Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

All that's Sweet with author Dani Couture

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All that's Sweet with author Dani Couture

Dani Couture is the Author of Good Meat (Pedlar Press, 2006) and Sweet (Pedlar Press, 2010) Her novel, Algoma, is coming out with Invisible Publishing this year.


There are things my body is not telling me:
late nights and friends I’ll never meet.
The yellowing bruise on my hip.
Strangers who ask, Haven’t we met?
Pine Needles threaded through my black knit dress
and I have not left the city in months.

Morning when my body thinks me asleep,
I listen to it work.
A soft-footed rummaging,
the slow sharpening of bones.
Suddenly, a femur thrust through thigh,
a door opened, the body no longer at home.

- from the collection Sweet, Pedlar Press, 2010.

AH: "Fracture" expresses a disjuncture between the self and the body. The body has an existence the self is separate from. It seems an interesting statement on the imagination. Could you comment on the appeal and lack of appeal of this state?

DC: The thought of divorcing oneself from bodily pain and processes comforts me. I've watched someone close to me go through a lifetime of pain. I'd like to think there are times, even whole minutes, where she can rise above her own body. Most days we talk about her body as if is a separate entity with its own agenda. Somehow it makes it easier to keep the body (the pain) at arm's length. “It's not me, it's you.”

AH: In "Survival Technique No. 7: Pairs" an elaborate dinner is prepared (from "A recipe ripped from the dentist's copy of Chatelaine"--a lovely and very Canadian image, with kind of a double image of extraction: dentists do extracting and so did the patient, in this case) only to be rendered inedible by a glass falling and breaking shards into it. The withholding of blame, i.e. who knocked the glass over, is part of the appeal of the poem. In "Reservoirs", the reason the mother character is in palliative care is unknown. In "Sleep Study" we do not know why the main character is in a sleep study. Could you talk about the importance of central mysteries to the construction of these and other poems in "Sweet"? To what extent is your editing process one of creating these central absences?

DC: The absences in Sweet were not conscious ones, but they don't surprise me. I prefer the end of things, the final outcomes, or very close to it. In general, I'm very comfortable not having all the answers and I don't like to provide them in my writing. What I'm interested in? How we deal with it all. Illness, circumstance, accidents, environment, what moves in and out of the boundaries of that environment, and so on.

AH: "Mechanical Baby" features a student charged with the care of the title figure, stuffing the symbolic child into her backpack. This is an image that is also explored in a short story you published in Grain (November, 2009). Could you talk about the choice of genre for images and how images can linger and require additional treatments? And maybe more generally, about the restraints of poetry and prose and how each genre offers different opportunities for story telling?

DC: My starting point with any subject is typically poetry. It's rare that I begin with prose. There are only several subjects I'm really interested in, and I tend to want to spend a lot of time with them. Moving from form to form is just an excuse to spend more time with an image, character, or place. Making the transition from poetry to prose is like pulling the lens back. Same story; it's just the difference between a close-up and a landscape shot.

AH: You have a novel, Algoma, coming out in the Fall with Invisible Publishing. How were the rewards and challenges different in writing a novel as compared to writing poetry

DC: Both forms have their challenges, but I found working with a novel-length project difficult if only for the butterfly effect during edits. Make one change near the beginning, and it can change a quarter of the book. And once you start making changes, it's difficult to stop—it's the literary equivalent of pulling a thread on a sweater. It feels good and bad at the same time and you just can't stop yourself. A poem, for the most part, feels more contained; I can see both the beginning and the end at the same time. Literally.

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.

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