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”