Sandra Ridley is the author of three books of poetry: Fallout (Hagios Press), Post-Apothecary (Pedlar Press), and most recently, The Counting House (BookThug). She has taught poetry at Carleton University and has mentored poets through Ottawa’s Salus and Artswell’s “Footprints to Recovery” program for people living with mental illness. Sandra has also facilitated poetry workshops for the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Public Library, and the Tree Reading series. She knows how to use a compass.
Q: Your work tends to favour the extended sequence, often utilizing extended lyric stretches, and avoiding individual, stand-alone poems. What is it about the sequence that appeals? Are all your poems in conversation with one another?
There is a fearlessness I’ve always admired about the work of Ottawa poet, editor and publisher Amanda Earl, unafraid to follow her curiosity into unusual corners, whether exploring the sexuality and textures of 1920’s Montparnasse in her first trade collection, Kiki (Chaudiere Books, 2014), to “Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book.” As she writes to describe her current work-in-progress:
Ursula lived in the fourth or fifth century. Variations on her story exist. In one version, she is travelling by ship with eleven thousand virgins to meet her groom, a Pagan. The ship is attacked and the women, including Ursula, are beheaded. In another version, an arrow pierces her heart.
A church was built over the tomb where Ursula was buried. The arrow which pierced her is kept there. Young girls pray to Ursula for protection and miracles. She is their patron saint.
A few years ago, reading through issues of the now-defunct Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics started me thinking about the prose poem in terms of difference between Canada and the United States. As much overlap as our two countries have, the evolution of the nebulously-termed “prose poetry” has been different, and yet, at least on this side of the border, the form hasn’t been (for what I’ve been able to find) much explored in terms of possibility, genealogy and influence. Back in May 2012, as a prelude to composing a possible essay to explore the subject, I sent out an email to a variety of individuals, and even a couple of list-serves, seeking information:
What I’ve always found interesting about Ottawa poet Roland Prevost’s poetry is in the lengthy, detailed process that brought him to where he is now. For an hour or three a day, he composes in what he refers to as his “logbook”: composing journal entries, drafts of fiction, poetry and essays, and notes on recent reading. It has only been over the past decade or so, upon emerging to engage with Ottawa’s community of writers, reading series, publishers and performers, that Prevost has begun to shift in his composition, becoming more deliberate about writing poems-as-poems, all of which has culminated in his first book of poetry, Singular Plurals (Chaudiere Books, 2014).
Miranda Pearson moved to Canada from England in 1991 and has made many important contributions to the literary scene in Vancouver, BC through her work as an editor, teacher, and poet. Pearson’s poetry has been published widely in literary journals and anthologies, including The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems about Facing Cancer and Forcefield: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia. The Aviary, Pearson’s second book of poetry and the winner of the Alfred G. Bailey Award in 2006, is an intriguing collection in its progression from shorter poems with more recognizable lines of verse to longer poems that dance to the very edges of the page with increasing finesse and innovation.
Playing with translation is learning about one’s own language, one’s own history, how it came to be that certain words emerge from the mouth. I was working this morning on a wee project from last August, started after a research group meeting (working together on the question What is production?) where we considered Hannah Arendt and, inevitably, Heidegger.