Interview with AMANDA EARL
What drew you to submit your work to RED SKIES?
Rachel invited me. I admire her writing a great deal. I liked the name Splintered Disorder Press and the fact that the press is based on a friendship between the two editors.
When I read the mission statement for RED SKIES “Red Skies is a hopeful effort to connect with writers across the world from different backgrounds, creating a fluid understanding of how the landscape has shifted for individuals, compared to institutions.” – I was inspired that it was about hope and about connection at a time when we need both so badly.
I had written a poem series, more of a journal really about a month into the pandemic, and when I saw the call, I took one of the entries and remixed it to create a poem that interested me and suited the mission statement of the anthology.
What writers have inspired you?
That would be a long list, but right now I’d like to say I’m most inspired by any creative person who is bent on exploring and sharing their work, especially new or emerging writers. As the managing editor of Bywords.ca, I get to see the growth of poets who send their work to us early on and often continue to do so, or I see them published later in other journals, getting chapbooks and books published. I recently wrote a small note of praise about Manahil Bandukwala in the November, 2020 Editor’s Notes. I am inspired by how much her writing has grown and how she is blending her writing and artistic practices.
The winner of the 2020 John Newlove Poetry Award was Megan Misztal whose poetry we have been publishing on Bywords.ca for four years. She writes spell-binding stuff and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it develop when I, and the other Bywords.ca editors get a chance to work with her on her manuscript for a chapbook we will publish next October.
The writing of local writers, Margo LaPierre, Ellen Chang-Richardson, Conyer Clayton, Helen Robertson, there are many names I could add here.
Here are a list of favourite books.
What projects are you currently engaged with?
For my own work, I am writing a poem series called “Welcome to Upper Zygonia” which is an imaginary world I dreamed up a few decades ago to deal with situations where I needed to escape or had to wait. Having a good imagination can help when waiting for surgery, for example.
In 2015, I began a life’s work to translate every book, chapter and verse of the Bible into visual poetry. I’m still working on that, but not as much this year. I”ve completed about 300 pages so far with many more to go. For more information on The Vispo Bible, please visit Eleanor Luvz Vizpo.
I’m also the managing editor of Bywords.ca, which requires daily labour, but it’s all a labour of love. I work with my husband and a selection committee of twelve hard-working and wonderful current and former Ottawa writers.
I run AngelHousePress. We have a podcast once or twice a month called The Small Machine Talks. We have upcoming episodes with short fiction writers, musicians, screen writers, and of course, poets from both Canada and abroad. We just launched our annual pdf magazine, Experiment-O, which celebrates the art of risk. We’re in our thirteenth year with poetry, visual poetry, visual art and hybrid, uncategorizable stuff from contributors all over the world. In January I will send out a call for NationalPoetryMonth.ca which is published every April with work that challenges boundaries and borders worldwide.
How have you spent the year 2020?
In fear and anxiety one moment and in intense concentration the next. I’ve spent it with my darling husband in person and with dear friends in the form of telephone calls, letters, emails and texts.
How have you maintained your artistic skills during lockdowns?
One of the challenges for me is having access to libraries. I do a lot of research for my work, and I can’t afford to purchase everything I need to read or see or engage with in some way. The Ottawa Public Library reopened in the summer, but its catalogue is missing books I need for research. University libraries have not been open at all, as far as I know.
I had to put a project on pause because I can’t get access to books I need to consult. One section of the Vispo Bible is visual poems in the form of women’s bodies and garments on which I place the Bible’s misogynistic and hateful text toward women. It is a feminist reclaiming of the body and a refusal to feel ashamed.
I switched gears to work on Upper Zygonia, which I thought would require less research, but now I need to get hold of contemporary experimental speculative poetry, so I’m stuck again.
Is there one daily ritual or routine that you commit to following?
I’m not good at following routine. I don’t want to feel like creativity is some kind of job. I’ve worked in factories, I don’t want to do that for anything creative.
For my creative work, I follow my interests, my curiosities and whatever calls excite or challenge me.
There’s one thing I do every day and that is to post literary, spoken word, storytelling and nonfiction events listed on the Bywords.ca calendar onto Twitter and FaceBook. I do this at 5 a.m, every day, and I may stay up or go back to bed after.
Is community important to your work? Are there any magazines or small presses that you feel particularly fond of?
Community is vital to my work and to my life. I am fortunate to have made many great friends in Ottawa’s literary community and beyond. My own writing has been expanded by learning of great work being done by others. To me, the point of anything creative is to be part of an ongoing conversation. I need to explore what and who is out there. I feel we are all stronger through community. We can share resources, information, and support.
I like Periodicities, the new online journal run by rob mclennan. I enjoy Brick Magazine for its essays. Canthius has been a great supporter of community, as has Natalie Hanna’s battleaxe press. I’m excited to see what Coven Editions is doing with its new deathcap magazine. I'm quite taken with the Babel Tower Notice Board, run by Richard Capener of the UK.
As you are one of our visual poetry submitters, what drew you to the craft? And, what led you to help curate a community of visual poets?
I have grapheme synaesthesia. Letters, numbers, days of the week, months, people’s names and pain evoke colour for me. When I was a child, I was always drawing the alphabet, trying to colour the letters to be what they were in my mind.
In the mid-aughts, most likely through rob mclennan, who had an e-mail list serve, I found out about visual poetry. Some of the visual poets I learned about: Judith Copithorne and Gary Barwin in Canada, Satu Kaikkonen in Finland and Márton Koppány of Hungary were working in interesting ways with colour. Derek Beaulieu was using Letraset rub on letters to create these amazing shapes, all curves and lines that were different from other visual poetry I began to see. I wanted to make such shapes and I wanted to see if I could translate the colours in my head for certain letters correctly. I worked with MS Paint at first and then switched to Photoshop and now I’m playing around with Illustrator. I have a whole bunch of colour libraries at my disposal.
It’s a nice thought to think I’m curating a community of visual poets. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and be as supportive as possible, and share what I’ve learned and what others teach me.
I was told by several men in the mid aughts that few women made visual poetry. It was disappointing and it made me feel maybe like I shouldn’t do it or try to. So I wanted to see if that was true. It isn’t. But women visual poets are not always easy to find. In the sixties and seventies, there were anthologies that included no or almost no women. This had the unfortunate result that in much academic publishing women’s visual poetry was/maybe isn’t even studied that much now, it seems. Erasure causes a chain reaction and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Recently an anthology, Women in Concrete: 1959-1979 came out with Primary Information. It includes fifty women and it’s amazing. Turns out women do make visual/concrete poetry and have been doing it for a long time.
In the Spring of 2021, I’ll be able to talk more about a project I’m working on that is still a badly kept secret for now, but it entails finding out as much as I can about the women who are currently making visual poetry and art that engages with text/elements of language. With the help of many editors, visual poets, publishers and enthusiasts, the list includes more than one thousand women so far and counting. I want women to be inspired to feel that what they do has value and also to know that they can do what they want to do, even if some old white dude canon wasn’t and still isn’t interested. I’m interested and many are.
Erasure leads to invisibility and stops creativity. Any discipline, whether it is visual poetry or art or poetry or film or dance or whatever, is poorer, and less interesting when it erases its creators, based on gender, orientation, skin colour, ethnicity, ableism. If we want an enriching conversation about art, literature etc, we have to include all participants and be open to a variety of practices. This is how we grow.
a few other links to recent interviews