Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Kim Minkus

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Kim Minkus credit John W. MacDonald

Kim Minkus has been praised for her "utterly original voice... unlike any other in poetry", so it is no surprise that her third and newest collection of poetry, Tuft (BookThug), is drawing rave reviews.

You can also see Kim reading from Tuft in this video from the BookThug 2013 spring launch.

Today we speak with Kim about how the title "Tuft" came to be, urban animals in poetry and a literary need to live forever.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Tuft.

Kim Minkus:

As the title suggests, Tuft is a gathering of work. I tend to work on poems that are several pages long and then weave them into a collection. I am working on something now that for the first time is shaping up to be a book-length poem. I am lucky enough to have writers such as Steve Collis, Christine Leclerc and Brian Ganter ask me for work. Steve Collis’ To the Barricades Project inspired “Industry,” Christine Leclerc asked me to contribute to The Enpipe Line so I wrote “TUFT,” and Brian Ganter asked me to contribute to The Capilano Review’s manifesto issue and the result was “Laneway.” For all three poems I travelled the city by bicycle so that I could be physically present within the urban geographies that my poems intersected with. For the poem “Industry,” I biked through 9 of Vancouver’s industrial areas noting each area’s role as an invisible barrier between the middle classes and the ugliness of production. These industrial areas also neatly camouflage the underpaid labour that is involved in this production.

Some of the poems are responses to writers that have been very important to me: “Bird” was influenced by Lisa Robertson’s “Seven Walks” and, as the title of the poem suggests, Ted Byrne’s book Sonnets: Louise Labé inspired my “24 Nonets.” Right now Ted and I are writing sonnets back and forth and I believe that if I just did that for the rest of my life I would be very happy.


Animals feature in Tuft in interesting ways. What drew you to your subject matter?


I think animals are very much a part of Vancouver, and all cities really. I had a coyote living behind my house and it would whoop and yip in the evening. There is a pathway beside my house that I call the raccoon highway. Of course there are hummingbirds in the summer that I hear before I see. Also northern flickers, coopers hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, crows and ocean birdlife such as cormorants, herons, ducks, geese and seagulls. I love how the seals come by at twilight and seem to watch you from the shore. These animals are all part of my world here in the city, so when I write about Vancouver they are very present. Also my dog Tolstoy, an extremely complicated Welsh Terrier that I love beyond all reason, makes me realize every day how connected we all are to animals.


Tell us about the title of this collection and how you came to it. Did the title come before the poems or vice versa?


The title of the book came from the poem “Tuft.” My partner suggested it as a title for the book and I loved both the sound of the word and its suggestion of “a gathering”.


This is your third book. Do you find your writing process has changed over the years and if so, how?


Well, it seems the older I get the more I write. I always have a number of projects in process and I am forever coming up with ideas that I will never complete within this lifetime. I may have to live to 130, but then I will always be coming up with ideas so I may have to live forever. Maybe this is what all writers are trying to do.


With so many powerful images in Tuft, what is your approach to imagery? Do you think of your poems visually or more in terms of the aural?


I have always been a visual writer. I often think of myself as a sculptor in the sense of creating something new out of the material that is before me. I think there is always a sense of close observation in my writing even if what I observe is situated within an indefinable future. I am not a sound poet but I certainly have noted that clicks and pops of certain words add depth to my work and this is something that I continue to learn from listening to my students.


What are you reading now? And are there any books on your to-read list that you're especially excited about?


I have just read everything by Clarice Lispector and Ursula Le Guin while simultaneously re-reading Virginia Woolf and H.D. I am interested in the long novel right now, so I am also re-reading Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. My friend and fellow writer Alex Leslie recommended the work of Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra. He has three books in English translation Bonsai, The Private Lives of Trees and Ways of Going Home, so these are the three books that I am excited to read next.


What are you working on now?


I am working on a fourth book of poetry. It is the first book -length project I have attempted. I am (loosely) using the screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet for the French New Wave movie Last Year at Marienbad as a framing device, but I am adding a women’s interior monologue. I am interested in the camera’s act of archiving as complicit with surveillance and violence. In addition to this I am working on a very long piece that relies on a more narrative structure. I am not entirely sure where it is going, but I am enjoying the process of playing with narrative.

In between these two projects I “attempt” to complete my dissertation.

Kim Minkusis the author of 9 Freight (2007) and Thresh (2009). She has had reviews, poetry and fiction published in The Capilano Review, FRONT Magazine, West Coast Line, The Poetic Front, and Jacket. Kim is currently a Creative Writing instructor at Capilano University and a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University.

For more information about Tuft please visit the BookThug website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the On Writing interviews in our archives.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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