An Interview with Laurie Koensgen

LAURIE KOENSGEN (she/her) lives and writes in Ottawa. Her poetry has appeared in journals, anthologies and online magazines across North America and in the UK. Recent publishers include Juniper, flo. Literary Magazine, Sunday Mornings at the River, The League of Canadian Poets’ Poetry Pause, The Madrigal, and Contemporary Verse 2. Her latest chapbook, Blue Moon/ Orange Begonias, is with Rose Garden Press. 
You can read The Work 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?

The Work arose from an exercise in anaphora. The prompt: Write a poem of lines beginning with Suppose. I used magic realism to stir up the imperative, and free the poem from comfortable presumptions the word suppose evokes for me.  

I wanted to describe releasing a new poem — post-creation, when a piece that has just fledged transcends. I’m interested in artists’ connections to their works. Many of my friends are visual artists who make physical creations with their hands. Objects of colour, form and texture occupy their studios and homes. Poets can reproduce their poems; the originals are not prized. I think about visual artists’ experiences of loss when their oeuvres are sold (or broken, or forced into obscurity).

Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone? 

I often reach for David O’Meara’s books, especially his recent Masses on Radar. The best word for what I discover in David’s work is authenticity. He uses the vernacular but what he imparts is never common. His images are startlingly precise. David’s poetry reminds me to avoid the sentimental, the ornamental and abstract. 

What are you working on now? 

When I answered this question last year I was working on a chapbook of feminist poems that trace a love relationship. I have a second chapbook manuscript forming now: Small Psalms for Moving On. The poems are spare and contemplative, and few.

What are you reading or watching or listening to lately that intrigues or inspires you? 

I was thrilled to see Fall On Your Knees, the stage adaptation of Anne-Marie MacDonald’s epic novel. It’s a “music-movement-and-story driven” experience that should tour the world, but Canada first. It took ten years to create, through the collaborative work of vital women artists, with the financial support of many arts organizations.  

Another stunning experience for me was Sarah Polley’s film, Women Talking (based on Miriam Toews’ beautiful book). It is moving and stilling. Women talking and listening, meaningfully, to each other. 

I’m reading Polley’s Run Toward the Danger, six resonant essays examining traumas that have informed her remarkable life so far. She is “bruisingly candid,” “riveting” and “brave.”   

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?

I learn weekly from my Ruby Tuesday writing colleagues, too numerous to name here. Their guidance sustains me. 

The late Ottawa poet and teacher, Barbara Myers, offered me advice about poem endings: You don’t need to tie everything up in a bow. She meant, I think, that a poem is not an equation or a tidy essay. I’m learning not to solve or summarize.

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