thecanadaproject interviews poet Jordan Scott, SFU Writer in Residence:
Jordan Scott is the 2015/2016 SFU Writer in Residence. His books include Silt (New Star 2005), blert (Coach House 2008), DECOMP (Coach House 2013) and Clearance Process (SMALL CAPS 2016). His forthcoming long poem, Night & Ox is to be published by Coach House Books in the fall of 2016. Jordan lives in Port Coquitlam, BC.”
The world of your books
RSS: What draws you to language, as a means of expression? What turns you away?
JS: What draws me to the language of expression is often selfishness and expectation. I often (rightly or wrongly) believe that it is somehow my job as a poet to have something to say. But you know, I’m just a guy from Port Coquitlam with two young boys, a half-empty bookshelf and four hours a sleep a night. I can express that but I’m not sure anyone would particularly care. If I express anything in my poetry it’s my own intimate world of little beings shitting and babbling throughout the night. I write mostly about their bodies orbiting mine and the collapse of these circles and the malice of collision. But what I want to say is that I think I hide in language like being buried inside some terrible creature that my sons fear. It’s manageable this way, expression I mean, because I want to always be in the material of language as such. The weight of sound and the heavy debt I owe those cadences rock me away to some kind of anonymity and the quiet I so desperately crave.
RSS: As always, I am tempted to read all three of your books, and in particular, Silt and Blert, as volumes belonging to one long-poem? I sometimes carry both Silt and Blert on my Skytrain journeys around the Lower Mainland, particularly when travelling west to east, either into New West or Surrey, when “Xing” the Fraser. I can spend a lot of time on a poem, such as the long poem sequence, “Stuttering”. How does that strike you, about all three books being part of one longer work?
JS: I hope my books are perhaps operating in this way but perhaps more as a lifelong series of questions and concerns than the creation of a deliberate long poem. In some ways I’d like my writing life to be some kind of durational project but I think this implies too much of an intellectual exercise? I’m not sure. All I know is that since having children, my writing life is inseparable, entangled and sometimes at odds with my life as a father and husband. Sometimes writing can do damage to a family because of the time, energy and necessary narcissism that a poem – a book of poem – requires. I want to be thinking about poetry all the time. I want to be composing poems when I’m at the park or in the bush with my kids, but much of the time this is pure desire and I’m bleary-eyed waiting for a break or feeling guilty about not giving enough time to my incredibly talented wife. So this is my long poem, you know? A series of calamities and labor that, within it, I somehow manage to eke out something that resembles poetry. But at what cost? And keep in mind that I’m not suffering in this equation. This is not about an artist suffering for his work. That’s not the paradigm. I’m talking about damage to relationships here. About my desire to keep writing when maybe the long poem are those little beings quietly breathing in the room next to mine.
RSS: How did the family Kujawa come into your ken? Those journal entries that preface the sections of Silt: so beautifully constructed, written: did you imagine those and then write them; or, are they a kind of transliteration from actual journals?
JS: Kujawa is my mother’s maiden name. She’s my first collaborator in many ways. I started writing poems with her sitting beside me at the kitchen table. She’d bring me books from her library to read: Olson, Snyder, Loy, Blaser, Marlatt, Levertov…it went on and on. My mother, Wiesia Kujawa, was a student at SFU in the 1960s and was heavily influenced by the teachings of the great Charles Olson scholar, Ralph Maud. Our home was full of books that orbited Olson’s own library and poetic / historical interests. It was a wonderful place to be. The journals in Silt are directly taken from my mother’s journals. We then worked through them together over lunch or on long walks. She’s the real poet in the family.