canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Elizabeth Bachinsky

Part of TDRís Behemoth Gargantuan Canadian Poetry in Review

Bachinsky: "Love it. Fear the woods"

Elizabeth Bachinsky was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and grew up in northern BC, the Yukon and BCís Fraser Valley. 

Her published collections of poetry include Curio: Grotesques and Satires from the Electronic Age and Home of Sudden Service. Her latest is God of Missed Connections (Nightwood, 2009).

Her work has also been widely anthologized and she received an honourable mention for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Poetry in 2004. She is the poetry editor for Event magazine and has taught creative writing at Vancouver Film School.

[January 2009]


TDR: Your poetry occasionally struggles between the forest and the futon. Comments?

EB: Do you mean some of my poetry is raw material and some is assembled? Yes to both.

TDR: What do you put into a performance of a poem that is different from writing a piece of poetry?

EB: In public, I get dressed.

TDR: Tell us about what went into the poem "Wolf Lake".

EB: Matt Rader (Living Things, Miraculous Hours, both by Nightwood Editions) wrote a poem called "Wolf Lake" in his first book of poetry. I wrote my "Wolf Lake" as a companion narrative to his poem. I love his books.

TDR: Someone could put a box set of your poetry together from all the stuff online. I'm not making fun of you. I admire this. How do you feel poetry and the internet work? Is it good to do?

EB: Oh yes. The internets. Canít seem to control it. As long as I get paid, Iífm okay with it. There are a few occasions where I havenít been paid, but those publications were for friends or super small presses and I gave my permission. Occasionally a poem will find its way online without my permission or my publisherís permission. Thatís annoying. And Illegal. But somehow still flattering.

TDR: Who have been some of your role models or influences?

EB: I have always and will forever admire the poetry of Marilyn Hacker. Right now I love the work of David Lynch, Guy Maddin, and Dave McGimpsey. Matt Rader has always been a great friend and influence. Iíve had remarkable teachers: Jan and Crispin Elsted, Don Mckay, and Keith Maillard are four whose wisdom never leaves me. Performance artist and activist Amber Dawn is the only real enduring role model I can think of. She is amazing.

TDR: Your poems tend to have a consciousness and a great level of integrity and concern. Why is that?

EB: I just write about what interests me.

TDR: You write a lot about youth and reflections on teenaged pupa states. What have you learned from this sort of focus? I myself am quite fond of being 13.

EB: My second book Home of Sudden Service is about young people growing up in the Fraser valley on the outskirts of Vancouver. I got the chance to travel all over the place with it, so? More than anything? Iíve learned that no matter where I go, a lot of people seem to relate to the characters in that book. Iíll get fan mail from the American Midwest and Iíll be all like awesome. I mean, the stories in HOSS arenít always happy ones, so itís sad that people can relate but itís also good to know weíre not alone in the shit.

TDR: What are you going to do next?

EB: My third book of poems God of Missed Connections (Nightwood Editons, 2009), is out this Spring. Iím looking forward to reading from the book. Thereís a long poem in the book called "The Wax Ceremony" that is a documentary-style collage of historical documents, poetry, and fictional accounts of the experiences of early Ukrainian immigrants and a young woman writing and living downtown in present-day Vancouver. Iím super excited about the project. I want to make it into a film.

TDR: The poem you wrote called Miss Teen Motel 6, et al. is a really great poem. It's lyrical and philosophical and I would say daring and mesmerizing. It's simple but there is a lot happening. So how long did it take to write?

EB: Thanks. I canít remember. Probably not that long. Villanelles are funny things. Thereís all that repetition, so youíve only got a handful of lines to work with, and you always know where youíre headed. A lot of the planning is done before you start writing the poem. I find this kind of writing a lot easier (read: quicker) than less structured verse.

TDR: What happens in Vancouver? I mean, literary-wise? Toronto is overcrowded and monotonous and there are only 6 poets in the whole city.

Holy crap is there ever a lot of writers in BC. Seriously. I think there are more writers in BC, per capita, than any other province in Canada. Itís totally impossible to keep up. I especially like readings at 1067, VIWF, The Robson Reading Series, Rhizome, KSW events, and Green College, to name a few places. Also, you canít beat North Central BC for readings. Those people know how to do it up. Also, The KSW had a colloquium in Vancouver last summer that kicked major ass. They held it at the venue formerly known as Video-In. Now itís called VIVO, I think.

TDR: You were born in Regina and raised in Prince George and Maple Ridge, so what was that like? Are you an urbanite now? Do you like to visit rural settings?

EB: Itís like packing up and moving a whole lot. But itís also like having a lot of places to call home or to drive through hucking eggs out the window. I live in Vancouver now. As long as my rent doesnít skyrocket, Iíll be here as long as I can make it work. Love it. Fear the woods.




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