Thursday, April 23, 2009


Jason Guriel for DESK SPACE

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

JASON GURIEL Jason Guriel is the recipient of the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry. His poems have recently appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Poetry London (UK), and The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008. His second collection of poems is Pure Product (Véhicule Press, 2009). He lives in Toronto.

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

JG The first book came out in 2006. The new one, Pure Product (Véhicule Press), should be out soon.

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

JG More and more, I compose poems in my head, as I walk to places. They get written down in a notebook, usually at a coffee shop – who am I kidding, at Starbucks. And I’m embarrassed, too, to admit that I like a nice Moleskine, an indulgence to be sure. It’s the sort of notebook (I suspect) that is purchased by people who like the idea of writing more than the activity itself. Still, if you’re serous about filling the Moleskine, it’s a nice thing to fill, a smooth ride, a properly adult luxury. I’m sure I sound awful, and well-gentrified, but you asked.

I rewrite every draft of every poem longhand – even if I’m just changing a single word. A final version isn’t typed out until it’s ready to be sent out, so the time I spend at an actual desk is kind of perfunctory, a last step. The rare time I go straight to a Word.doc, I always feel bad about it. And the poem never winds up being very good – or as good as it could’ve been.

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

JG I’m not being precious about the walking thing (I’m no big fan of the Romantics, that’s for sure). I just don’t drive, is all, so I’ve got the time to work in my head. And I think it’s good for the poem, actually, to live between the ears for awhile. We have to suffer so much bad poetry; we should be at least a little reluctant to commit our own shaky attempts to paper (let alone laptop!). Who do we think we are, etc.? If the poem gets remembered, bully for it.

Once the poem is down in its Moleskine, the rewriting of every new draft in longhand puts the poem through its paces. The poem doesn’t have the chance to become some passive, inert thing, locked in its Word.doc, only to be occasionally revisited, prodded, tweaked. Every time the poem is rewritten, longhand, it gets recreated. It has to re-justify itself. (When we revise onscreen, however, we tend not to retype the whole poem; we just fiddle with the bit we want to revise.) Anyway, as a result of all of this rewriting, any remaining errors or awkward bits – not solved when the poem was riding around between my ears – will hopefully surface.

And I rewrite in public spaces – Starbucks, yes, but public transportation, too, even bars – because that’s where I find my spare moments. That said, I’m certainly not trying to get strangers to approach me, like those lonely types in taverns, who make a great show of doodling in their sketchbooks, hoping perhaps they’ll attract some attention. I just get better poems this way, and the work passes the time while I’m going somewhere or waiting for someone. It takes the pressure off the home front, too. (I gather some writers – those poor novelists, anyway – often have to lug themselves to their desks, which is no way to live; a desk ought to be a joyous space, for the checking of E-mail or Web pages like this one.)

DS What are you working on now?

JG I’m working on some reviews for Poetry magazine and CNQ, as well as the first instalment of what will be a regular-ish column for Contemporary Poetry Review. I’ve also been blogging for Harriet, the blog of the Poetry Foundation.

(photos by DESK SPACE)


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Evie Christie said...

Anonymous, please leave a name or blogger profile link next time

Jake said...

I forgot how much I enjoy this blog.

I enjoy it quite a bit.