Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition.
The following two authors are this month's choices. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Margaret Christakos, poet/novelist/essayist
Background INfo: I come from a city in Northern Ontario called Sudbury, where the immense presence of hilly rock juts into the urban plan. To get anywhere you, walk. In recent years I’ve recognized that my writing process has some kinship with this perambulatory onus. Language is a spatial medium, and thought can resemble climbing in a canyon. The whole body is involved. I have published seven books to this point, all by trusting the movement of one project to the next, of being willing to stray somewhere new for each book. I’ve worked in a lot of collective situations, joining editorial boards and contributing production time, both paid and unpaid, curating literary events for my contemporaries, building an audience for poetry, and mentoring younger writers. I’ve learned how to find grant funding and to initiate projects in the cultural community that create writing-related work for myself and others. I’ve written poetry since the early 80s, when I was at York University in Toronto studying visual arts. I became involved in the realm of writing that is linked to social change.
INfluences: Along with endless TV sitcoms, Leonard Cohen and romantic poetics accompanied me through high school. At York I moved into creative writing workshops with contemporary poets and found my impulse to turn confession into formal experiment. My primary mentor was the Canadian sound poet bpNichol, whose inclination toward aural innovation, serial poems and other time-based poetry structures were as provocative and intellectual as it was engaged with emotion and relationship. Gertrude Stein’s radical play with syntax and meaning filtered to me through his immense and diverse body of writing and performance work. Michael Ondaatje’s early fiction opened my mind to the novel as a constructed collage. Another very important literary mentor for me is the Quebecois avant-garde writer Nicole Brossard, followed by Daphne Marlatt, Gail Scott, Erin Mouré, Carolyn Forché, Anne Carson and Lyn Hejinian. I’m also a big fan of Ian McEwan and Jamaica Kinkaid. From Kathy Acker and queer theory I learned to write about sex and desire in a complex and boundary-pushing way. Most influential to me in pursuing writing as a life career was my mother’s example of caring about art, of passionately describing art as central to living.
Advice: Find your community. Sort out where in your city or town people care about writing, and how and when they get together to express this caring. The second bit is harder: stick to your own edge. Move from comfort to the zone where discomfort is potent. Take risks in saying what you have not said before in ways you have never heard anyone say it. Write abut sex from the inside. Don’t just write about what you feel, but what you can build. And finally: really look at words as sculptural objects, and hear them as otherworldly signal
Internet Presence: My first Coach House Press book of poetry, from 1989, is completely accessible online at www.chbooks.com/online/not_egypt/. I don’t have a website, but I do have a webpage on the League of Canadian Poets site www.poets.ca/linktext/direct/christakos.htm. I work on computer constantly and interact with other writers on listservs. I do a great deal of organizing of events and publishing projects online, and love approaching new individuals and organizations through the gateways of the Internet. A brief poetry reading is online through Emily Carr at courses.eciad.ca/engl-200/demo/videoreadings.html, where I gave a full reading several years ago. I very much want to have my own website where I can archive in particular sound files of my aural performances, and post writing as it happens. I’d like to write a novel where I post a page a day. The lefty online news site www.rabble.ca/rpn/rab has recently posted a podcast interview with me. A new reading series in Toronto has a suite of mine posted called The Hoity Toity Supplements at www.testreading.org.
The Future: I’ve got several manuscripts on the go, both fiction and poetry. I’m embarking on writing for children and also making forays into radio work. I’m starting a review writing business where it is up front that I can be paid for an honest and engaged opinion — my answer to the nepotism that permeates the mainstream newspaper review world. It’s called CPR — Christakos Poetry Review, serious mouth-to-mouth for your published work. I’m creating the web presence for it now. Last year I produced and directed a Canada Council-funded multimedia poly-vocal performance and I want to keep on pursuing this sort of larger project, collaborating with other artists and musicians. This spring I’m starting my first online residency with a Canadian organization called Writers in Electronic Residency (www.wier.ca), which connects writers with students in elementary, middle and high school.
