In our penultimate Poetry Grrrowl feature we chat with Linda Frank whose collection
Divided (Wolsak and Wynn) considers our interaction with the natural world, our fears and fascination with it. Below Linda tells us more about her collection and how alphabetical reading brought her to Leonard Cohen.
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Interview with the Poet
All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.
Linda Frank: My newest collection is called Divided and is mostly concerned with the interaction of humanity and the natural world, but explores other divisions as well, in particular the misogyny women in science have suffered.
ALU: What is your process for beginning a poem? Has it changed since you began writing?
LF: Some of my process has changed since I have begun writing. In the beginning poems came to me as a phrase or a few words that sparked me. But the last few collections have centered around a topic...for example my collection about the artist Frida Kahlo (Kahlo: The World Split Open) and my collection about insomnia (Insomnie Blues) and now Divided.
In other ways the process hasn’t changed. For example, I still start with pen and paper, write the verses over and over until I am ready to transfer to my computer.
ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?
LF: The first poem I remember loving was a poem by Amy Lowell called "Patterns" that I read in a grade school reader. I began to write poems of my own by fourth or fifth grade. After that I remember going to the poetry section of my local library and beginning with the letter A. I didn’t understand much but by high school I got to the letter C...and read Leonard Cohen.
ALU: Who are some of your fave poets?
LF: Two poets I revisit often are Adrienne Rich and Phyllis Webb. Others I read pretty regularly are Ann Carson, C.D Wright, Marie Howe, Jane Hirshfield.
ALU: What do you find most informs and inspires your writing?
LF: The world around me inspires me. It is hard to tell day to day what will turn into a poem!
She plays in fields left unruly, green
and ripe with weeping willow, buttercup,
milkweed, yarrow and tansy
before her town sprawls to suburb.
When she holds very still, she can hear the plants move.
She catches tadpoles in goldenrod ditches, knows
the hoverflies and ladybugs, the startle
of long-horned meadow grasshoppers,
watches them soar, float dreamlike
when they catapult from her touch to disappear deep into the tall grass.
She isn’t afraid to run her finger over their hard
shell and sharp wings. She doesn’t
recoil from the tickle of their long hind legs
or the brown juice they spit into her hands when she catches them.
She wades through the small riot of yellow rocket
and wild carrot to coax the grasshoppers
into a jam jar, stuffs too many of them into the glass prison
so that they are frantic and angry when she approaches
the boy who’d looked up her baggy shorts
when she sat on the curb to watch the older kids
play Skully, that boy
who’d pulled all the buttons off her blouse when he grabbed her.
He is afraid of grasshoppers.
* * *
Linda Frank was born in Montreal and now lives in Hamilton, Ontario. A retired professor from Mohawk College, she has written three books of poetry: Cobalt Moon Embrace, Insomnie Blues and Kahlo: The World Split Open, which was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award. She is a past winner of the Banff Centre’s Bliss Carmen Poetry Award and has been shortlisted for the National Magazine Awards.
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