The art of writing #33 : Erin Emily Ann Vance

How did you first come to writing poetry? What is it about the form that resonates?

I fell in love with poetry after taking a course for children at the University of Calgary when I was 10 years old. It was led by an amazing woman named Jenn Aldred. I was an extremely anxious child, and the way Jenn taught journaling, storytelling, and creativity really resonated with me. She taught black out poetry and collage as well as led us through different exercises like writing an advertisement for a muse and turning a frustration into a poem. I still use the tools that she gave me to deal with my anxiety, almost sixteen years later! Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of poems and stories. What resonates with me about poetry is that an entire world can be encapsulated in just a few lines. An entire story can rest in the space between two words. For me, poetry is all about conjuring up images and manipulating the senses of the reader in a very physical way while they are reading, as well as being about what isn’t written on the page. Poetry is a kind of magic in that there are rules, yes, but the true master knows how to break them.

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem begins with an image or a feeling. I’ve written quite a bit of ekphrastic poetry responding to artwork, but most of my poetry is responding to or voicing an image that pops into my head.

You’ve published poetry in numerous journals as well as a novel. Do you see your writing as a single, extended project, or a series of disconnected threads? How do you keep the genres straight?

There are certainly many threads that link my writing together; themes and subjects that appear over and over, but I see my work as a body of work comprising of individual projects. I don’t ever wish to limit my future writing by branding myself as a certain ‘type’ of writer. That said, there is a natural continuity in much of my work, as it all comes from me and my particular tastes and sensibilities, as ever-changing as they may be.

In terms of working in multiple genres, I go back and forth frequently! I am nearly always writing prose and poetry, and they inform each other. Writing poetry makes me a more succinct prose writer and writing prose helps me stay grounded in storytelling while writing poetry.

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

I’m a full-time grad student living in an woman’s spare room with my partner, so at the moment I have no daily schedule or designated writing space of which to speak. I’ve always written while going to school and/or working (sometimes multiple jobs), and while I would love to have writing be my full-time job, I really can’t imagine that world at the moment. I think a lot of writers are working around family, career, and other types of labour, and that financial insecurity is a huge issue for many of us. At the moment, I don’t have the time or space to write every day, unless you count work emails and papers for school, but I do read every day, and I journal, which to me are important parts of the writing process, even if they aren’t necessarily sitting down and doing the writing itself.

I’m studying folklore at University College Dublin; my writing often touches on folklore and it is an integral part of my reading and writing life, so by pursuing folklore studies I hope to enrich my writing and understanding of the world.

What are your favourite print or online literary journals?

I have a ton, but I really want more people to read Augur, Antilang, Blood Orange Tarot, Canthius, Barren Magazine, The Selkie, Untethered, and New Forum!

I’m also obsessed with the small presses Coven Editions and Post Ghost Press.

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

Manahil Bandukwala, Aurielle Marie, Conyer Clayton, Isabella Wang, and Kimberly Reyes are the poets I’ve been reading the most lately; I CANNOT wait for Conyer and Isabella’s debut collections, and everyone should read Kimberley Reyes’ Running to Stand Still. Alison McFarland’s first book is coming out with the University of Calgary Press soon, which is SO exciting; Allie is the editor of AntiLang and just an all-around gem of a person. I’m also ALWAYS eager to read whatever Mike Thorn is publishing- his short story collection Darkest Hours is terrifying! The next book on my TBR is Republic of Shame: Stories from Ireland's Institutions for 'Fallen Women' by Caelainn Hogan. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her speak twice and this is a work of groundbreaking journalism that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.

Erin Emily Ann Vance is the author of the novel Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers (Stonehouse 2019) and five chapbooks of poetry. She holds an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Calgary and studies folklore at University College Dublin where she is researching infant burial customs and urban beekeeping practices.

Author photo by Stephanie Meloche.

A selection of her poems appear in the third issue.