The art of writing #16 : Terese Mason Pierre

How did you first come to poetry?

When I was a child, I read Shel Silverstein's, "Where the Sidewalk Ends," religiously, but wrote fiction, mostly autobiographical. When I got to elementary school, I would write poems for school assignments, and always received positive feedback from my teachers. I started publishing my poetry at age sixteen. I credit the Toronto Public Library for introducing me to venues for my work, other authors and poets, and giving me the confidence to pursue writing.

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem begins with a line or phrase, something I hear in passing, on TV, in a lecture, from a friend. For example, I took the MCAT recently and found a great line in a biology passage. For others, a poem may begin with an emotion, or an event, or a destination. But I've written ekphrasis poems in the past, too, and the artwork necessarily generates the piece. I keep a folder in my notes app with lines I think are worth expanding upon. I don't believe it matters so much how a poem starts, but where we go with it, where readers go with it.

How did publishing your first chapbook change your writing?

Assembling my chapbook made me realize how highly I valued external validation, and forced me to think about what kind of writer I wanted to be. It also called attention to the kinds of topics I gravitated towards, and I started to reflect on why I thought those topics were interesting and worth transforming into poems. In terms of writing, I am much more motivated to write more chapbooks. I have started a second, it will contain speculative poems. My chapbook has made me more excited about writing, and about poetry in general.

Have you a daily schedule by which you work, or are you working to fit this in between other activities?

I don't have a daily schedule. I would like to, but my body and my mind aren't able to make space for that kind of discipline at the moment. I write when I can, when I am inspired, and then, I spend as long on the poem as I am able. I would like to write a book someday, and I know that will take mental effort, but when that time comes, I will force myself to be more diligent in my writing practice. I write on my phone, in my notes app. Sometimes, I carry a notebook. For a long time, I was writing on the subway, during long delays. It works for me, so I keep doing it.

What are your favourite print or online literary journals?

I love my journal, Augur, not just because I edit it, but because it's really carving a space for speculative writing that prioritizes marginalized peoples. I also enjoy reading work in the Longleaf Review, The Malahat Review and the Temz Review.

Who are some of the writers you are reading lately that most excite you?

In terms of contemporary poets, I am in awe of Faith Arkorful, Khashayar Mohammadi and Cody Caetano. I also deeply enjoy the work of writers Nisa Malli, Kate Finegan, Cassidy McFadzean,Tea Mutonji, Dominik Parisien, Canisia Lubrin, David James Brock, Fawn Parker, Zalika Reid-Benta, and Ian Williams.

Terese Mason Pierre is a writer, editor and organizer. Her work has appeared in the Hart House Review, The Temz Review, The Collapsar, and elsewhere in print and online. She is the poetry editor of Augur Magazine, a Canadian speculative and surrealist literary journal. Her first chapbook is forthcoming with Anstruther Press.

A selection of her poems appeared in the second issue.