Meaghan Strimas Interview @ The Torontoist
Now that our month of Optimisms have come and gone, my regular “critical interview” series is back at The Torontoist Book Page. Today’s edition features Toronto poet Meaghan Strimas, whose new book is A Good Time Had by All (Exile). You should read the whole interview here. Though, if you’re flighty, I’ve included the following short excerpt:
JMM: Childhood experience, and the autobiographical urge, is a big part of this book, just as it was your last one, Junkman’s Daughter. The idea of poets writing from personal experience is maybe falling a bit out of fashion lately, as books that look out, rather than in, become more and more prevalent and well-supported by the various rewarding institutions (critics, juries, etc). Do you have a specific ethic that defends your use of personal, a reason why it’s important and essential and good? Or is it more that this happens to be what you write about, and you see it as no more valuable than any other source of content?
MS: I have no defence, really. I write about the things that I also want to read about. When I sit down to write I don’t worry about being fashionable, or cute, and I don’t think (or at least I hope) most people who write poetry think in these terms. If I were to write a series of poems about, say, quantum mechanics (and in binary code, of course) well, they’d probably be really boring, flat, list-like poems. They would be boring because I would be bored. The lack of urgency would show. It’s not the kind of writer I am.
Some of the poems in this book are loosely autobiographical, but many aren’t, and I’m glad that I haven’t lived through all of the experiences I’ve portrayed in this collection. (E.g., “Let the Angels Rise from Piggy’s Palace” is poem about the Robert Pickton murders. “Gnome, Sweet Gnome” is a long poem about a lonely obsessive who can’t decide if he’d rather sleep with his neighbour, Birdie, or his garden gnome.) And, no, I don’t think what I write about is any more valuable than what other writers write about, and part of me wishes that my work was more politically charged, but in the end, it’s not how I work, though thankfully, it’s how other writers do work. Aside from the actual subject of a poem, part of what holds my interest in poetry is the challenge of crafting a really pointed poem. I like fiddling until I think I’ve got all of the right words in the right place.