Sheryda Warrener’s Floating is Everything
Over the next couple of months, Puritan’s The Town Crier blog will be featuring short interviews with Canadian authors published by BC publishers, conducted by BC publishing professionals. The third in the series is an interview with Spencer Williams of Talonbooks and BC poet Sheryda Warrener, author of Floating is Everything (Nightwood Editions, 2015).
Spencer Williams: It’s been five years since your previous book. I’m wondering how you see Floating is Everything connecting to, or departing from, your earlier book. How has your approach to book-writing evolved?
Sheryda Warrener: I had the revelation just recently that I depend (in poems) on others to locate the thing I’m trying to locate. “Long Distance” in Hard Feelings relies on the ghost of Georgia O’Keeffe to get at notions of belonging; and “Long Distance” in Floating is Everything, another long poem, relies on Yuri Gagarin (ghost) and Valeri Polyakov to assume new experiences of the world. The poems across both books share similar obsessions. Where the departure comes, I think, is in, as Elena Ferrante says, the long practice of putting words together. Over the course of those five years, I did a lot of reading, listening, looking, and caring about my friends and family, so yeah, I hope that growth shows.
Spencer: The first thing that struck me about Floating is Everything is how the childish sense of adventure and creativity left me fearless and open to the varying perspectives. Picasso said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Do you use nostalgia for your childhood to fuel your creativity?
Sheryda: At the Vancouver Art Gallery, a recent exhibit of Jerry Pethick’s work included a couple of mirror mazes, and watching some very serious adults take pathways they normally wouldn’t (under or over obstacles) made me think of this question, except instead of a mirror maze, those very serious adults are making their way through a poem. Most of those art faces softened when met with the unexpected, playful experience.
I give myself over personally to nostalgic moments all the time, but I recognize the danger on drawing on the sentiment too often in poems; more often, I draw on the sensory details of my childhood. I hold dear my grandfather’s teak ice bucket, so it makes sense to me that the object worked itself into a poem.
Spencer: Do you have a favourite poem in the book or a poem that is the most emotionally charged for you?
Sheryda: At some point or other, all the poems were emotionally charged. The feeling shifts as I get further away from the making of a poem, or the moment the poem attempts to capture. I hope different poems retain some heat or spark for different readers. I really do feel strongly, as the persona in “A Sudden Gust” does, that we have to get over ourselves.
Spencer: What are your favourite poetic forms? What should the reader look for in regard to your use of form in Floating is Everything?
Sheryda: I love form. I get a lot of energy from reading poems that move from moment to moment in what seems to me innovative ways. I’m drawn to prose poems, and the long poem, absolutely, but I also love variations on more traditional forms: burned-down sonnets or variegated sestinas. I hope the reader of Floating doesn’t think too much about form while reading, and maybe only a little afterwards. I want the form to be an extension of the voice or feeling of the poem, not separate from it.
Spencer: One of the stunning aspects of your work is the use of place and objects as a metaphor to illuminate the self. How key is your understanding of your Viking cultural heritage to your understanding of yourself?
An autographed photo of Valeri Polyakov
Sheryda: I think I was channelling that strong Nordic sensibility I gleaned while living in Sweden when I wrote the line “I’m a Viking,” … but perhaps the persona acknowledging this survivalist instinct does reveal something about the part of myself that likes to imagine other people’s lives, from where they draw their strength to what impulses lead to those unexpected choices.
Spencer: Did you do a lot of research in order to write “Long Distance” from Valeri Polyakov’s perspective?
Sheryda: I did do some research, but I didn’t want the factual information to take over. I stayed true up to a point, and then let my imagination fill in the rest.
Spencer: What is next on your creative horizon?
Sheryda: I’m writing poems. But it will more than likely be a while before a couple of them surface.
Nightwood Editions is committed to publishing and promoting the best new poetry and fiction by writers across Canada. Our goal is to give readers a chance to explore the high-quality work of emerging Canadian writers, and new writers an opportunity to publish their work in book form. Ultimately, Nightwood Editions strives to publish books that foster a community of writers and readers, providing a forum for thought, discussion and interaction while reflecting the diversity our country is known for.
Nightwood is also dedicated to producing excellent Canadian non-fiction that helps support its literary list. Whether publishing poetry, sports, fiction, or crossword titles, Nightwood Editions maintains the highest standards in all it undertakes, building on its growing reputation.
Sheryda Warrener is the author of two poetry collections, including her debut Hard Feelings (Snare/Invisible, 2010). Her work has been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, the Arc Magazine Poem of the Year, the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, and was a runner-up for Lemon Hound’s inaugural poetry contest. She lives in Vancouver, where she teaches at the University of British Columbia.
Spencer Williams has been working at Talonbooks for the past four years in sales and marketing. In his spare time, he operates a record label.