“The challenge of taking a very well-worn poetic image
and trying to approach it in unusual or startling ways.”
Our September issue has a floral theme, revealing perhaps our reluctance to say farewell to summer and transition to fall. Raoul Fernandes is an exciting figure in the West Coast literary scene, an editor of The Maynard, and a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award in 2009. A collection of his work is forthcoming from Nightwood Editions. His poem ‘Floral Arrangement’ appears alongside the art of Carmelo Blandino. Subscribe by August 20th to receive this issue.
Hello Raoul. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I was born in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to parents of Indian descent. Moved to Canada with my family at age 14, and currently reside in East Vancouver with my wife and 2-and-a-half year old son. I work as a maintenance worker. I’ve dabbled in painting and photography and composed electronic music under the moniker “Goodnight Streetlight.” I do most of my writings in cafes these days, often while my son naps in the stroller beside me.
Your piece, Flower Arrangements, uses a number of cinematic techniques, like montage and juxtaposition, alongside postcard snapshots to capture a series of fleeting moments. Is this an approach you often use in your writing?
It’s an approach I use often in the early generative stages. I’ll free-associate around an image or idea and write down whatever comes to mind. It rarely stays as that, but for this poem I decided to keep it as a collection of distinct pieces that connect through a common subject. Perhaps it made sense to see it as a kind of a bouquet. I also enjoyed the challenge of taking a very well-worn poetic image and trying to approach it in unusual or startling ways. I’ve resisted using flowers in poems, but I think my wife and our garden has allowed me a deeper appreciation of them.
“Having a large part of one’s consciousness materialize into a tactile form.”
How has your experience editing The Maynard and attending the SFU Creative Writing Program informed your writing, and what role has the West Coast Canadian literary community played in your development?
The Writers Studio at SFU was a big lift for me. I was becoming a bit too isolated and unfocused with my writing. I needed some guidance and, yes, a community. There’s a small friendly group of poets here in Vancouver – It often feels one meets half of them at any given reading. Some poet friends have helped me in very direct ways through reading/feedback, book clubs, or just hanging out and geeking out about writing. More indirectly, being in a community of writers makes you identify more as one. And then it’s like,”OK, you’re a poet. Time to get to work, kid.”
Working on the Maynard has been fun. Reading a lot of poems, especially the weaker ones, can make it really clear what you value in poetry, and what can make a poem go flat. My co-editors are excellent readers and give a lot of time and attention to the poems. I’m learning from them. It’s also a privilege to be in a position of supporting other writers, and perhaps even bringing some non-poetry readers into our weird little world.
What’s on your plate for the next year? Any new developments and exciting events?
Funny you should ask! The most exciting development is that one of my favourite presses, Nightwood Editions, has picked up my poetry manuscript. I’ll have my first book out next year and hope to do a little flurry of readings and such. I’m pretty thrilled. It feels a bit vulnerable too - having a large part of one’s consciousness materialize into a tactile form that can be thrown across rooms, have coffee spilt on, and, of course, connect with other consciousnesses. But what an incredible thing to get to do. I feel so entirely lucky.
Raoul Fernandes is our September 2014 writer.
This is a taste of what’s to come when we release his print at the beginning of the month.
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