Eve Joseph on the Writers’ Blog Tour
I was recently asked by Marilyn Bowering to take part in this writer’s blog. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind but now I see that Marilyn is indeed a gifted blogger. She may have enticed me to take part under false pretenses! Marilyn’s latest book of poetry, Soul Mouth, is a rich collection of poems exploring childhood and mythology. It is magic text.
The two writers who will be posting after me are Patricia Young and Patrick Friesen. Summertime Swamp-Love, Patricia’s most recent book is a joyous romp through the animal kingdom. Her language, as always, is playful, insightful and revelatory. We see in the mammals, birds, fish and insects that she writes about – our own quirks and desires. Who but Patricia could have Swamp–Love in a title?
There’s probably an unspoken rule about not tagging one’s spouse as the next blogger. If so, it is a rule I will disregard. For the past few years, Patrick has been immersed in the world of a woman who lives on the outskirts of town and the edge of memory. She is both trickster and muse. A Short History of Crazy Bone will be published by Mother Tongue Press in Spring 2015.
What am I working on?
I am between things right now. My book In the Slender Margin came out in April and I find it always takes me time to turn away from the old and begin to make my way toward something new. In the 1970’s, I worked on Norwegian freighters and the idea of writing about those years is starting to take hold. I googled the names of my ships not long ago and saw what looked like some kind of conversation in Norwegian. I clicked on “translate this” and found one of the sailors I’d worked with in 1973. In his 70’s now, Helge and I have been writing back and forth about those years. He recently told me a story about an engineer who caught a fish in Campbell River and had it flash frozen for the trip back down to Long Beach, California. One night, when the guys were getting ready to go ashore, Arne got the fish out of the freezer and stuffed it up the sleeve of his jacket. When asked what he was doing, he replied happily, “I trade fish for sex.” From the sounds of it, he didn’t have much luck! I want to immerse myself in the sailor’s world again and see where it leads.
How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
The nonfiction genre is wide and varied and there is much opportunity to draw on work that has come before as well as to branch out and experiment with one’s own thinking. I don’t believe my work is groundbreakingly original nor do I strive for it to be. I am much more interested in influence and how we take what we love from other writers and make it our own.
Why do I write what I do?
I think we all circle a small number of themes in our bodies of work – approaching them from different angles and genres. I don’t set out with a project in mind; rather, I get interested in some idea and my thinking begins to expand around that. Death has been a theme in my work – connected, I imagine, in the early losses I experienced and my subsequent work at hospice. My brother’s early death led me to work with the dying – and the work, in turn, led me back to my brother. You can’t plan these things. It is the wonder of it.
I started writing poetry again about 17 years ago and my first two books were books of poems. Poetry is my first love. It helps me to see the world through new eyes. In some inexpressible way, it reminds me who I am. My poetry is quite spare. Don McKay once said to me that my poetry reminded him of a bird flitting from branch to branch; sometimes, he said, it’s good to be dog snuffling on the ground through the mud and leaves. Following the scent. These days I am working in nonfiction for exactly that reason. I enjoy the space it provides to follow thought as far as I can.
How does my writing process work?
In the early stages, I’m never disciplined. I’ll do almost anything to avoid sitting down to write. The house gets cleaned, I go for walks, I sit down to write and fall asleep. It’s a form of self-imposed torture. Slowly, however, once I begin to get into a project it begins to take over. I consistently edit my work. I always go back the beginning of a piece and start rewriting. There is always that struggle between writing when it feels forced and those moments when it comes as gift. I have to “show up,” sit down and write really bad stuff for many days before something starts to take.
Some other stops on the Writers’ Blog Tour