Canzine Author Q&A: Ali Blythe comes to Vancouver

How did you get into poetry? Why is that your preferred method of writing? 

I’ve been writing poems for as long as I’ve been able to write. They were the first things I wrote. At 5 or 6 or so they were mostly about wishing to be another creature. The first line I can remember is “I wish I were a little whale upon the something sea.” I can’t recall the adjective, but my mom, who read poems to me before I was even a being out in the world, probably can.

That magical thinking of wish I were stuck with me, it seems. In my first book, Twoism, the speaker wanders hotel hallways, desperately trying to find a body to put on, whether material or immaterial—a lover, an animal coat, a sick blanket, a myth. In Hymnswitch, my latest book, the speaker arrives in their own skin and all the masks and disguises, the wish I weres, are off.

What inspired you to write the poems in Hymnswitch

I spent four months in a recovery program, looking at all the good solid boots of the people in the circle. One of those months I wrote a poem a day, dragging myself to the desk, feeling new sober edges. In the program we were asked to imagine a future for ourselves. All I could ever muster was lying in the desert at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with my shirt off. So when I was through, I packed up my pup and those first thirty poems and drove to Taos. I stayed for six months. It was there I wrote Hymnswitch.

What is one of your favourite comments you’ve received about your work….either in person at an event or online?

Mm. A review in The Puritan said Twoism incurred the most dog eared pages ever. I like the tactile response.

Is this your first time participating in a Canzine event? If so, why did you decide to join?

It’s my first time at Canzine. I’m so stoked to see all the ephemera. To answer, now, your question about preferred writing methods, I often start with little drawings with words. Sketchy resemblances. It accesses the part of my dreaming body where poems live.

Catch Ali Blythe at the Canzine Vancouver book readings and check out his site!