thecanadaproject interviews

TCP interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of my interview with Kathryn Mockler, author of Onion Man, The Purpose Pitch, and The Saddest Place on Earth:



RS: …what and who are your influences? Which poets, artists, creators, inspire you in your own processes? Who do you read and in your reading practice, as it were, do you distinguish, for instance, between, “reading for ‘work’ e.g. for The Rusty Toque or Joyland; reading at night, when you are tired; reading on a whim…etc… When you travel, do you have a certain “go to collection” of reading/readings that you must take with you? If travelling by train, I’d love to know… (Cascadia!)

KM: I never read for the sake of reading. I’d love to read a Jackie Collins novel for fun like I used to when I was in university but because of limits on my time, I must read strictly for what I’m writing or for the journals. When I’m working on certain projects, I read books that I think will influence that project (but not too much). I’m not going to read James Tate if I’m writing absurd humour poetry because the voice is too close. But I might read someone like Jonathan Ball or Lydia Davis whose work is funny and absurd but with an entirely different voice.

On Process

Continue reading “TCP interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 4”

thecanadaproject interviews

TCP interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of my interview with Kathryn Mockler, author of Onion Man, The Purpose Pitch, and The Saddest Place on Earth:


Onion Man, Continued…

Onion ManRS: Who were your literary influences when writing Onion Man? How long did it take for you to settle on the form of the book, each poem a vertical compressed stack of words, each preceded by that bolded elongated em-dash? Did you try different forms, ways of arranging the text?

KM: Michael Turner’s Company Town and Hard Core Logo and Douglas Burnet Smith’s The Knife Thrower’s Partner were big influences. I also read a lot of Evelyn Lau during the time I was writing this book.

Over the years the poems took on many forms—short lines, long lines, prose blocks, etc. The shape of the poems was something I really struggled with, and after working and working on the line breaks, I settled on the form we see in the book. I didn’t think of the poems as cans until Michael Turner observed this in his blurb on the back of the book, but now I can see how they could be read like that. Whenever I’m working with line and form I usually rely on instincts and happy accidents. The form of Onion Man was a happy accident because it coincided with the content. Continue reading “TCP interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 3”

thecanadaproject interviews

thecanadaproject interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 2

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?

Onion ManKM: 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
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”

thecanadaproject interviews

thecanadaproject interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 1

Kathryn Mockler
Image and bio from

Kathryn Mockler is a writer, screenwriter, and poet. She is the author of the poetry books The Purpose Pitch (Mansfield Press, 2015),  The Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books, 2012) and Onion Man (Tightrope Books, 2011). She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and her BA in Honours English and Creative Writing from Concordia University.

Her writing has been published in The Butter, Vol. 1Lemon Hound, Found Press, Poetry is Dead, Descant, The Windsor Review, The Capilano Review, Geist and Joyland.

On Genre & Literature

RS: You write/create in multiple genres: poetry, short story, film, reviews, …can you speak to what that’s like? Do you inhabit different, shall we say, “brain-modes” for each genre? What’s it like writing a book of poems as opposed to write for film; or, writing short stories, narrative as distinct from poetry?

KM: I started writing at Concordia University when I was an undergraduate and I took classes in poetry, short fiction, and screenwriting. At UBC where I did my MFA, we had to write in at least three genres, and I’ve just always kept it up. There are times when I focus on one genre. Between 1999 and 2006, I focused very heavily on screenwriting but still managed to pick away at poetry and for the last five or six years, my attention has been on poetry and short fiction, but I still have two feature film projects on the go.

I don’t think I use different brain modes. Many people are surprised when I say how much poetry has in common with film. Both are visual genres and often rely on image and concise language.

My brain doesn’t switch modes but my reading does. I read in whatever genre I’m about to write in. And I read writers who I think will influence a particular tone. Continue reading “thecanadaproject interviews Kathryn Mockler, Part 1”

about doing the work

New Poems from thecanadaproject, Volume Two

Thrilled to see my new work published in The Rusty Toque, the well regarded literary, film, and art journal:

The second completed series from thecanadaproject is a book length poem, “the heart of this journey bears all patterns”, commonly known as thot-j-bap. It is about culture, language, and longing: a journey poem, woman with man, Pacifica-Toronto-Paris-Baghdad-Ahmedabad.”

 Read Volume 7 of The Rusty Toque here