"The reason why he’s committed to taking his psychiatric drugs isn’t that he knows if they’re even working, but it gives him a kind of ritual, this rite of self-abnegation where he’s saying to the world that he has a maimed condition, that he requires some kind of treatment. So he actually doesn’t seem very interested in whether they help or hurt him chemically, so much as it’s almost like a social form where he gets it to kind of remind himself that again he’s distanced from his experience because he has some kind of disorder that the world considers in need of treatment. I mean he’s interested in what counts as an immediate experience, and sometimes protecting himself from that immediate experience, and I think drugs are like art works, they become ways of either intensifying the experience of the real or obliterating the real through some kind of chemical screen."
— On Leaving the Atocha Station. Ben Lerner in conversation with Eleanor Wachtel (CBC Radio, Writers and Company).
"Melancholy betrays the world for the sake of knowledge. But in its tenacious self-absorption it embraces dead objects in its contemplation, in order to redeem them."
— Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama

The Book Lovers by Broadcast

"If you had something to fall back on, you certainly would fall back. To hell with that. All or nothing."
— from Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter

Another Town by The Noise Tigers

Thank you to poet, musician, winner of this year’s Robert Kroetsch award, founder of the Casse Tete music festival — all around super cool guy, Jeremy Stewart, for tagging me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Here we go! 


What am I working on?

Currently working on some poems involving statistics about addiction and mental illness in Vancouver, BC. 

I’ve also got my hands in a cut-up poem. I’ve grown to respect the knowledge and self-knowledge that I gain while using this method. I’m ready for another potentially scary, self-reflexive, and fun process of discovery.

I am also working on something called “a box of poems for the unipolar depressive.” It will literally be a box of poems for [you]. That’s right. This is still in the imagination stage.

My favourite poems usually happen when I don’t intend to work on writing a poem.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I can say only this: my favourite poems embarrass me, not because they’re “bad,” (or “good”) but because in the process of writing them, they’ve turned on themselves, and turned back at me, often reversing the initial idea with which I began. I love it when this happens. These poems turn out to be disturbing. I hope to find contemporaries whose work can disturb without exploiting shock value, work that is honest without being confessional, work that is quite simply an experience.


Why do I write what I do?

I write for “irrational” reasons. It must be love. 

Sometimes I write when I’m in a kind mood; when I worry about an imaginary person who will be lonely if they don’t find my poem.  

Other times I write because someone does something small and insignificant that makes me have a big thought and/or emotion.  

Sometimes I write because I want to be friends with myself.

And then I write because I love somebody, or somebody’s work.

Sometimes I go nuts when I feel the need to be exact/precise, so I write.

At times I feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the natural world, so I just have to go on and be a nature poet for a bit. My first published poem was about a sidewinder snake. I was 8 years old. I still feel pretty cool about that. Everything I write now feels like “awe lite version 1.0,” compared to the intense feelings I had when I was young. Nowadays (I’m soooo old) I feel so happy when I feel intensely.

Other times I write so that I never write like this again.


How does my writing process work?

Midnight to 3 a.m. is when the writing process feels natural for me — it’s reading and writing time! Yaaaaay! Not a lot of people are awake at this time, lovers are usually asleep, and I can forget about what I did during the day, and what needs to be done the next day. 

Like Jeremy, I also allow whatever I’m reading to inform my writing. I read a lot, way more than I write, and I like it this way (probably because it allows to feel like I’m writing less shit since I spend a lot of time thinking about all that shit instead).

The last thing that spurred some intense poetry was Stoner by John Edward Williams. READ IT. You will find a friend in Stoner if you’re from a working class family, and haven’t been able to subdue your literature love regardless of how sick/broke/pissed off by social norms to the point of/whatever else you’ve been. Please read it. 

Reading anything by David Foster Wallace unfortunately ends up turning the writing process into an obsession with DFW’s work and nothing else process. Because I love DFW so much (we’ve been married and divorced 8.72 times), I have adjusted and balanced my life around his complicated business. I am currently having a #PaleSummer14 and blogging about it here: www.claudesylvanshine.wordpress.com*

*I just had to tell you this

There is nothing like letting the poem sit for a week or two, then looking at it again for editing. 

There is nothing like digression which is a result of love. Yes.


Ok, thanks for reading me talk about myself!

Tag, you’re it: Amber McMillan, Christopher Patton, Carol Shillibeer, Ben Austin. 


Amber McMillan is currently living on Protection Island, B.C. Her poems have appeared in several journals and magazines across Canada. Her collection of poems, “We Can’t Ever Do This Again” is forthcoming with Wolsak and Wynn (2015).


Christopher Patton is the author of Ox (Vehicule Press, 2007). His recently completed manuscript is titled Dumuzi. One of his poems can be read here.


Carol Shillibeer lives in Vancouver where she is a poet, editor, teacher, and reader of tarot cards. 


Ben Austin has always urged Shazia to write a bio for him. Shazia chooses to have this be his bio. 

Life is grand… My favourite band (!!!!) in town!!! in November!! And Low is opening. I’ve *always* wanted to see Low. 

"That what appears to be egoism so often isn’t."
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace