Photo by David Ellingsen
Elizabeth Bachinsky is the author of three collections of poetry, CURIO (BookThug, 2005), HOME OF SUDDEN SERVICE (Nightwood Editions, 2006), and GOD OF MISSED CONNECTIONS (Nightwood Editions, 2009). Her work has been nominated for the Pat Lowther Award (2010), the Kobzar Literary Award (2010), The George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature (2010) the Governor General's Award for Poetry (2006), and the Bronwen Wallace Award (2004) and has appeared in literary journals, anthologies, and on film in Canada, the United States, France, Ireland, England, China, and Lebanon. She lives in Vancouver where she is an instructor of creative writing and the Editor of EVENT magazine.
RUSTY TALK WITH ELIZABETH BACHINSKY
Sara Jane Strickland: What is your first memory of being creative?
Elizabeth Bachinsky: I pretended I was a small woodland creature, like a squirrel or a bunny in a burrow, late at night under the covers in my princess bed in Prince George B.C., circa 1980.
SJS: How would you describe your writing process?
EB: Intermittent. Furious. Private. Hurray! Writing is one of my favorite things to do. No, it is my favorite because, when I’m writing, that means I’m also reading and watching movies and going for walks and talking with friends or making new friends. It also means I have plenty of time to relax and be by myself. Also, I try not to pay too much attention to what I’m writing until I have a big pile of material to shuffle through. So, I guess I kind of try and sneak up on myself so as not to scare myself away. It can be a daunting idea to try and write a book. So, I just write a little whenever I can. Some of what I write happens by hand in notebooks and some it happens on the computers or on my phone. Eventually I get this feeling that something is cooking. Then I type and print everything out and take a look at what’s going on. If nothing comes clear, I just keep writing. But, usually, some fascination of mine comes to the fore and I’m off. I can start to give the thing a shape. All of my books, so far, have happened this way.
SJS: What is the revision process like for you?
EB: The trick, for me, is to think of revision as sculpting: best to start off with a lot of material and take away and take away until the thing reveals itself. Luckily, writers don’t work in stone. We can put stuff back where it was. Or add new material where it’s needed. That can be fun. And there’s nothing like the feeling of lopping off giant hunks of your book. Best not to get precious. Poems tell me what they need and don’t need, if I pay attention.
SJS: Rejection can stop new writers before they start. How did you deal with rejection when you first started out?
EB: I try to ignore it. But, when I can’t, I celebrate. Rejection means you’re in the game, baby. You’ve got ambition and you’re not sitting back on your laurels. I celebrate rejection and move on.
SJS: What is the best thing about being a writer and the worst thing?
EB: For me, the best thing about being a writer is that I get to meet all kinds of people from all over the world and get to travel to places I never thought I would go. Let’s hear it for hospitality suites and hotel shower caps. And some of my poems get to travel even farther than I do. There is my little poem in Beirut! And there it is again in Mainland China! That is super cool. The worst thing? Well… if there was a worst thing, I wouldn’t do it, OK? I have a very low tolerance for agony. Basically, I’m a poet. And there is very little incentive for anyone to write poetry, ever. So, the only reason to do it is because it gives you pleasure or it ignites some curiosity in you somewhere that you simply can’t do without. The moment it becomes laborious or agonizing or whatever, I think I’ll stop writing poetry and do something else.
SJS: What are you working on right now?
EB: My new book is called The Hottest Summer in Recorded History. It will be out in the Spring of 2013 with Nightwood Editions.
ELIZABETH BACHINSKY'S MOST RECENT POETRY BOOK
God of Missed Connections, Nightwood Editions, 2009
Description from Nightwood Editions:
Written in the near absence of creative works by Ukrainian Canadians of her generation, God of Missed Connections is a breakthrough collection by one of Canada's leading young poets. This book is profound, devastating, and draws on Ukraine's brave and bloody history as a means to explore the author’s place in the contemporary world.
"This book explores a century of cultural assimilation in the West, an experience that is not unique to a Ukrainian-Canadian sensibility. In this book, I wanted to capture the sense of what it feels like to not know where you're from, to be looking for connections, and to come up with ghosts. God of Missed Connections is just the way I've gone about sifting through my own cultural detritus. What makes it through time, what doesn’t? That's what interests me."
Rusty Talk Editor: