Poetry Grrrowl: On the Count of None + Allison Chisholm
April 4, 2019
Today's Poetry Grrrowl feature is Allison Chisholm's
On the Count of None (Anvil Press), a debut collection of poems that borrow inspiration from pop culture and are told with off-kilter humour and an occasional dark edge. Below Allison chats with us about her book and her process for beginning a poem, and shares the poem "My Unravelling" from her collection.
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Interview with the Poet
All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.
Allison Chisholm: On the Count of None is my first full-length book of poetry. It is an eclectic collection of poems that could be described as surreal. These poems explore the relationship between the serious and absurd and borrow inspiration from familiar constructions in our popular culture: horoscopes, obituaries, birth notices and guidebooks. There is a narrative thread that weaves throughout the book which involves a character named Ellen, Hendrik Ibsen, and a dollhouse.
ALU: What is your process for beginning a poem? Has it changed since you began writing?
AC: My writing is often inspired by what I overhear. I keep a bank of words, expressions, and phrases that appeal to me. I like to arrange and disjoint ideas and I usually make a passable attempt to bind cohesion. I am also comfortable when cohesion is not achieved. I enjoy incongruence.
Through the writing of this book my process has changed. Stuart Ross, who edited the book, was an incredible resource and challenged me to explore new writers and styles. In turn, I feel like my craft has expanded.
ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?
AC: My husband is a writer and I always admired his art. Early in our relationship he introduced me to various writers and also encouraged me to write myself. We would write together, as well as with friends, in a collaborative format. In this way, writing became accessible to me. It was a playful way to be introduced to the craft. Over the years I have worked to develop my own voice.
ALU: Who are some of your fave women poets?
AC: So many wonderful woman poets inspire me: Jaime Forsythe, Alice Burdick, Tara Azzoparti and Lisa Jarnot are among my favourites.
ALU: What do you find most informs and inspires your writing?
AC: Before anything else, I am interested in the tone of a poem. I like to borrow from a style or voice that is integrated into our popular psyche (on the radio, in a book, dialogue in a movie) and adapt this cadence in a way that is familiar yet incongruent.
ALU: If you had one superpower, what would it be? Could you describe it in a haiku?
AC: My superpower would be the ability to blend into any environment.
Well, maybe I did clamour around the subtle sense of luxury.
During the angular movement I disfigured a sandscript [sic] scholar.
But maybe I didn’t
abandon the child prodigy
and the metabolic processes
like two drops of sadness abundant on the teaspoon.
Our mutual decay
and your untying of my apron strings
occur each Wednesday or when hanging from the branches.
* * *
Allison Chisholm lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario. Her poetry has appeared in The Northern Testicle Review, the Puddles of Sky chap-poem The Dollhouse, The Week Shall Inherit The Verse, and the Proper Tales Press chapbook On the Count of One. She played glockenspiel in the Hawaiian-dream-pop band SCUB. Her photography has been exhibited in the Tiniest Gallery.
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