An Interview with Emily Cann

EMILY CANN ((she/her) has been writing her way back to PEI ever since she left. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Broken Pencil Magazine’s “Deathmatch,” Tendon, and Estuary Magazine. Her poetry has been shortlisted for Room Magazine’s annual poetry prize. Emily holds an MS in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University, an MA in English from the University of Guelph, and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. 

You can read her poem, In the wake in the April 2023 issue of Pinhole Poetry.

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?

This poem is part of a suite inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi—repairing broken pottery using gold lacquer. I’ve known several artists to take inspiration from this practice (one of the first I encountered was Hey Rosetta! with their song “Kintsukoroi”). What appeals to me so much about the art form of kintsugi is that the repairs/the healing contribute their own kind of unique beauty to an object. That idea is sometimes what allows me to find the hope required to persist in this world. So much of this poem is about breaking, but it is also about the beauty encased within those fractures.

If you didn’t write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life?

It probably sounds quite cliché at this point, but I would spend time in nature. Poetry offers a kind of peace and/or clarity, both when I write and when I read it. Spending time in a similar contemplative state—in the woods, or on a cold beach—offers comparable effects.

How do you revise your work?

I have yet to find many other writers that agree with me about this—but I love revision. Revision is where we do so much of our intellectual and creative work and I feel very engaged by it.

I think of a first draft of a poem like a skeleton. I hone in on the lines and phrases that are the most enticing, the most intriguing, and then I try to bring every other line, every other phrase, every other word up to that same standard. Sometimes those revisions will surpass what I thought of previously as my best and then I have to revise those first lines too. I think of it as an optimizing process.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel dance, addiction, and hope. I’m also working on a series of poems that interrogate death and violence in the natural world.

How or where or with what does a poem begin?

An errant thought usually. A few words in a row that sound good in my head. It usually starts with language and then blossoms out into images or narratives.

How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?

I find that I don’t make space for it so much as it barges in and interrupts whatever I thought I was doing. It often creeps into the margins of other projects, or while I’m running, listening to music or podcasts—a series of words will assert itself in my mind and demand I give it my full attention.

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