Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario, where she teaches English at Marymount Academy. She had published two books of poems, You Must Imagine the Cold Here (Your Scrivener Press, 1997) and Braille on water (Penumbra Press, 2001). This new book, The Narcoleptic Madonna, is also being published by Penumbra Press (2012). Kim is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, The League of Canadian Poets, and PEN Canada. She worked with Timothy Findley through the Humber School for Writers back in the late 1990s. Most recently, she served on the editorial board of the ezine, terra nord/north.
WG: First, hugs and thanks for virtually gracing me with your poetic presence here on Writerly Goodness. I’m really excited about the launch of The Narcoleptic Madonna on Friday, December 7, 7pm, at Thorneloe University Theatre.
TNM will be your third poetry collection. Could you comment on how, from the poet’s perspective, your work has evolved from You Must Imagine the Cold Here, through Braille on Water, to TNM?
KF: If I consider how my work has evolved over the years, since the publication of my first little book of poems in 1997, I find some aspects echo through all three collections, but I also find that I have grown both as a person and as a poet. This is to be expected. My early poems were often lengthy, wordy and more narrative in nature. I still have narrative work, but it might be more of a ‘narrative lyric’ in style and form. My most recent poems, some unpublished, are purposeful experiments in poetics. In August of this year, I attended an ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat in Eyeries, on the Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, Ireland. I had, prior to that, written a few ekphrastic poems, but now I am very enamoured of the genre. That wonderful retreat was led by Seattle poet, Susan Rich, and attended by poets from around the world. Since then, I’ve been playing with the idea of persona poems and dabbling more and more in the ekphrastic field. I’m trying to stretch out in a poetic yoga pose, so to speak. I want to continue to challenge myself to evolve as a poet.
WG: How or from where do the ideas for your poems come to you?
KF: I think, as many poets might say, my ideas for poems come from life itself. I find that I am always observing others. Poets need to be in the world, but not always of the world, if that makes any sense. We must hover on the margins, so as to better see how people behave in the world. I get poetic ideas when I’m walking my dogs. I find inspiration in nature, something that is prevalent here in Northern Ontario. I also love to travel and I find that traveling often inspires me to write.
WG: What themes does TNM address?
KF: This new collection, The Narcoleptic Madonna, seems to have a few key thematic threads running through it. The most obvious, to me, is that of the idea of journeying to find oneself. I often find that I must journey outwardly in order to go inside. By traveling, I journey within myself and uncover new layers of being. Sounds elitist, but it’s not. It’s just a heightened awareness of who and what you’re made of, and how you fit into the world around you. The collection covers poetry that was written over a twelve year period of time. During the last ten years, I spent a great deal of time taking care of my parents as they became ill and then died. This was transformative to me, in terms of how I defined myself and how I saw myself. As a result of that, a number of the poems in NM deal with life, love, death, and the recreation of spirit that comes after death. It really is a collection that speaks to the phoenix-like quality of life itself. There are endings, but those endings always seem to spawn new beginnings. I’m not saying it’s easy to recreate oneself after losing someone you love, but it’s necessary and unavoidable. That process, of walking someone through the last years of their life, isn’t an easy one, but it did serve as inspiration for poetry and for reflection on lessons learned. I also spent a great deal of time dealing with depression. This, too, was a painful, but transformative process for me. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to recreate yourself. That seems to have been part of my process, as a person, and that process is reflected in my work.
WG: I’m a big fan of writing process. Could you say a few words about your process as a poet?
KF: I’m not the best at revision. Usually, when I’m not experimenting with purposeful poetic exercises like ekphrasis or persona, I tend to find that lines discover me! Usually, when I’m walking, images come to visit. Sometimes they come to me in dreams, but if I don’t write them down, they disappear. Other times, when I’m driving through the city on the way to work, I see people and begin to wonder at their lives. A poem comes to me quickly, in a rush of lines or a first stanza. Then, I might leave it for a day or so, but whenever I return to it, the poem writes itself in a rush. I fiddle with it a bit, initially, but then it sits on its own for a few days. When I return, I slice and dice it a bit, but I’m nowhere near the expert at revision as some of my poet friends are.
WG: Given all of the above, how long did TNM take to come together for you?
KF: The final part of the collection, its acceptance by publisher John Flood and Penumbra Press, has birthed itself over the last ten months or so. I had submitted the manuscript to another press, but it was rejected. Then, I sent the collection to John and he had it for a while. He emailed me in January or Februrary of 2012 and said he was interested in publishing the work. I was thrilled. The last few months, from September onward, has been a time or editing, proofreading and revision. I love working with John because he has decades of experience in working with poets, so he often sees things in my work that I would rather ignore. He’ll suggest revisions that, initially, I might resist. That’s all ego, though, as I always initially feel ‘Oh, I can’t change that….it’s my poem.’ Once I get past the idea of resisting the suggested revision of my work, I always get to a place where I see that his edits are things that make my poems stronger, leaner, and more than what they were before. I trust him implicitly now and I know he sees my work with more objective eyes.
The actual writing of the manuscript, though, has stretched over a twelve year period. The topics of the poems vary, but I notice that I am always a keen employer of metaphor in my work. It’s my favourite poetic device, I am sure! I think in metaphor on a daily basis, and I know I teach through metaphor as well, so it makes sense that metaphor plays such a key role in my work.
WG: Is there anything else you’d like to share about NM?
KF: I’m just very excited to have this book come into the world. My only regret is that my parents aren’t here to share in it. Without them, without their support, I would never have come this far in my life as a poet. They were always supportive of my creative side. When I decided not to do a PhD in English years ago, in my mid-twenties, because I was worried about what academia would do to my creative work, they were the first to reassure me that I wasn’t making a mistake. The certainty that they had in my gift, in my talent, was comforting. I just wish they were still here to see NM arrive in the world. I think they would have loved it. It’s dedicated to their memory and I hold them close to my heart.
WG: Thank you for dropping by Writerly Goodness, and for your time and thoughtfulness in sharing these insights.
The countdown to Kim’s launch has begun! In six days she’ll be at Thorneloe University Theatre reading from her brand-spanking new book. Will you be there? I certainly will!