Sooner (Coach House Books, fall 2005), 130 pgs, poetry
Excessive Love Prostheses (Coach House Books, July 2002), poetry
Charisma (Pedlar Press, Nov 2000), 160 pgs, novel
Wipe Under A Love (The Mansfield Press, April 2000), 110 pgs, poetry
The Moment Coming (ECW Press, Oct 1998), 130 pgs, poetry
Other Words For Grace (Mercury Press, 1994), 96 pgs, poetry
Not Egypt (Coach House Press, 1989), 86 pgs, prose poetry. In 1997, rights were transferred to Coach House Books, where the book is now available online (www.chbooks.com)
Adult Video (Nomados) spring 2006
Far (Forthcoming Spring 2006, above/ground press) spring 2006
Retreat Diary (Thug) October 2004
With All My Heart I Heard You Speaking (Ice Floe Press) 1991
missing/harsher sentences, December 1990
• My Attaché Case, suite of poems, Lichen, forthcoming spring 2006
• (Regenerations, or) Not asleep but not talking/in/A shared room, or, A Room Of Our Own Is A Myth, essay, and Uncomforted, poems, In Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets In Conversation, eds. Dp Brandt and Barbara Godard, Black Moss Press, 2005
• Son, six-poem suite, The Fiddlehead, Fall 2005
• Attachments: The Poem, filling station, no 32 (summer 2005)
• Lucent: Poem In Another Sex, long poem (25 ms pgs), The Capilano Review, Winter 2005
• Chapter 5 of Miss See-Through Girl, as well as The Object Of The Report, (four-part poem) and a lengthy interview (by Susan Holbrook), The Windsor Review, fall 2004/05
• Lease, poem, in The Walrus, December 2004/January 2005 issue
• School, three-part poem in Prism International, July 2004
• Retreat Diary, prose poem sequence in The Windsor Review, Spring 2004
• The Photo, in No: A Journal Of The Arts (New York, 2004)
• Excerpts from Charisma, in Musings: An Anthology of Greek-Canadian Writing, ed. Tess Fragoulis, with Steven Heighton and Helen Tsiriotakis (Vehicule Press, 2004)
• Excerpts from Excessive Love Prostheses, in Career Suicide: Contemporary Literary Humour, ed. Jon Paul Fiorentino (Moosehead Anthology No 9, DC Books, 2003), pgs 48-51
• The Only Cure, Feud, Birch, and Queen, four poems in The Fiddlehead, Spring 2003, pgs 40-43
• Escape Sequence: Shape Of Quelque Brain, four-minute poem, commissioned by CBC Radio One, broadcast February 2003
W.R. Benton, western novelist
Background INfo: I retired from the United States military in 1997, after 26 years, so I've not only visited many countries, but also live in some of them for years at a time. I've always had an interest in the outdoors, people, and writing, so during each military assignment I attempted to spend time in the countryside, meet the people (learn the religion, customs, and as much of the language as I could), and discover the history of the individual countries. Each of those points gave me a better understanding of how not only the country developed, but also the people, their customs, and courtesies. I feel my military service opened my eyes to the many different kinds of folks who migrated North.
INfluences: I would have to say my grandparents and my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother personally knew many famous people of the Old West, like Frank and Jesse James, the Youngers, and others lesser known. Many evenings when I was young I'd sit on the porch and listen to her, or one of my grandparents, tell tall tales of the West. I guess it got into my blood at that point, because I started reading all the western fiction I could find.
Advice: I think it is very important for any writer to continue to learn, evaluate, and reach conclusions on a variety of subjects, both related and unrelated to their particular genre, because one day it might come in handy. However, since I write mostly Western fiction, I am constantly reading about horses, guns, and the standard of living in the 1800's. As a result, I have a fair idea when certain weapons were introduced to the west, when matches came to be used commonly, and other small details. I've discovered with Western fiction the reader is usually pretty savvy on small details. Finally, for me, historical research is the key to writing a good, accurate novel. And I've discovered what we have been taught in school is not necessarily the truth.
Internet Presence: A web site such as mine http://www.wrbenton.com/ is simply a contact point where visitors can view my works, see what I'm currently working on, or contact me. I feel it's an important tool, but only after you have a few books in print. For the struggling or unknown writer it may not be very useful at all and a low number of hits might even be depressing.
The Future: I currently have a Western series to be released this year, The Drum Series, which contains four volumes (1865-1870), as well as a single, standalone book. In addition, next year I have a young adult novel and a Vietnam novel (both fiction) scheduled for publication.
Ty Fisher and the Blood of the Mountain Men (Fultus) 2005
In the Shadow of the Mountain (Publish America) 2005
Death on the Mountain (Saga Books) 2005
Red Runs the Plains (Tree-Side Press) currently being republished by Aydy
Press (it was expanded and endorsed by Matt Braun)
Simple Survival, A Family Outdoors Guide (Emerald Ink) 2005
Bubba's Dawg Might be a Redneck (Fultus) 2005
In Buck Masters, Modern Survival Magazine, Wonderful West Virginia, FamilyCamping Magazine, Big Game Hunt, Canoeroots, and many others.
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. email Diego Jesus
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. email Mark: email@example.com