Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft Interview: Sonnet L’Abbé

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The Great Canadian Writer's Craft Interview: Sonnet L’Abbé

This spring, students from Malvern Collegiate Institute's Writer's Craft class conducted interviews with Canadian poets as part of a class project. The interviews will be posted on The Great Canadian Writer's Craft page on Open Book throughout June. In this interview, Sonnet L’Abbé answers student Alysha Anderson's questions while on the road for an unusual project: to prepare commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. She sets the scene where the interview will take place through this video.


Hello, Sonnet, and thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to reply to these questions on what I can only hope is a fine day. How are you doing? Well, I hope? That’s nice, that’s nice. Now, enough with the chit-chat, let’s move on to the questions.

You were born in Toronto, Ontario, and have spent the majority of your life living in Toronto. Toronto is thought to be a multicultural hub in Canada, a mosaic, if you will. Has this had any sort of influence on your work, and if so, has it influence you?

You have a French-Canadian background on your father’s side. In your book Killarnoe, one of your poems (“My Mme Ghandi”) is actually written in French, in sharp contrast to the rest of the book’s English poems. Do you often write poems in French, and do you draw inspiration from French-Canadian poetry at all? Or even on French poetry outside of Canada?

I noticed that, as well as writing about issues surrounding this idea of justice and equality, there were also a couple poems with a more sexual implication to them, such as your poem “Shh” and “Ungh.” The messages behind these specific poems are strikingly less obvious than with many of your others and I was wondering what it was you hoped to convey with them?

Your poem “My Osama Bin Laden T-Shirt” tells a story of sorts. In it, you mention how you bought this t-shirt in Korea, before proceeding to tell of how you dressed up in a hijab for Halloween. Was this poem inspired by real life events? If so, tell us the story of how it came to be.

A Strange Relief was published in 2001, whereas Killarnoe was published in 2007. There is quite a gap in between the publication of both books. Was it difficult to publish another poetry book six years after the first one?

I learned that you lived in Korea for some time during your life. The culture there must be quite different from the one we have in Canada. Do you feel that your experiences in Korea attribute to your poetry at all?

It’s been a fair while since your last published poetry book came out. Can we be expecting any other poetry books from you in the near-distance future? If you did write another poetry book, what kind of content do you think it would contain? Is there anything that gives you muse in particular?

Sonnet concludes the interview with these thoughts.

Sonnet L’Abbé is the author of two collections of poetry, A Strange Relief and Killarnoe, both published by McClelland and Stewart. She was shortlisted for the 2010 CBC Literary Award for poetry, and has won the RBC Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award and the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize. She reviews fiction and poetry for the Globe and Mail. L’Abbé has taught writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies and now teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan.

Alysha Anderson could achieve world domination at any moment she chose, so it’s a good thing she’s lazy. She spends most of her time quietly brooding and plotting the demise of her enemies. When she’s not doing that, she’s either visiting the underworld or surfing the Internet (which, in her opinion, is one of puny mankind’s best inventions yet, though admittedly, the anti-gravity motorbike will come in a close second once it’s invented). She attended the Anti-Gravity Olympics of 2074, and likes reading books.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The Great Canadian Writer's Craft

Each year, students from Malvern Collegiate Institute's Writer’s Craft class interview Canadian poets as part of a class project. The students study Canadian poetry under the collaborative tutelage of teacher John Ouzas and poet a.rawlings. We are delighted to feature the interviews on Open Book.

Go to The Great Canadian Writer's Craft’s Author Page