Poetry Grrrowl: Wild Madder + Brenda Leifso

Our final week of #poetrygrrrowl starts fresh with Brenda Leifso’s newest Wild Madder (Brick Books), a stunning collection that depicts the sense of wildness in self discovery with poems that dig at motherhood, marriage, and love. Scroll down to read our interview with Brenda where she shares more about her collection (along with the poem “Someone”) and her learned superpower. 


Share It:

Poetry Grrrowl with us all month long and get 15% OFF all of our featured collections until April 30th!

An Interview with the Poet

All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection. Brenda Leifso: I wrote this collection at the lonely confluence of rivers: moving to a new city, having three young children, resisting the oppressive nature of motherhood while also recognizing its small joys, realizing I was not living how I wanted in the world, but also not knowing how to change that, feeling unmoored in my relationship.While I was in the process of drowning in this place, some wise women threw me some lifelines and helped me swim to shore. One of the lifelines was the suggestion to begin a walking practice while listening to music. I began walking or running every day (and still do) along the shores of Lake Ontario and somehow (Daniel Levitin explains process very well in This is Your Brain on Music) through the rhythm of my feet and the music and through the lake’s conversation, I found my way back into poetry.I re-read every poetry book in my collection that year. Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris and Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems offered me my place in the family of things. I groped my way out into new reading that profoundly influenced how I write and see the world. Central among these books were Jan Zwicky’s Wisdom and Metaphor, David Abrams’s The Spell of the Sensuous, Robert Bringhurst’s The Tree of Meaning, and Don McKay’s Angular Unconformity. More than anything, I want this book to serve as a plain-spoken, understandable lifeline to others who might be lonely, who might be wandering, who might be looking for their own sense of being in the world.ALU: What is your process for beginning a poem? Has it changed since you began writing?BL: My process is probably more intuitive now than when I started, when I was always trying to write a “good” poem. I think it was Lorna Crozier who wrote something along the lines that a poem is like a cat winding or peeking around a chair, and we just have to be attentive and wait for it to reveal itself. This feels fairly true to me; when I’m writing, I read a lot, I go outside a lot, and then I sit with a notebook and pen in a quiet room and start scribbling whatever comes to mind for a predetermined length of time. Eventually something— a line or image—will wave its hand and begin weaving itself into a poem with other things that are waving their hands. When I began writing, there was more fretting over what I would write and would it be poetic enough or good enough, and I still fret over these things sometimes, but I’m learning to be more patient and to simply keep my appointed time even if I would rather tear the nails off my fingers. If the work is moving, then I keep going. If not, then I get up and move on. Of course, nowadays that I work, have three kids, and work the double shift most mothers still work, that time gets bumped more than I would like.ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?BL: In truth, I don’t really know. I wouldn’t say there was a lightning-flash moment, but rather a slow progression of exposure to what poetry could do through teachers and mentors who loved it wholly. I’ve certainly had some teachers and mentors who positively radiated joy and an astonishing whack of knowledge about poetry—it’s hard to resist infection in these circumstances. I’m grateful to the teachers I had in undergrad, including Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane when I was a shy, mute thing writing about ducks skimming over water. I am eternally grateful to George McWhirter for his ebullient tinkering and sunny, pain-free ability to bring out the best of poems and poets in the UBC MFA program. In workshops, Kate Braid taught me the idea of compost, George Elliott Clarke sang the blues, and Don McKay provided the wry, rocky spine for my entrance into the periphery of ecopoetry as it blends with the female experience.  ALU: Who are some of your fave women of poetry? BL: Phyllis Webb, P.K. Page, Marilyn Bowering, Jan Zwicky, Louise Gluck, Robyn Sarah, Anne Simpson, Mary Oliver, Kim Trainor, Deanna Young, Sharon Olds.ALU: What do you find most informs and inspires your writing?BL: The well-trodden woven rug of being outside as just one part of the animate, conversant world, books and ideas, plain old everyday lived experience, yoga practice, and music. ALU: If you had one superpower, what would it be? Could you describe it in a haiku?BL: Like most women I know, I do have the learned superpower of being an organizational ninja, which is also a socio-economic burden placed on women that is still unrecognized and unrewarded. I would challenge the readers to write the haiku, but I know they don’t have time.* * *

A Poem from Wild Madder

All winter, I’ve been willing
Metamorphosis into a better self:
someone willowy, all long legs and graceful arms,
a bohemian who has, nonetheless
and sensibly, laid her running clothes out the night before
instead of hiding in the pantry eating marshmallows
while her children weren’t looking,
someone so fuelled by gratitude and acai berry smoothies
she could probably fly over quiet morning paths,
someone who could softly land back in a kitchen
and not lose her shit over the jostle of bodies,
the whining over who sits where, who eats what,
the cat eating the dog food, the dog eating the cat’s,
the dishwasher to be emptied
and filled
and emptied
every day
all day long
world without end—someone who knows
what it’s like
to simply wake up
and rise.
 * * * 
Wild Madder
is Brenda Leifso’s third book of poetry, following Barren the Fury (Pedlar Press, 2015) and Daughters of Men (Brick Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for an Ottawa Book Award. Her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies across Canada, has won the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award, and has been short- and long-listed for the CBC Literary prize. She is a freelance editor and occasional academic instructor, and also runs her own yoga business. She lives, gratefully, near the shores of Lake Ontario in Kingston, Ontario.* * *During the month of April, you can buy Wild Madder as well as  any of our featured Poetry Grrrowl books for 15% off (+ we’ll send you a stack of our exclusive temporary tattoos and stickers to show off your woman pride!)Keep up with us all month on  TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook with the hashtag #poetrygrrrowl.BONUS: Test your knowledge of all the rad women of poetry with our  Poetry Grrrowl quiz!