canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

 

TDR Interview: Jennifer LoveGrove

Jennifer LoveGrove is a writer currently living in the Parkdale area of Toronto, Canada. Her first book, The Dagger Between Her Teeth, was published by ECW Press in 2002. Her writing has been published in a variety of journals and magazines, and she is currently an editor at Hive Magazine, where she also has a literary column called "Under Cover". She edits and publishes a handmade literary zine called dig, where each of the hundreds of covers are unique works of art. Her wayward armadillo press publishes and produces chapbooks and various literary ephemera and events, and her non-book-related creative undertakings fall under Soap Scum Projects. All this and more can be found at www.jenniferlovegrove.com and www.soapscumprojects.com. Right now, she is excited to own a brand new pair of hockey skates. 

Michael Bryson interviewed Jennifer by email in January 2003.

Read TDR's review of The Dagger Between Her Teeth

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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.

JL: Well, I grew up in a very small town in southern Ontario, called Dunnville, and moved to Toronto after high school. I've lived here for ten years, happily, and sometimes unhappily - but I like Toronto, it has a lot to offer.

For me, "life-bio" and "writing-bio" aren't really separable. What's the difference?

My first book, The Dagger Between Her Teeth, was published by ECW Press last year. Before that, I published work in various magazines and anthologies over the years, such as Queen St. Quarterly, sub-Terrain, Taddle Creek, The IV Lounge Reader, etc. Around the time of Dagger's publication (just before and after) I was writing more fiction than anything, and one of those stories was published in last winter's issue of Taddle Creek. Recently though, I've been more inclined to poetry again, I tend to go back and forth between the genres every so often.

In 1997 I began dig, my little literary mag, an industrious handmade endeavor. It's approaching its tenth issue, and its appeal does not seem to have diminished; its readers, and the writers who have contributed work, have been loyal. My small press project, wayward armadillo press, also publishes occasional chapbooks, the most recent being Who Do You Think You Are? by George Murray.

As for where I'm "going", I can't say for certain. I'm getting clearer on the next poetry manuscript now. I'm also exploring writing for the stage. Not necessarily a "play" per se, but something performative. I have been involved in theatre in the past, and know a lot of theatre people, so there have recently been collaborative notions being tossed about, and I'm excited about that. And there's some fiction that is ongoing.

What I'm trying to do this year (I have a long page of resolutions) is improve my focus, amidst several writing projects, editing other people's stuff, my many non-writing creative projects, dig (200 handmade covers per issue), and a full time job. I'm a Gemini, that is typical of us, we do a million things at once, but I want to be able to concentrate better, instead of feeling like I have some adult form of ADD. So instead of thinking about where I'm "going" I think it would be better to try to see where I get by sitting still.

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?

JL: Well, I don't think I have a "single subject" exclusively, but certainly the pervasive theme for me has been, and still is, female violence. I explored that in Dagger, in terms of myth-making, self-mythologization, and within the nuclear family structure, from the point of view of female perpetrators rather than as victims. I seem to be continuing these themes in newer poems, but it's different from what's in Dagger. It's angrier, it's less narrative, and more about evil and cruelty than about myth - no fun-loving cross-dressing pirates this time around.

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?

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.)

JL: (I'm putting these two questions together b/c my answers overlap)

I wouldn't say I've necessarily had any mentors per se. I've too private and independent (read: deeply paranoid?) about my writing for that. However, I am friends with quite a few writers of various styles and genres, which I think is a good influence in terms of support and understanding, both personally and editorially. And there are certainly specific books and writers who have impressed and/or inspired me on an ongoing basis. I've definitely been influenced by the work of Sylvia Plath, Marge Piercy, Libby Scheier, and Lynn Crosbie, in terms of poetry, and Janette Turner Hospital and Jeanette Winterson for fiction.

There are many writers whose work I admire, respect and enjoy, though I'm not so sure I am directly influenced by them, perhaps it is more like "inspired by". There are some works I like to read sometimes when "getting in the mood" to work on something new, such as the amazing chapbook "21 Hotels" by Michael Holmes, and some poems from Ken Babstock's first book "Mean", and some of Lynn Crosbie's earlier work in "VillainElle" - pretty exciting mindblowing stuff, gets your mind and emotions working in various directions.

Having said that, there is a great deal of Canadian contemporary poetry that bores me, frustrates me and makes me pissed off. Sometimes I wonder where the originality is, the risk, the power, the bloody reason to read it? If there is a lack of intensity or passion or risk in the work, all the "well-crafted" lines in the world won't keep me reading. There are lots of other books waiting on my list.

As for "community," I am conscious of being part of one, certainly, since I publish dig and participate in the small press scene. Small press endeavors, and there are more and more in recent years, help to sustain and develop the community as a vibrant entity on a grassroots level. Community is also important in terms of support, editorial and moral.

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

JL: That's a tough question; it changes every so often based on what I'm reading at the time. But one that I always come back to over the years has to be "Fever 103" (did that little degree symbol come through the email?) by Sylvia Plath. She's still my favourite. So few poets write with such intensity and purity, and emotional risk, combined with her brilliant imagery and deadly sharp craft. And the poem works on so many levels, it's full of creative power. Another favourite is Lynn Crosbie's "Skirt, My Pretty Name" (from VillainElle), a sort of contemporary anti-epic. And the lovely Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter", for wit, structure, and spontaneity.

However, there is still so so so much to read!

I have also been reading much more fiction than poetry these days. When I'm writing poetry I read more fiction in general and when I'm writing stories I read more poems. Keeps things separate I guess, I don't know. Recently I've been reading some stunning Julio Cortazar short stories, and various Italo Calvino books, and I'm looking forward to reading the new Annie Proulx novel. And there's a new Nicholson Baker too.

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

JL: I am working on less "personal" poems. A series or suite that is exploring a recent case in Mexico, about a woman who purported to be a plastic surgeon, wasn't, and maimed and disfigured hundreds and hundreds of women, who have now begun to come forward. Fascinating evil stuff that has obsessed me, on a number of different levels. These poems are in a gestating state right now, fragmented, and they emerged out of a very angry time period. Emotionally and creatively, it feels like a very natural progression from Dagger, though a different - less directly personal - exploration; it is less about the repercussions of violence, and more about its motivations.

I've also been sporadically writing some short stories, imploding situations within a Jehovah's Witness family. It is a very isolationist religion, which works well for the tone of fiction I like to write.

Michael Bryson is the publisher/editor of The Danforth Review.

 

 

 

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