Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Damian Rogers

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Damian Rogers was born and raised in suburban Detroit. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a graduate degree from the Bennington Writing Seminars in Bennington, Vermont. She lives in Toronto. Paper Radio (ECW Press) is her first book.

Photo of Damian Rogers by Jannie McInnes.

Ten Questions with Damian Rogers

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Damian Rogers:

My first poetry publication was, somewhat incredibly, in Brick Magazine in the winter of 2005. I submitted on a friend’s recommendation and I was too green to realize how ballsy this was. Michael Redhill — after agreeing to look at the poems with a not-unfriendly warning that he couldn’t possibly publish any of them — surprised us both by accepting four. It was such a thrilling experience — it really is one of the most beautiful and well-edited literary journals I’ve ever seen — and I bought copies for everyone I knew.

Paper Radio

By Damian Rogers

In her first book, Damian Rogers tracks the transformative moment, where emotion and deep memory seek form through sound and image. Her poems tune into a stream of cosmic chatter, channeling voices that tell their stories slant, from a chaste nineteenth century utopian mystic to a chorus of crones to the radical characters of Detroit’s sixties-era underground. Examining the equally futile and seductive impulses to chase both chaos and perfection, Rogers taps into history and mythology as each transmission mines material that is at once personal and public. “The world as we know it is / forever coming to a close,” cries Cassandra, caught in the space between vision and action.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Dance of the Last Shaker: A Short Film

Well, this is my last post and I wanted to use it to highlight the short film my friends Rebecca Mendoza and Chris Murphy made using two of my poems. (Attached below.) But first, I wanted to say that it has been an education and a privilege writing for the Open Book Toronto blog as October's writer in residence. It's been a big month for me in many ways — most obviously, because my first book was published a couple weeks ago. I dropped by This Ain't the Rosedale Library today and it was the first time I'd seen a copy in a bookstore. It was quite a kick.

I want to thank everyone who sent me kind messages about my posts and to Open Book Toronto for inviting me to explore this challenging medium. It's stretched me, and I appreciate the opportunity to be stretched.

Mexico and Surrealism and Books to Buy

Legend in my family is that my great-grandmother on my mother's side — who crossed the country in a covered wagon and lived to see a man on the moon — spent her final winters on her own in Mexico. She taught herself Spanish (I'm not sure she even graduated from high school) and travelled at 80 into remote areas to see sacred sites, riding in the back of cargo planes with no doors if necessary. She was thrice married, had a famous temper, and surrounded her Montana mobile home with prize-worthy roses. She saw value in beauty and thorns.

Tripping on museums

I am a freak for museums. A lot of this has to do with the fact that my mother used to bring me to the Detroit Institute of Arts almost weekly when I was a kid and I thought it was the best place ever to spend the day. I still remember how magical I thought a particular sculpture by Claes Oldenburg of a giant electrical plug was. There was also a small sculpture, maybe in wood or cloth, of a Good Humor bar made out of the alphabet. (At least in my mind it is a sculpture — I can only find examples of this as a print online. Maybe my memory is melting.) I loved the café, the courtyard, the fountain where I’d toss a penny to make a wish.

late night quick hit

So my tenure is almost over here and I have plans for the next three, my last three, posts. But I feel compelled to write something quick tonight before turning in.

let us all think of hostile critics as insult comics

I read Jon Paul Fiorentino's charming, playful, and sweet first novel about the personal perils of ambition and failure, Stripmalling (ECW, 2009), this week — it's a portrait of the artist as a young fuck-up as told in a series of genre forms, including a vibrant comic-book sequence illustrated by artist and Coach House publicist Evan Munday.

oh yeah, it's the ifoa

So I have been remiss in not mentioning that the biggest literary festival in the city is happening right now. I figure anyone who reads this website is already down at Harbourfront watching their favourite writers read, panel, and sign books at the International Festival of Authors. Some of you have even crashed the Hospitality Suite at the Westin Harbour Castle and knocked back drinks and shrimp rings with the famous and those who followed them into the penthouse.


I think writers are natural collectors. Books, baseball cards, mugs with owls on them, pretty rocks — it doesn't much matter what the objects of fixation are, only that they can be collected into a series. Because if there's a series, then there might be a pattern. And if there’s a pattern, there’s something to study.

