Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Lardcakes, Dogboys, Hamburger Valleys and Sitcoms with David McGimpsey

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David McGimpsey is the author of Lardcake (ECW Press, 1996); Dogboy (ECW, 1998); Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture - (Bloomington, Ill: Indiana U. Press, 2000) Hamburger Valley, California (ECW, 2001) ; Certifiable (Insomniac, 2004); Sitcom (Coach House, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2007 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the ReLit Award; forthcoming is the poetry collection Li'l Bastard (Coach House, 2011). His work is the the subject of the essay collection Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey (Palimpsest Press, 2010). He is the Montreal editor for Joyland: A hub for short fiction. He edits short Fiction for the DC Books Punch Writers Series. He writes the ‘Sandwich of the Month’ column for EnRoute magazine. He is a professor at Concordia University.

AH: You have a new collection coming out with Coach House, Li'l Bastard. Could you talk about how it is similar and different from your previous books?

DM: Li'l Bastard revisits a form I've used before - a kind of 16 line sonnet or "chubby sonnet." It continues with the "short commentary" impulses of those pieces but now, I think, with a more personal (or at least vernacular) feel and, as such, is sort of my homage to the later confessional works of Robert Lowell and John Berryman - two poets who influenced me very much when I was young. My last book of poems, Sitcoms, was mostly dramatic monologues so the rhetoric of this book finds the speaker a bit less theatrical and more distant from assumed audience. The work is also very familiar in ways - the joke-telling, the references to Beyonce, the involvement with America.

AH: Humour is an important characteristic of your poetry. You've performed as a stand-up and you have taught creative writing workshops specifically about comedy. What would you tell someone who is not funny at all about how to remedy that?

DM: I would just look at their clothes and then assure them that they actually are hilarious. Trying to actually improve at the art of joke-telling (in writing or for the stage) is something which is not about "being" funny but about working to make it funny. I actually think the first and best bit of comedic advice is "don't try to be funny."

AH: What usually comes to you first for a piece of writing? Voice? A scenario? An image? A character?

DM: I guess it depends but usually it's a situation. That situation can be a dramatic encounter or memory or just a desire to talk about the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or that awful game between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles last December.

AH: The character in your Matrix Magazine column "The Self Esteem Work-out" has written many books himself, and is a giver of advice on how to feel better about oneself. Could you talk about him, his genesis and evolution?

DM: I'm not sure what you mean by "character", Angela. I am proud of my work raising the self-esteem of people who strangely feel comfortable eating microwaved tofurkey and beans while sitting in class. I am just as proud of my books Let's Make the Neighbors Go Insane and Goodbye Unlovable Stepchildren!

AH: Do you have an e-reader? To what extent would you say that e-reader debates are fake and/or generated by journalists to avoid talking about literature? Is it a non-issue, how people read a book, is the point just that they are reading?

DM: Avoiding talking about literature is not a completely insensible maneuver. I don't really know if it's a fake debate but I do know it's not a peculiarly fascinating one. It's been a long time since Johnny wasn't reading and that used to be blamed on television. Of course I have an e-reader. The question is Does Oprah have an e-reader?

AH: As a teacher of creative writing, what do you feel is the best service a teacher can offer a student?

DM: That thing Whitman said - "advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness." Be passionate about the subject you teach but mindful a class is not a prayer meeting or a political rally - it's just a class.

AH: What qualities do you hate in contemporary poetry? What qualities are you indifferent to? Are there any trends that you wish would end?

DM: I doubt there's anything I hate about contemporary poetry. I don't really get jazzed about poetry collective movements - those quickly assembled anthologies like 65 Poets Against the Corn Laws - but I understand them. I hate what David Ortiz did to my beloved New York Yankees but I don't hate David Ortiz.

AH: If you had a super power, what would it be?

DM: Supercuteness. A cuteness so devastating that otters would look at me and go "awww!"

Links to McGimpsey's books:

Read McGimpsey here:

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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Angela Hibbs

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