Celebration of Canadian Poetry: An Interview with Kitty Lewis Part 1

Update: Last year I had the pleasure of speaking with Kitty Lewis, General Manager at Brick Books, on hosting a year-long appreciation of Canadian Poetry.  Today I’d like to repost the interview to look back on the project, which now has over 315 posted articles!

Kitty’s currently looking for a few more articles for this project by August 1st. This is a great opportunity for anyone to write about a poet that they admire. For more information, please visit the Brick Books website or email Kitty at Brick.books@sympatico.ca

Part 1: The Idea Behind the Project

Q: How long did you carry the seeds for this idea before you implemented it, and did you have the experience of holding a concept in your mind for a while, before introducing it to the world? 

A: This project came about fairly simply. We can apply every June for the OMDC Book Fund (Ontario Media Development Corporation), a grant that provides support for marketing initiatives. Last year I had a fairly complete set of activities to propose around the celebration of our 40th anniversary but I needed one more activity.

Kitty Lewis - Brick Books
(Image by Tanja-Tiziana, Special to QMI Agency)

I met with my long-time publishing friend Jen Hale to see if she could suggest something. We chatted about various possibilities but then she came up with the idea that we should try to increase the visibility of our website. Jen writes books about popular culture and blogs regularly as Nikki Stafford. She mentioned her project “The Great Buffy Rewatch” and how this directed people to her blog. Because she had written companion guides to this TV show, she knew all the experts in that field and asked them to contribute articles about each episode.

We talked about how something like this could work for Brick Books and came up with the idea of hosting a Celebration of Canadian poetry on our website. I submitted the grant application, we got the positive result in July. I worked with our website designer and he came up with the design for this project. The articles for each successive week post at the top of the page underneath the introduction to the project. Then I hired Jen to compose the invitation letter. I sent the e-mails out in October.

I presented this activity as:

YEAR-LONG APPRECIATION OF CANADIAN POETRY

We will celebrate one poet each week. To choose the poets to showcase, we will contact poets in Canada, the United States and abroad, novelists, musicians, actors, media, academics, high school teachers, directors of writers’ festivals, directors and staff of writing and publishing associations, bloggers and publishers.

This event will be showcased each week on our website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

I have used all the contacts that I have made through the 25-plus years that I have been in publishing. This is an open project and I am happy to have writers and readers from the general public also contact me about writing an article. I include the invitation in our newsletters. We are always looking for more contributions. A sentence, a paragraph, a page… whatever is feasible for anyone to write about to celebrate Canadian poetry. Contact Kitty Lewis at brick.books(at)sympatico.ca to ask for more details.

On Featured Poets

Q: How many poets have now “presented”? Are you pretty much “releasing” a poet pairing once a week for each week of the year?

A: As of July 31 I have presented 123 articles – usually 4 per week starting on January 1st. Here’s what it looks like so far. 

Q: Do you read all the submissions? What’s the process been like in terms of responses, the “pairings” of poets, any surprises? Are there any Canadian poets who’ve not yet been written about?

A: I read all the submissions. We accept all the submissions that come in. Some people are writing about discovering a particular poet. Some write about a specific poem. Some articles are long, some are short, some are chatty, some are more academic, some have written new poems. I wanted this to be a broad discussion of poetry in Canada. One point that was important for me to emphasize at the start is that the articles do not have to be about Brick Books authors. I have a consultant check spelling and grammar and some factual things. That is the only editing that is done.

I have recently contacted Canadian Poetries, a poetry blog, as well as literary magazines Arc and CV2 and the League of Canadian Poets for permission to showcase their websites and the work that they do for the poetry community. I have also included individual poems from the anthology 50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot; I attended the launch last November and noticed that there were many poets familiar to me who had poems in this collection; I contacted the publisher and the poets and I was given permission to include a number of these poems.

The responses came in fairly regularly at the beginning of the project. I have recently sent out a round of reminders and the articles are flowing in again.

I have found it quite interesting to see each article come in and see who the particular presenter has written about. There are many Canadian poets who have not been written about. Some poets have been presented more than once; at first I thought that I should limit this but then realized that everyone will have a very different approach to an admired poet and a different reaction to their work.

Part 2 of the Interview

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