we think, and we edit what we say as we go, in fits and starts, improvisationally; the rhythm of spoken word is my kind of jazz.

CS: You’ve excelled at whatever genre you’ve set your mind to—memoir, fiction, journalism; what can you do in poetry that you can’t do in any other form?

JF:  The sharpest knife makes the cleanest cut. A whistle gets attention. Poetry is efficient. Or, if you will allow me, sudden prayers make god jump; who reads poetry is god. (Thank you for “excelled.”)

CS: You’ve spent a lot of time writing about survival, often about people who endure in the face of shocking conditions. What lessons did you take away from them that could be useful right now? 

JF: Raymond Souster wrote every day until the end. I have come to understand that the greatest achievement in life, as in art, is simply to endure; to go to work and come home; to eat your rice and wash your bowl; and, in the case of this quarantine, breathe in, breathe out, and carry on.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Spectral Piano Scores

Sadiqa de Meijer describes how Dutch and English combine when writing her poems:
In a sense, my poems take the form of spectral piano scores. The Dutch is the left hand, the bass clef, but I am the only one who hears it clearly. English is the melodic right hand, the one that others hear. When my left and right hands are in tune, I am speaking from something deep and elemental, from my ground, from generations long before me.

When the right hand departs and does its own thing, dissonant or incongruous, then I am improvising. I allow myself to drown the left hand out. Then the phrases get abstract, or playful, or theatrical; on some lucky days, the feeling is that great, unanchored freedom of leaving the ground.

When I write a Dutch poem, that is also my left hand writing, but in a different sense; I feel scrawling and uncoordinated. What has happened would have been unimaginable to me as a child; my Dutch is no longer sure of itself. I write in searching, disoriented trajectories, not in control of the medium. The resulting poems appear primal and strange to me, but the truth is that I don’t possess an astute, contemporary idea of how they read. Handwritten and shadowy, taped to my wall, they speak to me as possible omens of English work.
Painting by Daniel Maidman

Sunday 19 April 2020

How Long Did It Take You To Write It?

While unraveling the origins of Leonard Cohen's magnum opus, "Hallejuah," Donald Shipton explores the unhurried songwriting that helped make the Montreal poet famous:
The precision in Cohen’s lyrics was not god-given, but instead the result of time and considered effort. He would not release a song or poem until it felt resolved, and what would finish as one song, might have been the product of tens of verses and years of reflection. As a lyricist, Cohen is often compared to Bob Dylan. Both were ethnically Jewish, wrote within the same period, lived at the famed Chelsea Hotel in New York City, and made folk music. Despite their frequent comparison, their writing practices couldn’t be more different. In a 1991 interview, Cohen shared an exchange he had with Dylan a few years prior. He said, “I helped out at a Dylan concert in Paris, afterward we went out to get a coffee together. He mentioned one of my songs that he played on stage, ‘Hallelujah.’ He asked me, ‘How long did it take you to write it?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know. Two years maybe, at least.’ Then I mentioned one of the songs from Slow Train Coming, ‘I and I’. He answered, ‘15 minutes.’”

Saturday 18 April 2020

Pestilence and Shakespeare

Michael Lista recalls the last thing he attended before the lockdown—a Romeo and Juilet ballet at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto—and wonders if society is cracking along Shakespearean fault lines:
Pestilence bookended Shakespeare’s life. The plague ravaged his town when he was born, on Henley Street, in Stratford-upon-Avon, snatching up the lives of other children but sparing him. In the last decade of his life, he likely wrote his greatest masterpiece, King Lear, while locked down during another wave of infection. In between—at a time when theatres in England were one of the major vectors of transmission—he romanced huge crowds of people into coming together, cheek to jowl. Plagues also stalk his plots. An outbreak, after all, is what kills Romeo and Juliet. Yes, they commit suicide because they can’t be together, but the plague is what truly does them in. More specifically, the postal supply chain breaks down, and the “star-cross’d lovers” are fatally undone by a misapprehension.