I used to live with a very smart guy who was a real collector. He read densely written French post-structuralist critical theory that dissected the mind of the collector. I have not read densely written French post-structuralist critical theory that dissected the mind of the collector. And I am not a real collector. I’m a dabbler.

You must change your life

I was 18 years old when I first met a living, breathing poet. A poet with a book. A poet who'd won an important prize. To quote W.S. Merwin's poem about John Berryman (a poem I love for the lesson at the end about how you can never know if anything you ever write is any good at all), this poet was "much older than I was he was in his thirties."

flailing closer to god

I'm still not fully recovered from my launch Tuesday night (meaning I still haven't had a normal night's sleep), so I'm just going to mention a couple things and go back to playing catch up with the work piled up on my desk.

and nothing went wrong!

First off, congratulations to all the finalists for the 2009 Governor General's Award. I was pleased to see Sina Queyras nominated for her excellent book Expressway.


So tomorrow (October 13) is my book launch. It's at the Gladstone Hotel in the ballroom and the doors open at 7pm.

And I'm pretty nervous today.


I haven't done this in a while, but I used to like going fishing in the Toronto Public Library system. Whenever I was passing a small branch library and had the time to spend, I'd check out the shelves to see what they might have that I might find of use. (This is similar to my habit of scouring used bookstores, but — even with the odd late fee — much more affordable.) I find that small libraries have the most idiosyncratic collections and I like the surprise of seeing which books catch my eye. This is how I discovered the work of Norval Morrisseau.


I'm feeling very distracted. It's gloomy and windy — where are those crisp, blue-skied October days I dream about? aren't we going to get enough grey all winter long? — and it's making it difficult for me to concentrate. I have a couple things I wanted to talk about, but I am not in the mood. So I'm just going to let my mind wander lonely as a (menacing, ever-present) cloud over a few items of possible interest.

music plus poetry doesn't have to be scary

I've been thinking a lot about Jim Carroll since he died last month. On an impulsive stop into Balfour Books on College today I picked up a copy of his last collection, Void of Course: Poems 1994-1997. (I also bought The Europe of Trusts by Susan Howe, The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and a New Directions annual from 1950 with work by Paul Eluard, Mina Loy, Henry Miller, Charles Olson, and Kenneth Rexroth, but back to JC...)

hey friend

I finished reading The Yage Letters by Burroughs and Ginsberg this weekend (I'd set it down and picked it up again; it's short enough to read in a single sitting if you feel like it) and it got me to thinking about the effect of friendship on a writer's development. I was going to write "literary friendship," but that qualification seems pointless. A good friendship includes a healthy discussion of ideas and world views and the sharing of sources and obsessions, regardless of whether or not both parties follow the same artistic or career path. To paraphrase an anti-racism public service announcement from my childhood, I think of my friends who write as my friends, not as my Writer Friends. But having said that, there is a distinct tone to the relationships writers have with each other.

elate spirit and deflate ego

I am obsessed with used bookstores. I can be a bit of what a friend of mine would call a "nostalgia fetishist" and I don't really see the point in fighting it. It's not that I'm caught up in the myth of the perfect past — times have always been a mix of crummy and wonderful and I imagine it will always be this way — it's just that I am so in love with the uncovered artifact. This has a lot to do with why I also love shopping in thrift stores and buying vintage clothes — there's something deeply satisfying about being the one who discovers a gem adrift in a sea of crap and saves it from oblivion. I once found a signed, first edition copy of Canadian poet Daryl Hine's The Wooden Horse for a couple bucks at Goodwill. (I unwisely sent it to a poet I admired who loved Hine's work.

book commercials can be cool

So I have to start this blog out with a confession: I don't go to half as many literary events as I would like to support. By hermit standards, I'm out all the time, but increasingly — the more I write, actually — I find that I don't make all the launches, fundraisers, and readings that I intend to, even the ones I'd really like to see. Last night, I wanted to go to Zoe Whittall's launch for her new novel, Holding Still For As Long As Possible (Anansi), at the Gladstone, but in fact I was stuck at home weaving a cushioned seat for a reproduction Shaker elder's chair out of chair tape. (I'm serious — I need this chair finished for my own launch on October 13 — I'll explain its significance in a later post.)

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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