Ariel Gordon on HumpAuthor Interviews Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Ariel Gordon is the author of Hump, a mash-up of pregnancy and mothering poems and urban/nature/love poems that functions as an anti-sentiment manifesto. Month by month, stanza by stanza, Gordon attempts to adequately represent the wonder and devilment of being-with-child. Hump is a love poem written simultaneously to a father and child, to a lover and the glimmer in his eye, and to a city that is gritty, faded, but still greener-than-most.
BCB: What do you think readers will find most notable about Hump?
Ariel Gordon: I don’t know what people will take away from the poems – part of the pleasure of publishing it has been having readers, period, but also hearing what has stuck with them since reading Hump.
Beyond that, people seem very taken by the cover, which is the artistry of Palimpsest publisher Dawn Kresan.
BCB: Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?
Ariel Gordon: When I toured the book west this past spring, I read at Pages on Kensington in Calgary. After my reading – which included the poem “Chorus,” which takes as its subject the very faint bleeding that sometimes occurs when breastfeeding a newborn – a woman approached me and related the following gory episode:
Her friend was breastfeeding while talking to her and suddenly she noticed blood on her friend’s clothing surrounding her breast. She pointed it out to her friend, who looked down and saw that not only was she bleeding but her child was also choking. It turned out that her child had gnawed off a third of her nipple…
What gets me about this story was A) how the mother didn’t even NOTICE that her nipple was mostly gone and B) how INDUSTRIOUS the child would have had to have been to cause that much damage. Of course, I’ve told that story at every subsequent reading. (It made a pregnant woman in the audience at my launch go pale.)
BCB: Did researching and writing Hump teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way?
Ariel Gordon: Given that the research I conducted was getting knocked up and then carrying/mothering the subsequent child, yes. The funny thing is that I wouldn’t have written the middle section of the book (the sections are basically pre-conception/all knocked up/afterbirth) if I hadn’t been forced to…
I’ve been running the May Day Poetry Project blog for several years now, and, as the name suggests, it takes place during the month of May. Anyway, this was year two, and given that I was eight months pregnant and enormous and exhausted I was fully prepared to let the blog quietly die. But the other participants clamoured for it to continue, so as founder, I was forced to write and post. And since all I could think about was being heavily pregnant, I wrote nearly the entire section that month.
The other thing about these poems is that they hijacked the manuscript I’d been working on when I got pregnant. Somehow, they were the only poems that seemed relevant to the day and night experience of being pregnant and having a newborn. They were also a coping mechanism, a way of making order out of my distorted body and distorted sensibilities…and a way of ensuring that I kept writing despite everything else. Several people had told me that I wouldn’t pick up a book, nevermind write again, for ten years. And that got my back up.
BCB: What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?
Ariel Gordon: That it’s vulgar and terrible and sweet and tender at the same time. And also that it’s terrifically well written. Heh.
BCB: Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?
Ariel Gordon: I was quite concerned that my pregnancy and mothering poems weren’t the equivalent of Anne Geddes photographs. Babies-as-flowers. Mothers-as-wilting-flowers. And so I tried to write anti-cheerful mummy poems, poems that weren’t personally infantilizing.
All of that said, readers might find it interesting to discuss why such different roles and different expectations are assigned to men and women, especially around parenting. Why are women meant to martyr themselves to their children and men can just carry on doing what they did before?
BCB: How can readers help you promote Hump?
Ariel Gordon: By requesting it at their local library and independent bookseller. By buying/borrowing it and sharing it with other people…and by asking me to come talk to writing groups and classrooms. I mean, what better excuse to swan around the country than a new book?
BCB: Why do you write?
Ariel Gordon: Two things consistently bring me pleasure: hot sweet tea and writing. Which is not to say that either are particularly good for me…I use entirely too much sugar and so far don’t find sucralose to be a good alternative. Also, writing is not a practice that engenders confidence. Quite the opposite. It’s about making yourself deliberately insecure so that you can write the next thing and have it be worth reading.
And that’s not even taking into consideration the business end of things, which can make you bitter if you’re not careful…
But I’ve spent my the bulk of my life to date figuring out the right mix of fat and sugar in my tea and also, how to get incrementally better (I hope…) at the writing, so I’m not giving it/them up!
BCB: What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Ariel Gordon: I’m not sure I know yet. Or if that’s a good thing for me to know. So far, my greatest strength as a writer is that I write…
BCB: What quality do you most value in yourself?
Ariel Gordon: My enthusiasm. Also, my hair.
BCB: In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?
Ariel Gordon: For the past decade or so, I’ve been taking macro photographs, primarily of mushrooms, in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Forest. It’s gotten so that I make sure that any retreats I go on are near forests, so that if the writing isn’t going well – you can schedule retreats but not necessarily the right space, mentally, to write – I can always spend the time rooting around under the trees, searching for mushrooms. I’ve also started making spore prints of mushrooms on poems of writers I admire and/or poet/friends of mine, which is also sort of fun.
Read more about Hump HERE
[tags]pregnancy mothering urban nature Winnipeg prairies[/tags]
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