CATHERINE OWEN is the author of fifteen collections of poetry and prose, including Riven (ECW 2020) and Locations of Grief: an emotional geography (Wolsak & Wynn 2020). Born in Vancouver BC, she now lives in a 1905 home in Edmonton Alberta where she edits and hosts the podcast Ms Lyric's Poetry Outlaws. You can read An Abecedarian for the Garden in the April 2023 issue.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context?
An Abecedarian for the Garden comes from my collection called Moving to Delilah, which will be out from Freehand Books next Spring. This piece was written about my first garden at this 1905 house I purchased in 2018 and so incorporates the bits & pieces of the former owner’s garden and longer-term detritus, but also the hopes of what the gardener, and the writer, can create still in the now. Abecedarians offer the challenge of shaping 26 initial letters into the beginnings of meaning and its resonance, unfolding process through the building blocks of our language.
Do you have a collection of poetry that acts as a touchstone?
I read widely in a range of styles and forms but for over a decade I kept returning to John Ashbery’s surrealist poems, especially his books from the 70s and 80s like Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Houseboat Days or A Wave. He taught me to take further risks, indubitably.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few collections of poetry: Commemorations by the Weather and Here’s to You, Sunset, memoirs known as One is None and a YA novel called Verse, plus episodes for my podcast Ms Lyric’s Poetry Outlaws and reviews, always.
Are there other art forms that inspire or inform your poetry?
All of them. I adore all kinds of music (from Vivaldi to Thundermother), modern dance, Expressionist art, photography and the endless varieties of snowflakes.
How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?
Poetry begins my every day. My partner calls me a word farmer. The poem is paramount, without doubt.