“Stockpiling words and images all week,
then burrowing into them on the weekends.”
Claire Caldwell delivers a fantastic poem for our October issue (how can you not instantly love a piece that begins ‘As expected, the circus tigers escaped’?). That’s all we’ll reveal for now – subscribe by September 20 to receive Claire’s poem in your mailbox for a mere $5.75, shipping included. You’ll get 11 more art and literary surprises in the mail, all year long!
Art by Hollie Chastain accompanies it.
Hi Claire! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! Well, I’m a poet from Toronto, and I also work as an editorial assistant at Harlequin. I edit their clean romance line (no steamy reads at my desk, but I have been known to tear up at a happy ending) and also an action-adventure series called The Executioner. I now know more gun specs than I ever thought I would! Other random trivia? I like to sew and ride my bike and play guitar; when I was thirteen I made a scrapbook devoted to Frodo-era Elijah Wood; when I was fifteen I did a 36-day canoe trip in Quetico; I lived in the Yukon as a little kid; I believe in ghosts just enough to be glad I don’t have any ghost stories of my own.
I believe in ghosts just enough to be glad I don’t have any ghost stories of my own.
We’re excited to share your poem, La Gamine, with our readers this month. Reading it feels like being transported to a magical place very early in the morning, and as the day unfolds we only come to realize what a privilege it is to visit. When was the inspiration behind the piece and where were you when you first wrote it?
Thank you for those kind words! This poem took quite a while to finish writing because it’s actually several fragments of different poems grafted together. The spark of inspiration came when I was visiting Paris and spotted this dilapidated circus tent beneath an overpass. It seemed so sad and out-of-place, yet mysterious and compelling, too, and I knew it would find its way into my work somehow. I remember browsing racehorse names when I was working on an early draft—that’s a fun trick I learned from poet Kevin Connolly for jolting yourself into a poem. Seriously, racehorse names are hard to beat for strange and inventive use of language! When I wrote this final version of the poem, I was at my partner’s family’s cottage just outside of Huntsville, ON. It was morning, very peaceful, with that end-of-summer chill in the air. Perfect poem-writing conditions.
Do you write on a set schedule or do you wait for inspiration to strike? What does a typical day look like for you?
Since I work nine-to-five (and wrangle words all day), I’ve found it tough to get into a daily writing schedule. Maybe that will change one day, but for now I take a squirrel’s approach to writing poetry: stockpiling words and images all week, then burrowing into them on the weekends. I tend to write more, and write better, when I have an idea or image to jump off from, and when I do, I can usually slip into that writing zone and shape a fairly solid draft in a few hours.
My hope is that poetry can connect people with the magic and mystery of their environments in ways other media can’t.
Your poetry collection Invasive Species has just been released by Wolsak & Wynn. In these poems you juxtapose the calamities of climate change and the dangers of the natural world against the intimacies of daily life. Is this is a recurring thematic in your work or new territory for you?
This was a concern that developed over the course of writing the book, and in some ways it feels even stronger now that I’ve finished the collection and have started working on new material. I’m fascinated by the lines we draw, individually and globally, between ourselves and the natural world. I was in the countryside the other weekend, and during a bad thunderstorm, someone mentioned that she liked the feeling of being in the weather. I know what she meant—because in the city, we’re inside so much, insulated. And it was a dramatic storm. But aren’t we always in the weather? Increasingly, we’re losing that sense of protection and insulation. We’re forced to confront and shift our relationship with the world around us. My hope is that poetry can connect people with the magic and mystery of their environments in ways other media can’t.
What’s on your horizon in the next year?
I’ve got some readings lined up in support of my book, and hope to fit more into the year ahead. So far, I have several events coming up in Toronto, as well as readings in Fredericton, Detroit and Victoria (I’ll be updating my event schedule on my website). And writing as many new poems as I can!
Claire Caldwell is our October 2014 writer.
This is a taste of what’s to come when we release her print at the beginning of the month.
Papirmass is an affordable art subscription that delivers 12 prints a year featuring fresh art and writing.