from Tenement – Conyer Clayton

As part of Red Alder Review‘s Open Mic series – Q&A and poem from Conyer Clayton.


Red Alder Review (RA): How do you normally connect to the poetry/literary community? 

Conyer Clayton (CC): Through buying and reading books, doing poetry work-shops, writing a review here and there, and occasionally making it out to readings. I think that once all of this is over, I’ll probably stop taking them for granted and make it out to more. My job was very socially and emotionally intense, and I am actually an introvert, though I may not appear that way when socializing, so I often found myself too pooped after work to get out to events. 

RA: What is the most memorable poetry event or Open Mic you attended in-person?

CC: In 2018, I saw Tanya Evanson perform at the NAC here in Ottawa, and she really blew my mind. It was the most engrossing, creative, dynamic, and free performance I have ever witnessed. To me, she blurs the line between spoken word and “page” poetry, the “accessible” and the avant-garde, the spiritual and the worldly. I found it extremely inspiring.

RA: Who are the poets who most influence you?

CC: I always find this question really hard, because it changes constantly. The most consistent answer would be my friends. I am very inspired by my friends. But at this current moment, I re-visiting H.D. and Frank Stanford a lot, and was shone the light that is Ruth Stone (HOW HAD I NEVER KNOWN?).

RA: Whose work are you most excited about reading in the months to come?

CC: I am really excited to get my hands on Lauren Turner’s debut, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives, as well as Rasiqra Revulva’s Cephalopography 2.0. 

I also have a big ol’ stack of books I haven’t read yet, and the ones I am looking most forward to diving into are Alessandra Naccarato’s Re-Origin of Species, and 7th Cousins, an automythography, by Erin Brubacher and Christine Brubaker.

RA: How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic affected your writing practice?

CC: Well, I got temporarily laid-off my full-time position as a gymnastics coach, so I am finding myself with more time than I have ever had in my life. I’ve always worked full-time, or 2 jobs, or a job and school, so having this space for creative pursuits is very strange, but wonderful, though I obviously wish it wasn’t delivered in the form of a global pandemic.

I am spending a lot of time editing a manuscripts I hadn’t had time before to give attention to yet. I am also doing a lot of collaborative writing with a variety of lovely folks, including emilie kneifel, Manahil Bandukwala (we actually wrote a whole chapbook together at the beginning of this!), and a new collective just formed, called VII (which is myself, Manahil, Chris Johnson, Helen Robertson, Ellen Chang-Richardson, Margo LaPierre, and nina drystek). It has been a great way to stay connected to others right now.

RA: What are you working on right now?

CC: I am working on some music, editing a new full-length MS, drafting more dream poems, and also trying to work on this other hybrid project called Tenement, which is where the poem I read in the video is from.

RA: Do you have any new work forthcoming (in journals, chapbooks, collections, anthologies, etc)?

CC: I had 2 collaborative poems (one with em kneifel and the other with VII) just come out in Collusion Book’s digital anthology. I have 3 poems forthcoming in The Capilano Review. These are the ones which co-won the 2019 Robin Blaser Poetry Prize, alongside Bardia Sinaee. And I have 3 poems forthcoming in a future issue of rob mclennan’s cool new online journal, periodicities.

And of course, my book, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions) officially releases in just a few weeks, on May 1st!

from Tenement

VI. Purified (Filter me, baby)

What I’m really waiting for is coming back as water. To have an existence as
close to un-being as possible. To be a shapeshifter, existing in everything at
once. To be essential. Man, can you imagine being needed like that? Knowing
you can fill every atomized gap. Here I am. Overflowing potholes. Plumping up
the greenery. Streaming smoothly between gills, bringing breath to you.
Keeping breath from you. Just one drop too much or too little of me, you’re
gone. That’s a lot of responsibility for something with no self control. For
spillage whose speed is determined by the shape of limestone and riverbeds.
Whose physical state is rocked by our orbit. Yet, I carve these rivers myself. In
my present current I create my future path. I drift windlessly past a half moon
on a clear night, gazing down on myself gulped after a waking dream.
Quenching Colorado fires. Staining family pictures in a flooded basement. Her
face now pockmarked and yellowed from my presence. The paper hung to dry,
my leaving leaves her wrinkled, and I’m inhaled into your body as you count
backwards from ten. Man, what a stroke of luck that’d be. The definition of

Conyer Clayton reads from a project she is working on called, “Tenement.”

Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa-based artist and gymnastics coach, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She has 6 chapbooks; most recently Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019). In 2018, she released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still.  She is the winner of Arc’s 2017 Diana Brebner Prize and The Capilano Review’s 2019 Robin Blaser Poetry Contest, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full-length collection of poetry, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions), is forthcoming May 2020.

Twitter / FB / IG: @conyerclayton



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s