Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blue Stop signs and the Human Imagination as a non-niche

Here's a blue stop sign from when we took a wrong turn near Pearl Harbour sometime last week. I've been on holiday with my family in Hawaii for a while now which is why the blog has been inactive.

I'm reading on Saturday April 17, 2010 - 10:30 am as part of the Cobourg (Ontario) Poetryz Own Weekend Festival. I'm part of the "Children's Poetry Reading" at the Cobourg Public Library. I'm reading with Eric Winter and Diane Dawber. They did a brief interview with me about reading at the festival. Here it is:

Gary Barwin - Interview

What are your thoughts about reading your poetry in Cobourg at the POW! Festival?

I've found that I've had fantastic audiences in places outside of the big cities. There is a palpable sense of community and excitement in these places.

Please tell us about your children's book(s) and also a little about any other books you've had that "saw print"

Part of the great excitement about writing, for me, is to connect with a variety of readers. As such, I create many different kinds of works: picturebooks, Young Adult novels, stories, and poems for kids, as well as a variety of kinds of fiction, poetry for adults, music compositions from different traditions (incorporating live musicians, computers, spoken text, singing, etc.) as well as a a range of visual work.

My children's books include the picturebook The Racing Worm Brothers which was inspired by watching my two young sons 'adopting' worms as pets. Another picturebook, The Magic Mustache had its inception as a bedtime story that I improvised for my son. My Young Adult novel, Seeing Stars, was developed after watching TV shows about people who were so obese that they couldn't leave their beds, ads about phone psychics, and a plane crash involving a child pilot.

At POW!, do you plan to solely read pieces from your published books? Do you plan to read other work as well?

I will read both published work and work-in-progess. I like to improvise with my audience, and make up stories on the spot with them. We might start with an idea that they come up with, or with the beginning of a story that I'm working on, and then I ask them to suggest what might I do next. I really enjoy being interactive with my audience. It's more fun and it demonstrates to kids that they are creative and just need to feel invited to use their imagination in order to create stories.

How would you describe your writing for Children? How about your other work ... your poetry and so on?

My children's writing comes from many places: experiences of real life children including my own, memories of being a child myself, stories from the news, other stories and myths. My YA-novel in progress, The Unibrow Underground, was inspired by a joke by my Grade 8 music students. (I taught music in a middle school for ten years.) All of my writing, both for kids and adults comes from a delight in language, in the imagination, in spelunking through the tunnels of the mind.

When did you start writing children's literature and what prompted it? How about you starting writing in general?

I've always made up stories. Sometimes only to blame my brother for something that I did. I became immersed in children's literature when my own children were young. There were so many fantastic books and so many ideas circulating that I wanted to try my own hand at it. I also valued the deep connection kids have with books and their own imagination, and powerful creative relationship children have with authors.

What inspires you to put pen to paper / fingers to keyboard?

Anything. A semi-colon. Sadness. The joy of a dog. Something a little kid says. Something misheard from a great philosopher. Wondering what it is like to be someone or somewhere. A bad joke or a great folk story. Modern life.

Can you describe (a little) your writing process in creating a new piece?

It is like orienteering. You find yourself in the middle of somewhere and you have to find out where you are, where you're going to go next, what is there, and how to proceed. It is an adventure, an exploration, and a very pleasurable and exciting challenge. Sometimes I'm not out of the woods for many years. Sometimes I just delight in a clearing.

The POW! Festival is built on the notion that poetry should not be relegated to an existence as "a niche art form" that the average person doesn't care about.
How do you respond to that?

The imagination is not a specialized niche. I find that once I interact with an audience, any notion of poetry being a rarified niche form disappears.

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