Welcome Lounges AMA AMA with Joel Robert Ferguson

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    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
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      Post count: 9

      Ask Me Anything

      with Joel Robert Ferguson

      thin air winnipeg international writers festival international ecrivains logo

      Joel Robert Ferguson is the author of The Lost Cafeteria (Signature Editions, 2020) and holds degrees in English Literature from Concordia University and the University of Winnipeg. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications in Canada and internationally, including Arc Poetry Magazine, The Columbia Review, Contemporary Verse 2, EVENT, The Honest Ulsterman, The Malahat Review, Meniscus, Prairie Fire, and Southword Journal. Having grown up in the Nova Scotian village of Bible Hill, Ferguson now lives in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory, with his partner and their three cats.

    • Marie T.Marie T.
      Participant
      Post count: 17

      Hi Joel! Thanks for being here, I noticed your bio says this is your first collection of poetry. I was curious what your favorite part of the process was, and what drew you to start writing poetry?

    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      Hi Joel, Thanks for being here! Your poems paint such a picture of experiences in punk houses which took me back in memory to a time in my life – thank you for that! I loved your collection but would love to hear about what collections are inspiring you right now?

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      Hi Marie, thanks for your questions!

      It’s difficult to choose just one part of the creative process that I enjoyed the most, but if I absolutely HAD to… probably the moment when an idea for a poem finds a way to be expressed in language and I can start actually writing it, rather than just carrying the idea around with me. For me, this moment often occurs while I was out for a walk or reading other poets; other writers’ turns of phrase or way of approaching an idea, experience, emotion, or event give me plenty of hints to help me learn what it is I want to say and providing ways to experiment with saying it 🙂

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      Poetry has been with me since I was small. My mother is a poet and ran a poetry journal out of our house throughout a good chunk of my childhood. Though I had a lot of false starts with actually writing poetry, I really fell in love with reading it in my 20s.

      What really drew me to writing it was, when I moved to Winnipeg in the early 2010s, finding a supportive community of friends who were writers and/or big readers, with whom it felt like I was finally allowed to experiment with writing. Seriously, I can’t overstate how much having literary-minded folks in my life helped me warm to the notion of not just reading poetry but writing it too!

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      Hi Bernice, thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the poems 🙂

      Recently, I’ve been getting into the poetry of Karen Solie, and particularly enjoying her collection “The Road In Is Not The Same Road Out”. Her voice is so, so strong and many of the poems are a sort of industrial/post-industrial landscape writing that I think is a really fecund and cool direction to take the tradition of the Canadian Nature Poem.

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      I’ve also been reading A.F. Moritz’s latest book, “As Far As You Know”. His poetry reminds me a little bit of Seamus Heaney’s in that it maintains this constancy in its voice between collections and over long spans of time, but always feels fresh and explorative at the same time.

    • Marie T.Marie T.
      Participant
      Post count: 17

      It’s so nice to hear that the Winnipeg literary community is so supportive, and that’s really neat that your mom is also a poet. Now I’m curious what she thinks of your poetry if she has given you any feedback? Or what is the best writing advice you have received from the literary community? Thank you for your response 🙂

    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! I’ll have to check those out. I think I saw A.F. Moritz’s name when I cruised through the list of writers for this festival. I’ll have to check it out his profile.

      The poems in your collection range from a more traditional structure on the page to more experimental. Is there a form that comes easier to you? How do you decide what form you would like a poem to take? Has this evolved over the course of your writing career?

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      For sure Marie 🙂

      The piece of advice that has had the most influence on me was to think of poems first and foremost as a sequences of individual images, and then to use writing flesh these images out (or not!) and to connect (or disconnect) them. I’ve found that this helps poetry to stay tethered to the material world even when it plays around with abstraction, and allows me to try different ways to approach the same subject matter, hopefully uncovering new ideas or truths via new angles.

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      Re: my mom’s opinion of my book, I don’t know and I’m a bit scared to find out, haha. Our relationship hasn’t always been an easy one; she’s a conservative Baptist and I’m definitely… not… that, and a lot of my book is critical of conservative, evangelical Christianity. That said, she was always very supportive of my writing when I was growing up, helping me to submit work to children’s magazines, and I owe her a lot for her encouragement.

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      Yes, A.F. Moritz is another one of the featured readers, he’s great i.m.o. 🙂

      Re: experimental & traditional/lyric poetry, I definitely go through phases when one comes easily to me and the other doesn’t. When I started writing poetry it was all found poetry, cut-up poems, and experimental writing where my self wasn’t that present, or at least it was obscured. This was a good way to get comfortable with the idea of writing and to start to figure out what goes into writing a compelling line.

      When I went back to university for creative writing in 2016, I had an amazing professor in poet Catherine Hunter who told me no, you have to learn to write lyric poetry for me class and which I am deeply grateful to her for, haha. I imagine I’ll keep writing both traditional poetry and also doing language experiments; I don’t believe that there’s any one right way to write poetry, and think that there’s more potential in both experimental and traditional poetics when they’re treated as complementary rather than antagonistic to each other.

    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      I love that: treating experimental and traditional as complementary rather than antagonistic. Thanks for sharing with us tonight!

    • Joel Robert FergusonJoel Robert Ferguson
      Moderator
      Post count: 9

      For sure, thank you both for your thoughtful questions!

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