1/ You: poet, writer, teacher, mentor, friend. You were recently profiled in the Globe and Mail. What’s that all about? The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business published a piece, “Introducing Vancouver’s most promising young entrepreneurs.” I was featured for a new venture I co-founded with Bethany Johnson called ROOM+BOARD, which is our attempt to build an online community for people who write.
2/ You’ve published hundreds of poems, two acclaimed poetry books (Anthropy and Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon), and perform your work in wild and wonderful ways. Does poetry still excite you? Of course poetry still excites me. I love poetry very much. But poetry and I agree that we can both see other partners. When others see me holding hands with business in public, I wonder if they think that I’m cheating. Few, perhaps, are open to the idea that the relationships could be interesting to engage at the same time.
3/ What are your thoughts about language, the act of witness, social justice, starting a venture for writers (ROOM+BOARD) and performance? What do you think of these things/issues/ideas/actions, and might they cohere/not cohere?
I think that there are many questions in there. Until very recently, I used to care a lot about performance: what poets and performers of all stripes did onstage struck me as saying a lot about how poets related to their audiences. You can learn a lot from how much effort it seems a poet puts into making a reading interesting.
But my most recent questions involve thinking about that weird thing we might call digital poetry. There’s a lot to say about digital poetry, but perhaps the most interesting thing to me is where people choose to pursue it. Do poets choose to do it in universities? Art galleries? Or do they choose to pursue it in tech startup accelerators? In the circuits of tech capitalism?
Yes, I know that these institutions are not totally separate, that the corporatization of universities et cetera et cetera. But let’s agree that literature and creative writing professors don’t overlap completely with tech entrepreneurs. Let’s wonder what digital poetry might look like responding to venture capitalists and angel investors.
4/ On your website, The Way of Ray, there’s a link to your TEDx talk, “how to live a creative life.” What do you love best about giving that talk? Perhaps the talk is like a book: long after I’ve given the talk, or written the book, people still surprise me by telling me how they felt about them, as if I had given the talk or written the book yesterday. Maybe they’re both a kind of literature, and “Literature is news that stays news,” or so Ezra Pound thought.
5/ What role does community/family/friendship play in your life?
i just typed about my father and deleted it. instead let me tell you about a handful of people around me who make me feel good. i have a lover who defends me. if a bear stood on its hind legs at me she’d sing it to sleep. i think she’s a bard wizard elf human
6/ What brings you joy, right now, in what you are doing? Finding the holy grail.
7/ Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by you, in poetry and via Art Song Lab (Vancouver International Song Institute/Canadian Music Centre).What role does music play in your life? In things musical, I will always remain an amateur, which has its roots in the Latin for “love.” I am a lover rather than a professional.
8/ Some poet folks say, “poetry is not a project!” – your response? Poetry is barely a project.
9/ What is your most urgent desire for the work you are doing right now and what do you want the world to know about it? I want my work to solve something impossible. If it does not try to, it will have failed.
10/ In performance before an audience, when reading and writing, through your teaching, I’ve often been moved by your compassion and your willingness to transgress. Curious about your response?
Compassion and transgression share many letters. What else do they share?