amongst books

amongst books

Monday, September 01, 2014

Canadian Writers Blog Tour: Amanda Earl

Former Ottawan, Lori Garrison asked me to participate. I first met Lori when she read at a Bywords reading, when she published poems with us back in 2011. After that, we exchanged brief snippets of conversation in between her job as a server at the Highlander Pub in the Byward Market. Later she moved to the Yukon where she met my Doppelganger, also a writer & publisher. I'm happy to see her continuing her writing & exploring new spaces.

I think I’ve done some variation of this before, but the answers are always changing.

What are you currently working on?

Poetry: St. Ursula’s Commonplace Book, for which I am grateful to have received funding from the City of Ottawa this year. It’s a sequel to a broadside published by Pooka Press & my chapbook, which I published with my micropress, AngelHousePress.  According to legend, Ursula may have existed in the 4th or 5th century. As she was crossing the ocean to marry a pagan prince, Ursula, along with numerous virgins, was attacked & beheaded by the Huns. there are variations of this story.

Ursula was a name that jumped into my head when I observed a homeless woman walking along, trailing a shopping buggy & spouting verses from the Bible.

Then I discovered the saint.

How does your work differ from others?

One way in which it differs from the work of some poets I know is that I work mostly in the long poem or poem series format. Another is that I like to work with voices other than the autobiographical.

Why do you write what you do?

I follow my curiosity. I have a need to explore. The larger question is why write at all. I breathe, I write. There is no reason other than writing is part of me.

How does your process work?

It differs all the time, but it always includes some kind of gleening process: the collection of images, scraps of conversation, art that captivates me, assemblages or collages of some sort or another that work their way into poems or stories or visual poems.

For the current project it involves research. Aside from reading about St. Ursula, I am also reading bpNichol’s the Martyrology, which is composed of the lives of made up saints, such as St. And, St. Ream etc. Some of the questions that have come from this reading:
Does the Martyrology have a magic realism bent?
What other poetry includes magic realism?
What the heck is magic realism? It doesn’t seem that prevalent in Canadian contemporary poetry.
What are some poets who work with spirituality & mysticism?
What are some poets with mental disorders and how does it affect their work?
How can I incorporate ekphrastic poetry, poems inspired by art?

All this from this character of Ursula that came in part from observation but mostly from my imagination.

Reading the Martyrology has made me wonder about the role of the sacred in bpNichol’s work & has sent me off to special issues of Open Letter on bpNichol.

In an essay by Rob Winger, I’ve discovered the Japanese poetic form, utaniki, a type of combo of poetry & prose & journal.

So my branches for research are
1) Saint Ursula
2) magic realism
3) mental disorder & homelessness
4) the sacred
5) art
6) poetic form

the combo of 2 & 3 have led me to the writing & life of the Quebec poet Émile Nelligan, who had a severe psychotic breakdown & whose works tended toward the symbolic & the visionary.

some of these branches will be thrown out or replaced by other branches, but I will be reading a lot of poetry, among other things.

from research I go to scrawling down things that stick. if I say the voice of the character speaks to me, it’s going to sound weird, but there you have it. I found the same thing when I worked on my chapbook, Eleanor & my book, Kiki. I immerse myself in the character until I can see the world the way she does.

I am fascinated with the concepts of the Other and Duende. Whatever process I use will be to try and transport myself somehow. Death and the dark are always present. I hope that what I write is full of life. That’s the intention anyway.

Amanda Earl is the author of Kiki (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and “Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl” (Coming Together, 2014). Her chapbooks have been published in Canada, the UK and the USA, and her poems appear where you least expect them. Find her on Twitter @KikiFolle & visit her site:

The next participant in the tour will be Anita Dolman, an Ottawa writer of both poetry and fiction. I’ll be posting her answers here on Monday, September 8. Watch this page!

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