The Counting House is the third full-length collection from Ottawa-based poet Sandra Ridley. A finalist for the 2014 Archibald Lampman Award, this latest collection evokes the pageantry and pedantry of the lives of those in Victorian England through a sort of ledger, or bookkeeping system. This is visually represented on the page, using horizontal tabs and vertical columns, resulting in various readings of the poems and different results.
The Counting House is the third full-length collection from Ottawa-based poet Sandra Ridley. A finalist for the 2014 Archibald Lampman Award, this latest collection evokes the pageantry and pedantry of the lives of those in Victorian England through a sort of ledger, or bookkeeping system. This is visually represented on the page, using horizontal tabs and vertical columns, resulting in various readings of the poems and different results. Using elements of Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Ridley studies the social economies of class, sex, and language.
Read on for a excerpt from the first sequence in
The Counting House and a short interview with the poet. Look for a new collection from Sandra this fall: Silvija will be published by BookThug in September.
ALU: Which particular poets or poetry collections have most inspired your writing (in general or for this particular collection)?
SR: Funnel webs. Sheet webs. Woolly webs. Orb webs. Tangle webs. Each starts with a single thread. Robert Kroetsch may have been that one for me. One thread fastens on to another—Dionne Brand, Nicole Brossard, Anne Carson, Margaret Christakos, Phil Hall, Daphne Marlatt, Erín Mouré, Lisa Robertson, and Phyllis Webb. They all have influenced me, and influence comes from being inspired. I’m captivated by work that thrives within or extends the web of the serial or sequential form.
ALU: Are you inspired by a particular place, thing, or someone other than another poet?
SR: Medical dictionaries. I’m serious, and not because of ghastly or hypochondriacal curiosities. Deciphering any obscure language is alluring. I love the etymological logic involved in the construction of medical terminology. Cardiac cachexia. Cardiomyopathy. Myocardial infarction. I’m fascinated by the mechanics of the nomenclature—the mostly Latin and Greek roots, suffixes and prefixes, and by how rules of language are applied. It’s language incarnate. To me, the form and structure of words is akin to the form and structure of physical bodies, with ill-understood accretions and reaching limbs. There’s poetry there.
ALU: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
SR: Not a ritual. No magic. No charms. Banal behaviour? If I’m editing a line (or word, or sound) in a poem, and I get a sense that I’ve found the fix, like the sense of deciphering a code, I get up and pace—walking to and from a window, pausing at intervals to look out. Maybe it’s to fixate on something other: some kind of external stimulus or pre-verbal daydream. Maybe it’s for the pure physical movement. Or is it a kind of procrastination? Pacing? How mundane. It requires no conscious effort on my part. I don’t have to attend to the act at all, which is a big relief after attending to the poem.
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Only one more day left! If you've missed any of our previous Woven Odes features you can find them all
here. And if you want more from Sandra Ridley, check out this video of her reading from The Counting House:
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