Monday, September 1, 2008


Paul Vermeersch for DESK SPACE

DESK SPACE Who (a one-liner or a bio)?

PAUL VERMEERSCH Paul Vermeersch is a poet, editor, and teacher. You’d probably like him.

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?

PV I can never answer the question about when I started writing. I think people who have a definite answer to that question are bullshitting a little bit, or self-mythologizing. It’s always something cute or profound or interesting. They’ll say things like they read Pushkin when they were eight and then they knew what they wanted to do with their lives, or they’ll have some story about publishing their first poem in a local paper before they could walk. When I was a kid, I wasn’t in touch with high culture at all. I read corny adventure stories, if I read anything at all, and I wrote funny (to me) rhymes and verses, but even then I was more inspired by novelty songs than by Ogden Nash or Robert Service. Mostly, I watched cartoons and the Three Stooges. I didn’t have a literary mind then, not that I was aware of, but I liked to draw pictures, and I liked to build things. Creativity in general appealed to me. Those funny rhymes would eventually evolve into more serious attempts at writing, and a more serious interest in reading, but I can’t tell you there was a watershed moment. When I became more interested in tragedy than comedy, creatively speaking, maybe something shook free inside my head that gave me access to deeper thoughts. I still think of myself as a learner. I hope I always will. My first book, Burn, was published in 2000.

DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?

PV I write all over the place, sometimes with a pen, sometimes directly on the computer. I do a lot of writing at my desk, sure, but sometimes I write on the couch while watching a favourite movie or listening to music. Sometimes I write on the train on my commute to work (these days I teach at Sheridan College in Oakville). I’m not usually one for writing in cafes or pubs, though now and then it seems to help, especially when I’m suffering from a little cabin fever. But when I get down to final edits and revisions, or when I’m preparing a manuscript, it’s almost always at my desk, on my computer. My cat Milosz usually sleeps on the top of my desk when I’m working, and that helps me relax, too.

DS Why do you work where you do (at you desk because it is a quiet space/outside b/c it helps you think, in the park b/c you can smoke, etc)?

PV I tend to work on a draft of a poem for a long time, often for several weeks or even months. I think that’s why I write in a lot of different places and positions. It helps me bring different moods and perspectives to my poems, and that deepens them and gives them texture. The way I’m sitting, or the place I’m occupying, or the weather… these things affect them poem because the body and the world around it both affect the mind. I want these things in my poems.

DS What are you working on now?

PV Right now I’m working on my fourth collection of poems The Reinvention of the Human Hand. Cave paintings, self-medication, Hieronymus Bosch, general pain and suffering, Warner Brothers’ cartoons, transplants and prosthetic limbs: this book has it all. It’ll be published by McClelland & Stewart in spring 2010. Mark your calendars.

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