Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. Her most recent book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019) and her new book of poems, Emptying the Ocean, will be published by Frontenac House in Fall 2022. Kim is the Ontario Representative of The Writers’ Union of Canada (2020-24), a member of The League of Canadian Poets, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She may be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com
Read her poem “When the bees fly out of your mouth” in the July 2022 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?
I was thinking about how people keep secrets, or aren’t honest, and how you can think you know someone well and believe it’s the whole of them, but then find out it’s not. The dissonance between the two—the fashioned illusion and the reality that you never really know because it was kept so separate from you—can cause you to feel completely shattered inside. It’s a poem about how dishonesty can shatter you, especially when you didn’t see it coming.
You don’t know which words are truthful, or which ones to trust, and so “When bees fly out of your mouth” speaks to that distrust and shock.
Trust is a fragile thing, and honesty shores it up, but when someone breaks your trust, and the sense of safety in a relationship disappears, everything falls apart. In this case, someone hurt me and broke my sense of trust. The words he spoke shattered my world. I wanted to get at that sense of destruction, of the loss of trust, and of how words can be cruel and painful.
Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone or a lodestar?
I keep Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript” in my heart and mind. It reminds me that there are liminal spaces that cannot be defined, but which might offer me the most growth. In my life, sometimes it’s the smallest, quietest moments that open my heart to act as a catalyst for my growth and blossoming.
If you didn’t write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life?
I can’t even envision or imagine a life without poetry. It’s the core of who I am and how I move through the world. It’s my first language. That said, I find that being outside in the bush, in amidst trees and next to a lake, is the closest I’ll likely ever get to the calm I get inside when I read or write poems.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a series of bee poems. I’m interested in exploring the legends and myths around bees in Celtic culture, but I’m also reading about environmental issues. For me, bees have become a fascination in recent years. When I was little, I ran from them, zigging and zagging to avoid being stung. Now, I am less terrified and more fascinated.
How or where or with what does a poem begin?
A poem begins with a phrase or an image in my head. The first line arrives and, if I don’t write it down, it disappears. I make it a practice to write those lines down, and then others will soon usually follow. When I’m in the bush hiking, I find that I’ll take photos that later become prompts for writing poems. Wherever I see images, there’s likely a poem in the works inside my head.
Are there other art forms that inspire or inform your poetry?
I listen to music all the time, and I love seeing original art in art galleries. I make trips to see certain exhibits and spend time with art that inspires me. Some of the loveliest poems I’ve written have been ekphrastic ones. I’m fond of the work of Mary Pratt, Georgia O’Keefe, Alex Colville, and Frida Kahlo. I was never great in high school art class, but now I can write poems that are inspired by artists I’ve loved since I was a girl.
How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?
I don’t really have to ‘make space’ for it because it’s something that’s integral to who I am. I read poetry before bed, so there are always piles of books on the floor next to my bed, and I have books of poems lying around the house in various rooms. I read poems every day.
Have you ever received advice (or has there been something you’ve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it?
My current editor has taught me how to be more mindful of using ‘it’ and ‘that’ in my poems. Before she had a look at my recent work, I hadn’t really noticed. Now, moving forward with my new poems, I find I’ve taken that bit of advice in and am more mindful of line structure and specificity in language.
Do you belong to a writer’s group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback?
I am part of a creative non-fiction writers’ group, as well as a playwrights’ circle, but I don’t have a poetry circle. Normally, I send poems to a very close group of friends—not all poets, but mostly people who read widely. This year, that group has grown smaller as I’ve become more trusting of my own work. There are one or two, but not many more.
In terms of poetic style or craft, is there a big question you are trying to find an answer for?
I want to explore form more, so I’m taking a week-long course this summer to do that. I’d like to have a section in my bee poem sequence that conforms to a particular form. I’m drawn to the duplex and the triolet, but I’d like to experiment in other forms as well. (My glosas are always a bit wobbly, so I’d like to make them stronger by the end of the summer. I’d also really like to play with some villanelles.)
In terms of ‘big questions,’ I’m really just a very curious person. When questions arise in my mind—from reading or listening to CBC radio, or from conversations with friends—then I do more reading. Some of those questions and answers—ideas, really—end up working their way into my poems.