Isn’t every story or poem about love in one way or another?: Stephanie Sirois Interviews Patricia Young
Amateurs at Love explores love: what love means, the different ways one can hurt or heal, love between couples, love between children, unrequited love, how love is interpreted and shown. Patricia Young’s new poetry collection, published in September, illustrates her wit, truth and skilled observation. What does love mean? She writes, “I think it means a boxcar going off the rails, grain spilling down a gully, fermenting over summer, a bear gorging on that grain, passing out in a field, a bear that could wake any moment, hung-over and thirsty and ready to kill for a drop of water.”
Patricia Young has published twelve collections of poetry and one collection of short fiction. Her poems have been widely anthologized and she has received numerous awards for her writing, including the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, the B.C. Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, a CBC Literary Prize, several National Magazine Awards, the Bliss Carman Award and the Confederation Poets Prize. She has twice been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. She lives in Victoria.
The following is a short interview with the poet.
Stephanie Sirois: In one interview you said poetry didn’t make sense to you at the time, so you wrote Airstream, a short fiction collection. Do you think you’ll re-discover fiction again?
Patricia Young: Included in my new collection, “Amateurs at Love,” are many prose poems. In fact, the book is comprised mostly of prose poems or very, very short fictions. Perhaps these prose poems have as much in common with short stories as they do with poetry. I don’t know. But I do find myself writing pieces that tell brief narratives involving characters. So maybe I am moving toward fiction.
SS: How do you get away from that first-person perspective in your poetry, or do you find it doesn’t bother you as much as it once did?
PY: Because I began writing poetry from the first-person point of view, I was most comfortable speaking through it but I got tired of that voice. Writing short stories, inventing characters other than myself, helped me move out of first person. It was quite liberating.
SS: Do you find any topics challenging to write about poetically, especially when it comes to aspects of love?
PY: Isn’t every story or poem about love in one way or another? I guess I realized that everything I write, everything anyone writes, is essentially about love. When I wrote the prose poems in the section titled “This Could Be Anyone’s Story,” I was not consciously thinking about writing about love. It was afterwards that I realized that all these small tales had love or longing or desire at their core.
SS: When you’ve been a writer-in-residence, did you ever find yourself inspired or put off by certain themes students focused on?
PY: What I have found inspiring when working with students is that poetry continues to matter to them, that it never goes out of date. Students today are as passionate about poetry as they ever were. As for being put off by certain themes, I can’t remember ever feeling that way. Though the poetry may seem radically different on the surface, people writing today are tapping into the same universal subject of love that their predecessors have mined for millenia.
Stephanie Sirois is a freelance journalist working in Fredericton New Brunswick.
Amateurs at Love launches on November 5th in Victoria at Munro’s Books.