Heather Haley joins us in studio to read poems from her book "Three Blocks West of Wonderland." Click below to listen.
We also asked her to talk a bit about the book. Here's what she had to say:
What are the three themes you explore most in the book?
Well, I portray the domestic front, though as Karen Solie-with whom I had the privilege of working with at Banff Arts Centre said-“the work is not domesticated. It reflects the nature of language as both a domestic product and as wild—impossible to fully manage or control.” I take a lot of risks in my poems, have an instinct for the weirdness of language, the sound and rhythm. I’ve written a suite of island poems, others about relationships and family; my life partner, my mother, my father, nieces, nephews and several inspired by my son. I also depict the battle front you could say, a suite of poems inspired by my travels with many alluding to our post 9-11 guilt and angst here in the *safe zone.* I think we’re collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop, a dread summed up with a flying motif and section titles named Sky Watchers, Wax Wings and Hard Landings. In addition, I’ve addressed the classic man against nature theme in Hot Dogger, My Mountain and Habitat. I’m intrigued by extreme sports enthusiasts, adrenalin junkies. My father was an intrepid hunter and fisherman, I grew up in the great outdoors but we never felt compelled to climb for the sake of climbing, we just lived in the woods.
In a brief paragraph (2 or 3 sentences), describe what you think the book is about (assuming there is a theme)? I think The Theme is simply prevailing. One of the poems is called How To Remain, beyond mere survival, endurance but thriving, prevailing. Boldly. With panache. Style, grace and good humour. I hope.
Why did you write this book?
Because I had to. Because I wanted to, because I must. I must write. I’m an artist, not a critic, it’s hard for me to theorize or go on about process.
How long did it take?
Too long! This book has been in the works for about three years and making the rounds with publishers for two. I love books, but let’s face it, print is dying. It’s getting harder and harder all the time to get into print. It’s one reason I like to work in other media. Video and music have saved my sanity I swear, which is not to say any of it is easy either.
Who inspires you as a writer?
Too many to name. Let’s see, the Canadians would be Dorothy Livesay, Lorna Crozier, Al Purdy, Susan Musgrave, bill bissett, Margaret Laurence, Michael Turner, Catherine Kidd, Miranda Pearson, Peter Trower, Russell Thornton. I’ve read a lot of Americans having lived as an expatriate for many years. I like Plath and Sexton, Richard Brautigan, ee cummings, Henry Miller, novelists Darcy Steinke and Robert Stone and the beat era poet Kenneth Patchen. I admired William Burroughs more as a character than a writer though I did enjoy Naked Lunch. I used to hang out with a bunch of neo-Surrealists in San Francisco who turned me onto Andre Breton and his wild cross-pollinations with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. I like the Latins Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Jean Cocteau is a big influence. I think he must have been the first poet to use film.
Why would people want to buy and read this book?
Because it’s rambunctious, relentlessly witty, visceral, vital, fierce, racy, full of stiletto irony, verve-yet rife with sensitivity-according to the back cover. ;-)
What demographic do you think would be interested in this book (think of your typical audience)?
I don’t know. I find these kinds of questions impossible to answer. Though very DIY, I’m no expert at book marketing. Sorry I can’t answer better than that.
Well I’m working on completing two videopoems, and two books, my punk rock novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter and an art book collaboration with photographer Tina Schliessler called Bushwhack. There will be an official Vancouver launch for Three Blocks West of Wonderland in May or June and I hope to travel back east and launch it in Toronto, go on a modest book tour.