Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Carolyn Marie Souaid

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Carolyn Marie Souaid

This World We Invented (Brick Books) is Carolyn Marie Souaid's seventh book of poetry, and the luckiness of number seven applies to the readers of the collection. Praised as "bold, important" poems, the pieces in this collection examine the imperfections of our world with compassion, humour and keenly observed insight. From homework and break ups to suicide bombers and the dawn of life, Carolyn shies away from nothing, bringing her tough, irresistible language to bear on subjects varied and fascinating.

So in celebration of Carolyn's #7, we're speaking to her for our #12 — our Dirty Dozen series that is, which asks authors to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves.

Carolyn tells us about spending three years living in the Arctic, public speaking nightmares and sneaking onto the shelves of one of the world's most famous bookstores.

You can catch Carolyn in person this June in Toronto at two events! On Thursday, June 11 at 6:00 p.m., she will be reading at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay St.), and on Tuesday, June 16 at 8:00 p.m., she will be reading at part of the The Art Bar Poetry Series — with Margaret Christakos and Lorraine Gane — at The Black Swan Tavern (154 Danforth Avenue).

  1. I was the infamous ringleader in a childhood game modeled after Lord of the Flies. Back then, I had never heard of Golding's dystopian novel.

  2. Once when I was in Paris, I had my picture taken with Angela Davis.

  3. I'm a law school dropout.

  4. I appeared as a “special guest” on Romper Room the day JFK was assassinated.

  5. For three years, I lived in the Arctic. During that time, I slept in an igloo, gnawed on raw caribou, and awkwardly wielded a rifle for the first and only time in my life — to shoot a seal. For food, not sport. Not surprisingly, I missed.

  6. I am terrified of public speaking because of two humiliating incidents from my past. In preschool, I was “Queen of Canada” in a play that saw all my classmates lined up on stage to come and kiss the big diamond on my finger — my mother's expensive, platinum engagement ring on loan for the day. The other actors, with their oversized beards and velour robes, were supposed to be visiting governors, I suppose. In any case, I had the longest speech — all in French — which I practised day and night. On the day of the performance, settled into my throne, I went blank and in an “Oh-my-god” moment that lasted an eternity, the teacher fed me all my lines from backstage. Over half my script! Years later, in the seventh grade, I was selected to represent my class in a school-wide public speaking competition. Every morning, I rehearsed in the bathroom mirror until I got it down pat. Standing at the podium I was polished, confident. Then, in front of the entire student body, it happened. In my hurry, I omitted a key passage. All the humour hinged on those few words. My bubble burst. I turned beet red, backtracked, forged ahead but couldn't make things right again.

    It is no wonder that I quit law school just days before Moot Court, unwilling to plead a case before a panel of real lawyers who could eat me alive. Today, I have a genuine fear of being interviewed on radio, speaking off the cuff and even memorizing my own poems.

  7. My all-time favourite film is My Dinner With André, which I've seen at least a dozen times.

  8. Ralph Nader and I are cousins. (When I talked about quitting law school he sat me down and tried to convince me to stick with it. His argument? A law degree opens doors even if you never practise. My counter-argument? Leonard Cohen. He quit, and look where it got him!)

  9. I'm one course away from being a Reiki Master. I practise it on myself every night.

  10. (a)
    Once I cheated on a test and was so consumed with guilt, I broke down and confessed everything to my mother. She advised me that owning up and telling the teacher would clear my conscience. I didn't.

    (b) The backstory:
    Unexpectedly, the night before the test, my father brought home a pair of tickets (in the Reds, no less) to see the Montreal Canadiens play a home game. It was 1970 and I was obsessed with hockey. I had never seen a live game in my life. I had never seen the inside of the Forum, charged with the electricity of the fans as the glorious Habs stepped onto the ice.

    Study or go to the game? My dilemma wasn't a dilemma. Before my dad and I hit the road, I sat at my desk and copied out my copious cheat notes, everything I needed to know about Egyptian history, on palm-sized scraps of paper.

  11. Celebrity crushes from my childhood: Leonard Whiting (the hunky Montague from Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet), David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), Ken Dryden, Ringo Starr (his disheveled hair as he drummed), Elton John.

  12. In a romantic gesture, my partner, a poet in his own right, snuck one of my books onto the poetry shelves of Shakespeare & Company in Paris. I often wonder whether anyone bought it.

Carolyn Marie Souaid is a Montreal-based writer, editor and teacher. She has toured her work across Canada, Europe and the U.S., and has been shortlisted for a number of literary awards including the A.M. Klein Prize and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her videopoem, Blood is Blood, was a winner at the 2012 Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. Her seventh poetry collection, This World We Invented was published by Brick Books in May 2015. She has just completed a novel for which she was awarded a writing residency at the Banff Centre in 2013.

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