You’ll recall what happens: Romeo and Juliet are married in secret by Friar Laurence, then Romeo is banished for killing Juliet’s cousin. Later, Friar Laurence and Juliet make a plan: he’ll give her a potion that will make her sleep for many days, and she’ll appear dead while she waits in her tomb for Romeo. Friar Lawrence will send a messenger, Friar John, to deliver a letter to Romeo explaining the plan. But the letter never shows up because Friar John is suddenly quarantined.
Image by Sergio Cupido

Friday 17 April 2020

Reality Is Messy

Patrick Warner wonders if the "current censorious cultural atmosphere" has made satire impossible:
The CanLit environment has become toxic to the imagination, which doesn’t like categories and operates on the principle that most people exist in tension between opposites: generous/selfish, honest/dishonest, conformist/non­conformist, and so on. Reality is messy, and people are full of contradictions. Literature and the arts have always been the virtual agora, the meeting place where minds explore what it is to be human, often stepping outside the conventions of the day to criticize as well as to empathize. Rarely is a truly fine writer a dogmatist or a card-carrying party member. Most writers I know see dogma and the party line as the domain of hacks, careerists, and people who can’t think critically. Harold Bloom, steeped as he was in the U.S. culture wars of the 1990s, saw this coming and predicted, perhaps rightly, that politicizing literary culture would destroy it.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Wondrous Atomic Detail

Stuck in quarantine, Mark Sinnett finds a kindred spirit in Sadiqa de Meijer and her new collection, The Outer Wards:
There is, I realised early on, the very eerie sense in these pages that de Meijer is somehow reporting from the future, having already endured the information fog and the self-isolation that the rest of us are living through now. Read that way they become, in a quiet way, an instruction guide. It is as if we have been gifted a manual of solace. As if she has done us an essential service.
He provides a striking bit of praise:
The way in which de Meijer seems to be able to tease an idea from its conception in some deep brain-fold out onto the page, all without seeming to lose any of the wondrous atomic detail to friction, is rare almost beyond imagining.

Saturday 11 April 2020

The Voice Is Intact

No one concerned with Canadian poetry can afford to miss Hannah Mcgregor's podcast on Gwendolyn MacEwen. It's not only a sensitive, textured, and thought-provoking portrait of a Canadian original, crammed with new insights into her creative process, but also a splendid capsule account of a specific time and place in our literature.

Friday 10 April 2020

An Unfussed Kind of Eloquence

Bruce Dawe, one of Australia's most popular poets, died on April 1. “His poetry has an unfussed kind of eloquence," the late Les Murray said of him, "wonderfully pitched so it will speak to people of little education or great education." John Kinsella argues Dawe's common man touch came with a profound social conscience:
Always behind Dawe’s seemingly playful banter with us, his readers and public, is his commitment to sympathy and connection with the less empowered, the disenfranchised, downtrodden, neglected and exploited. He differentiates between the human foibles shown and exercised by power, and those of people who have little or no power. Dawe wrote against tyranny, brutality and totalitarianism.
Kinsella also reminds us that it was easy to overlook other aspects of his strengths as a poet:
Yet it was also in his “topical” teachability that sometimes schoolkids missed out on Dawe’s lyrically tender side – where irony, pathos and excoriating acerbity are put on hold to show the gravity of personal loss, of the essence of living shared by all.
Among Dawe's best poems—and one that shows both sides of his considerable gifts—is "Homecoming," written in 1968 during the Vietnam war.

Thursday 9 April 2020

The Cider Light of Spring

Periodicities is a virtual reading series set up by Rob Mclennan in the wake of COVID-19 "to help," he writes, "offset the onslaught of reading and festival (and everything) cancellations." Among the more than forty videos available online is one by Sadiqa de Meijer.

You can read the poems she features in her video below here: "Incantation" and "The Red-Eye." You can buy a copy of the her collection, The Outer Wards, here.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

A Lifetime’s Worth of Scribbling

Susan Glickman pulls back the curtain on her writing space:
My writing space was downsized a few years ago when my son moved back home and I gave him my airy treetop office to turn into his music studio. To compress a lifetime’s worth of scribbling into a smaller room, I stuffed 25 garbage-bags full of paper into other folks’ blue bins at 6 a.m. The purge was so invigorating! I felt I was not only relinquishing the past, I was marching into the future with clear eyes and no illusions.

More Than Merely Observations

In Thunder Bay's The Chronicle Journal, Michael Sobota's praises Joe Fiorito's "magnificent" All I Have Learned is Where I Have Been for its a "sharpness of reflection" and "crispness of tone." (Review not online yet.) A taste:
I call his poems stories because they are more than merely observations. He tells us about being in the air and looking down at a cemetery, and the way he describes the view we know he is an older man and that there will be a funeral. Little of what I just described is in his literal word choices. It comes from the cadence with which he writes, the spaces between the lines and his closures. All of his poems have a closure, leaving us with an ah hah, or a thud or, too seldom, a smile. Fiorito's writing is not sentimental and the humour that surfaces, when it does, is dry and aching.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Poetry Bundle #1

We're kicking off National Poetry Month with weekly poetry bundles celebrating our poets.

