canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Aidan Baker

Aidan Baker is a Toronto-based writer & musician who has published two books of poetry, FINGERSPELLING (Penumbra Press) & WOUND CULTURE (Unbound Books), & a poetry chapbook, THE ADVENTURES OF ME & YOU (Eraserhead Press). He has released several cds, both as a solo artist & with various ensembles. His latest cd, I FALL INTO YOU (Public Eyesore Records), is a combination of spoken word, experimental/ambient, & post-rock music. Samples of his work can be viewed/heard at

Michael Bryson interviewed Aidan Baker in October 2002.

TDR: Tell us something of your background. Where are you 'from'? Where are you 'going'? I mean both your life-bio and your writing-bio. 

AB: I grew up in an artistic family in a (really) small town outside of Toronto called Zephyr. I've lived in Toronto now for about five years, before that I was in Brooklyn and Montreal. I played music from an early age, came to writing in my early teen years. People often ask me whether I consider myself more of a writer or more of a musician, which I'm seldom able to answer. I do often focus on one, to the ocassional neglect of the other, but I do consider myself both. People often call me a poet (yes, all my published books so far have been poetry), but I don't really consider myself a poet. Certainly not exclusively. I've always written both poetry and prose; perhaps what I present as poetry should more accurately be considered as poetic prose (with the logical vice versa for fiction). 

TDR: Some people would say that each writer tends to circle around a single subject. Is this true of you? If so, how would you articulate that subject? 

AB: I don't know about one single subject...a couple of somewhat interconnected subjects, which I suppose could be lumped under the single heading of interpersonal relationships. This isn't necessarily just your man/woman (or whatever) relationship, though it often manifests (on the surface, at least) as such in my work; it's also the relationship between reader and writer, writer and words, reader and text, intertextualities, the psych/physiology of read/writing, etc. 

TDR: Have you had any mentors, either real people who worked with you, or people you only met on the page? How have they influenced you? Do you react against them, or pattern your work on theirs? 

AB: In person, not really. On the page, definitely. I tend to have periods where I latch on to specific writers and absorb as much of his/her work as possible. In my teens it was Marie-Claire Blais and Albert Camus, in university it was John Barth and Philip K. Dick. In recent years, I've found fascination, if not direct inspiration, from such writers as Angela Carter, Alan Warner, David Foster Wallace, Steve Erickson, J.G. Ballard, and Haruki Murakami, to name a few. In terms of an actual influence on my writing style, I would say Carter and Erickson have the most -- they would perhaps be the most readily identified as stylistic influences. People like Barth or Wallace, however, have more of a contextual or theoretical influence; I don't necessarily write like them, even though I might explore similar concepts or conceits; it's more that I'm informed by them. 

TDR: Do you have a favorite poem? (Say why you like it.) 

AB: No...well, I do have a few favourites (or at least favourite poets), but I can't narrow my choice down to one single poem... 

TDR: Are you conscious of being part of a community of Canadian writers? How do you relate to the work of your contemporaries? (Name some names, if possible.) 

AB: Yes and no. Certainly there are contemporary Canadian writers I respect and local small presses whose output I appreciate (Coach House, Pedlar Press, for example) but, that said, I can't really think of anyone who I would consider a writerly compatriot, so to speak. I'm more conscious of being part of the musical community in Toronto, than the literary. Maybe because it's easier for me to get out there and perform musically (instruments to hide behind) than writerly. 

TDR: What are you working on right now? How is this part of the progression of your work generally? 

AB: I'm currently looking for homes for a poetry and a novel manuscript, fine-tuning them in the waiting period. I'm currently working on a project for a new small press called ColdSnap Bindery ( who specialize in short runs of handmade editions. I'm planning to have an accompanying cd with this release. My last book, Wound Culture, did come out with a cd as well, but that was a general musical accompaniment -- this cd will correspond more directly to the text of the work. It won't exclusively be spoken word, but I would like it to be foremostly literary. Often when I combine music and writing, the words become secondary to the music.






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