The art of writing #32 : Sacha Archer

How did you first come to poetry?

My grandmother was a librarian and my grandmother and I were thick as thieves. In my youth she would always bring over discards; new books, also. There were always books, some of them poetry. But, I guess that’s how poetry came to me, not how I came to poetry, and those books would have been intended for children of which I was one at the time. Actually, it’s all a bit muddled in my mind exactly how it all unfolded, what came first and which chose who. As to personal mythology, one day during high school I walked into a used bookshop and not having a lead on what to buy, picked up a book of poetry without rhyme or reason, took it home and read it. The book happened to be Ariel. Sylvia Plath… That is one clear entrance.  

How does your visual work interact with your text?

Most often, not at all. They are essentially the same thing. They come from the same place but rarely do I think of them as in conversation. On the other hand, I am working on a series called String Quartet which, when it is finished, will be four long poems, each derived from a visual work. For each poem there are a set of panels which have been covered haphazardly with pages from a number of different books. The panels form a single piece, and over the panels is draped a piece of thread or string. A text is then collected from following the string and recording the words it happens to cross. Of course in this case the visual work has been created expressly as a vehicle for the composition of a text, while generally I do not work that way.

How does a poem begin?

“So much depends…” is how one poem begins. Sometimes in silence—if a poem rises from silence I am happy. Maybe I’m at work working in the greenhouse, hours by myself, and at some point in the endless stream of thoughts I say something to myself, out loud, and that could be the beginning of a poem. I’m often talking to myself. In terms of concrete poetry, there might be an idea, an image in my head, but usually it’s an action I’m not entirely aware of—placing a letter and building with rhythms and abrasions. Also, I respond to objects. This is especially true of event-poems. If an object speaks to me, I listen.

How did publishing your first chapbook change your writing?

I suppose I suddenly realized that people were reading my work and I was on my way to fame so I really better shape up and start making sense. So I wrote a poem that made sense—and I thought it bitter. I insulted it. I fled…

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

I work a physically exhausting job from 7 to 4:30 Monday to Friday and every other Saturday, and when I get home I’m tired and there’s the kids and I can’t do anything, can’t focus my mind until everyone has gone to bed. So, generally I’ll try to get some work done somewhere between 10pm and 2am. But, if I’ve had a few beers my fatigue increases significantly and am mostly incapable of anything. I do what I can when I can.

What are your favourite print or online literary journals?

Michael Casteels puts out a fantastic, absolutely stunning journal through his Puddles of Sky Press called illiturature. Each issue is an artwork of curation and design. To Call edited by psw is an interesting ongoing survey of international concrete poetry. Also, fillingStation is a reliable source of the experimental in print. One more I’ve been delighted with for its always surprising variation is above/ground press’s GUEST journal. 

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

Everybody should know Gustave Morin’s work—it is unparalleled. Also, Kimberly Campanello’s MOTHERBABYHOME published by zimZalla ( is one of the most amazing books I have read in a while.  

Sacha Archer is a writer that works in numerous mediums as well as being the editor of Simulacrum Press ( Archer has two full-length collections of poetry, Detour (gradient books, 2017) and Zoning Cycle (Simulacrum Press, 2017), as well as a number of chapbooks, the most recent being TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press, 2018), Contemporary Meat (The Blasted Tree, 2018) and Autopsy Report (above/ground press) as well as Houses forthcoming from No Press. His book Framing Poems is forthcoming from Timglaset. Archer resides in Ontario, Canada.

A sequence of his visuals appear in the third issue.