This week, for only $20.00 (plus GST and $5 flat rate shipping), you'll receive our first:

You can purchase the bundle here (look for the 'buy now' link).

Friday 3 April 2020

I Thought I’d Won The Nobel Prize

When I was in my twenties, living in the west end of Fort William, I wrote hard little poems; my models were W.W. E. Ross and the usual gang of American imagists, but above all others, Raymond Souster.

The trouble at that time was that the more I wrote, the shorter my poems got, until there was little more than punctuation on the page.

I was on the verge of giving up. I figured Souster was the only writer in the country who might understand my dilemma, so I called directory assistance in Toronto; he was listed.

I wrote the number down and it stared at me, daring me. I was afraid to call. I was going to call. I started to call and stopped. Finally, I called. What did I have to lose? No answer would have been an answer.

His wife Rosalia picked up.

It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t sure how to pronounce the poet’s name. I asked for Mr. SOO-ster. She may have laughed. My pronunciation was, for want of a better word, Italian.

She asked who was calling.

I told her, and explained why I’d called; what I didn’t know then is that she, too, was Italian; my good luck, because she understood why I’d pronounced his name as I had. She called the poet to the phone. She had to call him more than once. I heard her whisper, “Talk to him, he’s Italian!”

When he finally said hello, I told Mr. Souster in a rush that I was on the verge of giving up the craft, that he’ d been my model, that I was coming to town on business—only half true—and could I buy him lunch and show him some work, and would he comment on whether there was any point in continuing down my miniature path?

He was reluctant but he agreed.

A few weeks later, I met him where he worked. A poet in a bank did not seem odd to me, then or now: T. S. Eliot was a banker, Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company, and I know the importance of making a living.

I don’t remember where we went for lunch, but let me recommend against the soup when you are young and nervous in front of someone you admire; it’s hard to hold a spoon with a trembling hand.

He read the two dozen poems I’d brought, one by one, carefully and without a word, and when he had finished he said he’d give me an introduction to his publisher. I thought I’d won the Nobel Prize.

And he paid for lunch.

Later on, I got the loveliest rejection letter from his publisher, but that didn’t matter. I’d been taken seriously by the poet I admired most.

Much of my new poetry collection, All I Have Learned Is Where I Have Been, is derived from my time as a newspaper columnist in the Toronto Star newspaper. A few of the poems are versions of the ones I showed Souster.

He published his first poem in the Star when he was 15 years old; we have the newspaper in common. Some of his themes—the poor, the homeless, daily life in the city—were also my themes, both as a journalist and as a poet. I owe him a debt.

My work is a form of repayment.

—Joe Fiorito

Thursday 2 April 2020

Something Is In Bloom

Barbara Carey praises Sadiqa de Meijer's new collection, The Outer Wards:
“Deep within every landscape,/ something is in bloom,” Sadiqa de Meijer writes in one poem in her second collection. So it is that the poems themselves are sown with life, bearing vibrant witness to the joys and fears, giddy highs and exhausted lows, of being a mother. In one poem, the Kingston poet addresses her infant daughter: “love, I recalibrated all catastrophes/ when you were born.” Ironically, de Meijer herself falls ill, and a number of the poems express her frustration at not being well enough to care for her daughter. Despite the shadows that at times darken the poems, there’s a luminous clarity to her imagery and striking turns of phrase abound: an open book is a “paper valley of an elsewhere”; the swift passage of time is depicted as “the month enters a chute, strung with rituals.” In one poem, de Meijer writes of “existence distilled.” Her poems themselves are graceful, emotionally resonant distillations of experience.

What It Means To Be A Female Writer

On May 29, 2019, Signal Editions poet Susan Glickman was invited to be part of a panel discussion called “When Women Write," held by the Toronto International Festival of Authors. What follows are the answers Glickman provided to a series of warm-up questions she was sent before the event.

How do you think, and feel, about the label “woman writer”?  
It depends who is doing the labelling. If the term “woman writer” is being used by men to suggest that I cannot speak for or appeal to an audience that includes dudes, that my work is limited in scope or subject matter just because of my DNA, then I reject it. The term then becomes patronizing, like “authoress” or “poetess”—a sub-category or minority group which assumes that the default term “writer” is always male.

