All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.
Cameron Anstee: Book of Annotations is my first trade collection of poetry. It is the culmination of a decade or so of trying to write small and smaller and minimalist poems, and is an attempt to write a book composed solely of short works. It uses many different minimalist strategies of composition, and was written in conversation with my reading of 20th century minimalist poetic traditions (poets like Nelson Ball, Aram Saroyan, and Phyllis Webb, for example).
ALU: Do you read poetry as a self-care technique? What books in particular have helped you?
CA: This is an interesting question. I don’t know how actively I have thought about reading poetry as self-care in those particular terms, but it is something that I have read over the years to tune my brain to a slightly different station. It is a space of quiet that demands a different kind of attention, and has definitely shaped my interactions with the world. Similarly, for me at least, the poetry and small press communities are important as public and social spaces, and the sharing of books and the sharing of the act of listening is central to the lives of poetry, books, and my experiences of them. All of this has shaped me as a person, and I am trying to be a more conscious and mindful person, and so will be thinking about this more going forward.
ALU: Do you have any steadfast writing rituals?
CA: I do not, for better or worse. The bulk of Book of Annotations was written parallel to the composition of my doctoral dissertation, and so was something written in between (writing, research, teaching, conferences, departmental service). I am no longer in academia, and so am trying to figure out how to write poems in the spaces around a more predictable work schedule. I typically write notes (ideas, lines, words) in a notebook that I return to when I have more time to sit and focus.
ALU: What books are you currently reading?
Jack Davis’ Faunics (Pedlar, 2017); Carl Dair and the Cartier Typeface: Selected Correspondence (Gaspereau, 2017), edited by Kristine Tortora; I’ve just finished reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time (my partner and I are seeing a ballet version at the National Arts Centre next month, which prompted my reading); I’m re-reading Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho, If Not, Winter; I’ve just started Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and, Ottawa’s international poetry festival, Versefest, begins the day I’m typing this, so I expect I’ll come home with a pile of new poetry to read over the next week.
we can sit
and it's ok
against your heart:
happiness, a little pressure
we bought a feeder,
the nuthatch comes
and now I want
only to write birds
and flight and birds
we can sit
and it's ok
and now, against
happiness and birds
and clean, sound pressure
–From Book of Annotations, Cameron Anstee (Invisible Publishing, 2018)
Cameron Anstee lives and writes in Ottawa, where he runs Apt. 9 Press and holds a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature from the University of Ottawa. He is the editor of The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (Chaudiere Books, 2015). Book of Annotations is his first collection.