Poetry in Motion: Genni Gunn + Accidents

Genni Gunn’s third poetry collection Accidents(Signature Editions), takes us on a roller coaster ride through past and present in different continents, to explore the various upheavals that alter our lives. In this week’s Poetry in Motion feature, Gunn shares how she is interested in playing with forms of poetry, and how her third collection revolves around upheavals that cause turbulence in our lives. 


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The poems in Accidents revolve around upheavals that cause turbulence in our lives, often a result of arbitrary or capricious events – emotional, political, geological – with the power to alter our perception of ourselves and the world around us. The first section, “Absences,” delves into accidents of birth – why we are where we are. These poems sift through memory, tracing the ghost limbs of childhood into the present, continent to continent. My own recurrent journeys to Italy examine the past through my child eyes, and through the adult eyes of my parents/myself, recalibrating my perspective through the lens of absence and time. The second section, “Artifacts,” is an exploration of childhood objects we carry from place to place, as emblems of change or understanding. The poems document the history and significance of these totems – vestiges of accidents of daily lives. The final section, “Accidents,” considers the arbitrary misadventures, mischances, coincidences and physical disasters such as earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions as metaphors to explore family strife, love and desire, unrest and unease. I am very interested in playing with forms of poetry, and particularly in this collection I’ve included six Glosas and five Sestinas, in which the content suggests containment – framed paintings, panic, temptation, secrets. Though I don’t strictly adhere to all the rules within these forms, I find the boundaries challenge me in new ways. For example, the Sestinas with their thirty-nine lines, require the intricate repetition of six words in a predefined order, six words that must have multiple meanings. Moving towards a particular pre-set word or – in the Glosas, phrases – frees me to work more associatively, more metaphorically, tapping into my subconscious, often resulting in new revelations. “In elegant language which peels back masks to discover a self ‘folded inside these pages’ , Genni Gunn’s Accidents exposes links hidden in childhood and in the body to the essence of family, time, and place. It’s the knowing, Gunn says, that ‘joins us to the ghost limbs of our past.’  Gunn’s poetry illuminates found objects, their connections coalescing into an autobiography of perception itself.” – Marilyn Bowering

Book Trailer for Accidents & Genni Gunn reads a poem from her collection 


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Genni Gunn’s thirteen books include novels, short fiction, poetry, memoir and poetry translations from Italian. Accidentsis her third collection of poems. Her books have been finalists for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the John Glassco Translation Prize, the Gerald Lampert Poetry Award, the Premio Internazionale Diego Valeri for Literary Translation and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.