Poetry Express: James Scoles + The Trailer

In his collection The Trailer (Signature Editions), James Scoles takes us to the city’s outskirts—where everything moves just a little slower than the rest of the world, and where all the beauty, joy and humour of life can be found within four tin trailer walls. In our Q&A below, James discusses the very meta way that this work came together—through an epiphany within his trailer, about a poem about that trailer, that would inspire the full collection entitled The Trailer.


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During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada. Just use promo code NPMexpress at checkout. Or you can find it at your  local independent bookstore.All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about your collection and how it came to be?James Scoles: The title poem won the 2013 CBC Poetry Prize and I added it to different poetry collections I was working on over the years, and it wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when I was sitting in my trailer—The Trailer—that I finally realized the poem, and the place itself, needed, and deserved, a much bigger stage: its own collection. I loved the double-meaning of a “trailer” and “lagging a little behind” and then I had an epiphany: I’m just as much of a trailer as The Trailer.

Photo of James Scoles

[Image Description: A front facing photo of the author cropped just below the neckline. He has short, grey-brown hair and blue eyes. He stares straight ahead with a very slight smile with both lips touching. He wears a navy blazer with a collared blue shirt beneath. The photo is taken indoors with a blurred warm-toned background.]

ALU: What has been your most unlikely source of writing inspiration?JS: My most unlikely source of writing inspiration was a beat-up old suitcase I pulled out from underneath my trailer—the previous owner had left it, tucked into a little secret storage area—so of course I hoped to have my “Storage Wars” moment and find something of great value. But inside was just some old, rusty, broken trophies and mementoes, little plastic trinkets and moldy certificates (for Honourable Mention & Most Improved, two categories I can appreciate) in cheap frames. That moldy old suitcase of memories I managed to turn into treasure, because those images gave me the ending lines of my CBC Poetry Prize-winning poem, The Trailer.ALU: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?I started writing poetry early—when I was fifteen or so—because of a crush I had on a girl, and even in university, when I started studying literature and taking poetry more seriously, my idea of poetry was that it was an expression of deep affection, beauty, joy or loss (most poems can be filed under themes of birth, death, love, sex and war, after all). Today, my idea of poetry changes just about every time I read it, as well as when I teach poetry, because the genre is constantly evolving. I always come back to Auden’s idea of poetry being “memorable speech” because poetry is meant to be spoken, and there is some fantastic poetry being spoken these days.ALU: What are you most in the mood to read these days? Any poets you’re especially enjoying?I teach creative writing courses at the University of Winnipeg and I read a lot of student writing and I’m always in the mood to see brand new work from such a wide range of voices. I’m constantly inspired by the fresh exploration of the genre and the raw talent, eagerness to create and experiment and overall enthusiasm for poetry my students carry. My students have also turned me onto many spoken word artists, including Safia Elhillo, Andrea Gibson and Ocean Vuong, and I’m reading Rupi Kaur’s Home Body, because a student recommended it, and I’m eagerly awaiting Amanda Gorman’s debut collection, The Hill We Climb & Other Poems.ALU: Describe your ideal escape.There are a few places I consider the ideal escape—physically and mentally, metaphorically and spiritually—one is a cabin I built in the forest on our old family farm, another is a long walk along Galway Bay, Ireland, and the other is The Trailer. All are magical places that give me energy, light and life and renew my faith in the world and my self. Having travelled in more than 90 countries, any ideal escape for me at some point requires a place to sit and work and write and reflect, a place not unlike a pub or taverna, say, just off the main square or downtown, not far from the action.



A poem from The Trailer

Scar tissue
Open these old wounds easy
as memories—the indelicate
album of crevices I’m left to
care for—and listen to the
sea of love still spilling my
blood, playing my bones
and singing its song
of havoc so sweetly
through broken skin.

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James Scoles holds degrees from North Dakota, Arizona State, and Southern Illinois, and he has lived, worked, and travelled in over 90 countries. His writing has appeared in the literary journals Prairie Fire Magazine, CV2, The Malahat Review, en Route Magazine, Descant, and Arc: Canada’s National Poetry Magazine and the anthology Coming Attractions 13. His poem “The Trailer” won the 2013 CBC Poetry Prize and his literary non-fiction has won the Personal Journalism and Western Magazine Awards. He now lives in Winnipeg where he teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Winnipeg and helps run a small 120-year-old family farm.

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During the month of April, you can buy The Trailer and any one of our other featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code NPMexpress. Or find them at your  local independent bookstore! Keep up with us all month on  TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook with the hashtag #ALUPoetryExpress.  
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