Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Laura Clarke

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Laura Clarke

After she captured the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, the expectations for Laura Clarke's debut poetry collection were high. Her Decline of the Animal Kingdom (ECW Press) makes good on that promise, with smart, fantastical poems that will grab and shake readers with their deceptively simple lines. Exploring the urban and the wild, the artificial and the natural, Laura's pieces interrogate what it means to be free in a world of conservation, video games, 9-to-5, bachelor apartments and more.

We talk to Laura today as part of our Poets in Profile series, where we ask our poets to explore how they came to the craft, the poems that shaped them and what they get from the writing life.

Laura tells us about the poetic importance of childhood accidents, stealing from Anne Carson and a clothing swap-esque approach to poetic scraps.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Laura Clarke:

I got into many bizarre and poetic accidents when I was a kid, requiring all kinds of trips to the hospital and stitches. I stepped in a box of cactuses (with both feet). I split my earlobe open on a table. A glass jar containing a bunch of salamanders broke in my hands. My toe was caught and mangled in my bike pedal. Really, nothing major, but these accidents built their own kind of poetic narrative in my head, and I often wrote about them when I was young. There was some fetishizing of scars and self-mythologizing going on, but it was also my first experience of writing and recording my own body, before I began to think critically and politically about that process.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


I was so excited by Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red (poem, novel in verse, whatever) that I wrote what I then considered an homage but was really more of a direct rip-off for my grade 10 English class assignment. It was flagged by my teacher for inappropriate content.


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


Mary Ruefle’s lecture-poem/poem-lecture “Poetry and the Moon.”


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

LC: message boards & my dog’s predilection for eating strange vomit in the park.


What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?


I’d like to coordinate an exchange of poetry scraps in my writing workshop and see what someone else can do with my word-junk that doesn’t work, and vice versa.


What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?


Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent and CA Conrad’s ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness.


What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?


The best thing is the weird, endless world of research you can immerse yourself in for days, months and years on end, all in the service of writing one little poem. You can read immense amounts of material about your personal obsessions in a way that might actually be beneficial to your artistic practice. The worst? Can’t think of anything.

Laura Clarke’s work has appeared in a variety of publications including PRISM International, Grain, the National Post and the Antigonish Review. She is the 2013 winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers from the Writers’ Trust of Canada. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

1 comment

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