Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reprint: An Interview with Alessandro Porco


Read the entire interview at

Open Book: Toronto:
Tell us about your latest book.

Alessandro Porco:
Most recently, I edited a collection of essays on Montreal writer David McGimpsey. Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey is published by Palimpsest Press (2010). It includes a critical introduction (which I authored) as well as nine essays by a variety of scholars and poets. The essays examine how issues of nationalism, class, aesthetics, humor, literary history, and even love play out in McGimpsey’s work. An extended interview with McGimpsey concludes the book.
My latest book of poetry, Augustine in Carthage (ECW Press), was published a couple of years ago now. It’s a small assortment of poems I wrote over three years, from 2005-2007. There’s the title long poem, which re-imagines Book III of St. Augustine’s Confessions in present-day Montreal and includes everything from philosophizing strippers to rabbit holes and coprology. The book also has a short sonnet sequence, some translations, a ghazal that uses the preposterous “cherry pie” as its repeated key-phrase and a series of 21 dirty limericks.

OBT:
Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

AP:
I hope Population Me finds its way into the hands of readers with a general interest in contemporary Canadian literature. The essays are smart and jargon-free, a good introduction to the many elements at play in McGimpsey's writings. Since McGimpsey’s work is taught in universities across America, I especially imagined that students — undergraduate and graduate — may have some use for the collection.
As for my own poetry, well, is it a cop-out to say I write for everybody and nobody at the same time? Here’s a more matter-of-fact answer: given the sorts of poems I write and given the demographic make-up and, by extension, dominant sensibility of contemporary Canadian poetry readers (ostensibly its writers), my guess is that my readership isn’t my peers. That said, I’d like to think my poetry — if it succeeds — is capable of creating an otherwise unlikely or previously unthinkable collective of disparate readers.

OBT:
Describe your ideal writing environment.

AP:
I love hotel rooms. In general. But especially for writing. My ideal writing environment is one that I have control over. I rarely have control. Chaos always knocks on the door, announcing itself: “Housekeeping!”

OBT:
What was your first publication?

AP:
My first book was published in 2005. It’s called The Jill Kelly Poems (ECW Press). I wrote most of the poems when I was twenty-two, twenty-three. I don’t regret publishing those poems (yet), and am extraordinarily thankful that Michael Holmes thought enough of them to call me up and say, “Hey, we’d like to publish your book.” People still ask me about the book five years later — and have strong opinions about it, which they’re always willing to share with me, for better or worse.
Returning to question two, that book introduced me to a readership I’m not likely to ever come across again: the book was reviewed in AVN (Adult Video News), the trade magazine for the porn industry. I was asked to read poems at the first Canadian Feminist Porn Awards (organized by the fine people at Toronto’s Good For Her — one of the managers saw me perform somewhere and invited me to participate in the event). At that event, Village Voice sex columnist, porn director and actress, and educator Tristan Taormino introduced herself, saying she’d read my book. That was awesome. I bought a copy of her House of Ass, which she signed for me: “With love and lube.”And that’s the story of my first publication.

OBT:
Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

AP:
Leaving Canada. I mean that in the best possible way. I love my passport.