If the term “woman writer” is being used to make connections between my writing and that of other women, then I welcome it.

What do you think it means to be “a woman writer”?
I think it means that I have to try to speak from a position that is not central to the canon and that I have to resist some of the traditions of that canon which might find their way into my writing as uninterrogated habits of vocabulary or outlook if I am not careful. I’ll give you some examples that I noticed, with some shame, when editing my last novel, The Discovery of Flight, for the press. One of the protagonists is a 12-year-old girl keeping a journal in anticipation of her Bat Mitzvah. She is constantly questioning religion. In a few places she referred to God as “he”. I went back and changed all those references to the name “God” or the pronoun “they.” Another time she used the word “mankind”. I changed that to “humanity”. It didn’t feel right, or authentic, for a contemporary kid—an outspoken feminist—defaulting to patriarchal language. But I had done so, through seven drafts of the novel, without noticing until the pressure of publication made me scrutinize every word. (My feminist press didn’t notice either, by the way.)

Another protagonist in the book is a hawk. During that final edit I noticed the hawk saying something egregious as well—she said she would be back “in an hour." Obviously, hawks don’t think in hours! I changed that to “when the moon rises.” I think these changes are analogous—they come from unconsciously adopting the dominant point of view: that of a male human being.

What (if any) are positive aspects of being a woman writer?
I know a lot of kickass women!
What (if any) are negative ones?
Social pressure and familial expectations that l am still meant to be a domestic goddess. I am supposed to put my husband and children first. I have been chastised by all kinds of folks whenever I complained about not having time to write. My husband is a career glass-blower. NO ONE ever suggested that he should put us ahead of his art.
On the other hand, I was also criticized by childless colleagues when I inadvertently quit academia by staying home with my children for too long. So there’s that too.
Did you have any woman writers as role models when you first began writing? Do you now? Do you think this is important?
The poet Denise Levertov was my teacher in university back in the early 70s and remained my mentor and friend. I doubt I would have had the confidence to persist with poetry without her example and encouragement. When I moved to Toronto at the end of that decade, I fell in with a lovely group of poets including Carolyn Smart, Bronwen Wallace, Mary di Michele, and Roo Borson; later friends included Rhea Tregebov and Martha Baillie and, most importantly, British writer Helen Dunmore. Finding like-minded peers has been hugely important for me.

How does being a woman writer intersect with other aspects of your identity (ethnic, racial, sexual, religious, etc.)?
Though I try to include other positions and identities in my work—including, for example, a hawk—I feel most comfortable speaking as a heterosexual Jewish woman. I suspect that writing fiction that is overtly Jewish has limited my audience, however. For example, when The Tale-Teller, my picaresque fantasy about life in 18th-century Quebec came out, it was reviewed in the English Canadian press as though it was worthy but boring History and therefore of limited interest to anyone who wasn’t Jewish. This was not the case for the French translation, interestingly enough. It was embraced by the Quebec press as an imaginative riff on 18th-century philosophy. I was thrilled to be read in the intellectual context I had intended.

Do you think there are any differences between how women and men write (in terms of both the writing process and the books themselves: themes, styles, etc.)?
I suspect that when Daddy is in his office writing no one interrupts him. Mommy makes sure of that! Also, when Daddy submits a book, it isn’t pigeonholed as “men’s fiction”; it is simply seen as “fiction.” Incidentally, I have noticed that the same male critics who used to call my poetry “domestic” before they had kids are now writing poems about fatherhood, and they get praised for increasing their range—whereas I was scolded for “limiting” mine by writing about the exact same subjects.

Is there anything distinctly “female” about your writing?
I only write with quills dipped in menstrual blood. Or, failing that, bright pink ink.
Do you think your career as a writer would be different if you were a man? If so, how?
I think my career would have been different if I’d flattered men more, or flirted with them, or been cuter, or more helpless. Alas, I was neither a man nor a “feminine” enough woman.
Do you think being a woman writer affects any of the following?
Your creative process / the act of writing
Yes because of domestic expectations, obligations, lack of time, constant interruption
The likelihood of your books getting reviewed
Yes, obviously, see CWILA!

The likelihood of your getting invited to write book reviews
Perhaps—I have no idea because no one has asked me for years. Being old is nearly as bad as being a woman when it comes to such things, and I am both.

The likelihood of your getting invited to speak on panels and at conferences
I suspect so. For the same reasons—female and old.