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Jim Nason is the author of seven volumes of poetry, a short story collection, and three novels. He has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in both the fiction and poetry categories. His poetry book Rooster, Dog, Crow was Shortlisted for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award, and his poems have been included in anthologies across Canada, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, 2010 and 2014. His book, Blue Suitcase: Documentary Poetics was recently released by Mansfield Press and longlisted for the 2022 Raymond Souster Award. Nason is also an artist. In collaboration with artist and set designer, David Rayfield, Jim’s collage installation This Tree is a Rabbit was selected by Pride 2022 and was on display throughout the month of June at The Tenor, Dundas Square, Toronto.
Interview / Entrevue
In 1985, Danny Laferriere, a Haitian writer living in Montreal, published his novel comment faire l’amour avec un negre sans se fatigue. This unapologetic in-your-face- parody about interracial sex and race from the perspective of a black man was, at the time, considered very risqué. I was taking an undergraduate course called The Literature of Quebec in Translation and loved the conversations that were happening about the book—however, some people in my life at that time thought it was odd that I was reading a book that perpetuated racial stereotypes—they didn’t get Laferriere’s joke.
I obsess over opening lines of books (including my own). My favourite line from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the opening sentence: “It is a universal truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” That sentence does an enormous amount of work in setting up all of the novel’s main themes: money, marriage, expectations of a society, social class… I get a kick out of the gossipy tone of the sentence and, as a gay man, get a further kick out of the heterosexual bias.
A second favourite line of mine comes from John Ashbery’s poetry collection A Wave. The opening poem, At North Farm, begins: “Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you, at incredible speed, traveling day and night, through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.” I love the way the “you” of this line invites the reader into the poem’s drama, mystery, and surreal landscape and tone.
I am a clean desk person. Although I constantly have various writing and art projects on the go, I am very organized and can’t think straight if there is chaos around me.
I wake up at night worrying about everything—social issues, money, politics, projects I am working on, friends, family… I am a big worrier. It’s amazing I ever get any sleep. I also stay awake at night when I am excited about a new poem, line/dialogue for a novel, a collage project… . Because I toss and turn so much at night, my ex husband used to joke that some people he knows have “restless leg syndrome,” but I was the only person he had ever met with “restless Everything syndrome.” I worry lots.
My secret ambition is to find a cure for worry.
Poetry as Empathy,
Poetry as Witness
with Jim Nason
November 20, 2:00 pm CT
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