Canzine Author Q&A: Matthew Walsh comes to Canzine Toronto and Ottawa

Each poem in your collection feels tethered to the one before it; you carry over images, themes, and emotions from piece to piece – almost like nutrients being passed through roots. How did you decide on the arrangement of your poems? Was the order a conscious decision / was an evolution of sorts intended? 

The arrangement, I honestly had no idea about when I was editing. I was just writing and playing with the shapes of the poems, and not really thinking about what order they would go in. What I did was put them all up on my bedroom wall and looked at them all together, up there hanging. Then, I just started slowly moving them around on the wall, I would do it every night–either just think about where to move certain poems, or just actually move then to where I thought they made sense. Reading a book by Suzanne Buffam really helped–Past Imperfect. All the poems seemed so strategically placed to create a certain mood and different transitions to surprise, or one poem will start a theme and then it is elaborated on in more detail in another, or a piece of imagery would somehow carry over, but with a difference. So, it was definitely an evolution. It’s also the funnest part.

Love the title! It feels nostalgic, yet somehow defiant. Is there a specific story behind that phrase? What do you hope to convey to readers with “These are not the potatoes of my youth”?

This is so funny. So, I had this dream and it was about the line “now is the winter of your discontent” from a Shakespeare play, so when I woke up I said “these are the potatoes of my youth”, and it had the same kind of sound and metre. You know, and the book has a lot of family stuff in it which is funny, strange, and full of characters and there is a ghost or two, so I decided to go with that, and add the “not” so spice it up.

I guess with the book I wanted to show humour and warmth and people but with all this weird potato stuff too. Like, my mom really likes lobster and potato salad–it would be her last meal probably, so there is a poem about that, and I just wanted to talk about roots but in a fun way, through the potato. I just wanted to I guess show how life is weird and complex and exciting and how we are all just floating around on a giant rock maybe in the middle of nowhere and how strange it is we can do the things we can do, like not float away or be able to grow potatoes.

On that note…what is your favourite kind of potato?

My favourite potato is the Yukon Gold Potatoes cause they are crispy and fully and make the best french fries and mashed potatoes. The others are just fine.

What’s next? Are you working on another volume of poetry or a short fiction project?

I am writing some poems and I have something on the go right now, and I am making notes in my purple notebook and also forgetting to write down stuff so it gets lost forever in space or wherever words come from. I probably have enough for a chapbook so I might put that together first and see how that goes.  I am calling it Risk Avoidance right now which is a really terrible title!

What drew you to participate in Canzine? Is this your first time?

I just really like Canzine, I have always loved illustrations and drawing cartoons and I love the imagination that goes into zines and I like their kind of ephemeral qualities because usually there is just so many made. I’ve gone to several over the years and have always had a great time meeting new people and stuff, and I am trying to make a habit of doing more artistic stuff like zines so it would cool to see what everyone is doing.