Part 2 of my interview with Kathryn Mockler, author of Onion Man, The Purpose Pitch, and The Saddest Place on Earth:
About Onion Man and The Purpose Pitch
RS: …when writing your poetry, and in particular, when writing Onion Man and The Purpose Pitch, were there any events, moments in Canadian/world history, local politics, or your personal life that acted as pivots or founts, anvils or doors? (this is one of my ‘standard’ canadaproject questions)…always intrigued how much/or, how little, writers seek/engage with The Outside, when writing poetry…Thoughts?
KM: Onion Man (Tightrope) is a semi-autobiographical story about a summer I worked at a corn-canning factory with my boyfriend. Some of the story is fictional but many of the relationships in the story such as the narrator’s relationship with her alcoholic mother and her grandparents are based on my personal experience.
My second poetry collection The Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books), was a response to the absurdity that resulted in American politics after 911 and during the Iraq War. Many of the poems follow the structure that Donald Rumsfeld laid out for his press secretary on how to deal with the media, he said: ‘Begin with an illogical premise and proceed perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion…They [the media] do it all the time.’
Much of The Purpose Pitch (Mansfield Press) was written last summer when I was feeling particularly hopeless about the state of the world and the Harper government. I sort of lost all hope and wrote frantically for a month or so and the result was this book.
RS: …what can you/would you share about the titles of your three poetry books and how they came to? How easy/difficult are titles for you? For individual poems, for poems in a series, for book collections?
KM: Often I read through the manuscript or a poem after it’s written looking for a title. I normally don’t agonize over titles. They usually come pretty quickly.
Onion Man used to be called Pillsbury Factory, and I really didn’t like that title so as I was reading through the book, Onion Man (the name the narrator calls the her co-worker who eats raw onions at lunch), jumped out at me.
The Saddest Place on Earth is a title from one of the poems in that collection. I thought this title framed the poems as a whole.
The Purpose Pitch was a little harder to title. The publication of this book came about very quickly, and I basically had a day to pick a title. I actually think the time constraint helped because I’m someone who works well with a deadline. After scanning through the manuscript, I couldn’t find any phrases or lines or poem titles that I wanted to use and so I scanned through my husband’s (David Poolman) artwork looking for a title. One of his drawings was called The Purpose Pitch and since I’m not a baseball fan, he told me what a purpose pitch was—basically a hard and fast ball thrown at the batter in an attempt to intimidate, and we thought that it worked thematically with the poems. I sometimes describe the book as me throwing a purpose pitch at the world—and everyone in it, including myself. David also provided the cover art for the book—actually he’s provided the cover art for all my books which I’m very grateful for. Continue reading “thecanadaproject interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 2”