As part of Red Alder Review‘s Open Mic series – Q&A and poem from Elee Kraljii Gardiner.
Red Alder Review (RA): How do you normally connect to the poetry/literary community?
Elee Kraljii Gardiner (EKG): I talk to a lot of writers, all over the place, on different platforms, about writing and non-writing related things. Before the pandemic I went to a lot of events. Social media, which I love, helps me learn about new texts and authors I would otherwise have no chance to come near. I listen to poetry podcasts (Commonplace, The Slowdown), and I read and write reviews. I’m a freelance editor and also part of an MFA community in the US, which is bringing me into conversation with many poets.
RA: What is the most memorable poetry event or Open Mic you attended in-person?
EKG: I will never forget Erin Mouré reading poems with a sock puppet at Green College at UBC. Or Jordan Abel looping his voice while wearing a wrestling mask. And Ali Blythe reading from Hymnswitch at AWP and leaving the entire room sucking in its breath. Or Sherwin Bitsui reading Dissolve for the first event of The Whole Cloth, a reading series I started in which the author reads their entire book of poems in one sitting. That was magical.
I wish I could say I remember an open mic, but I have suppressed them all.
Someone always goes way beyond their time or opens by saying, “I’m going to read a poem I wrote on the way here!” as if inflicting unproofed, unedited, unrehearsed work on an audience is a good thing. It’s not.
RA: Who are the poets who most influence you?
EKG: I will remove the “most” and answer more generally that people influencing me right now include some of the brainiacs at the Institute of American Indian Arts: Ken White, Sherwin Bitsui, Joan Naviyuk Kane, Santee Frazier, and Jennifer Foerster.
RA: Whose work are you most excited about reading in the months to come?
EKG: I cannot wait to read Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon and Arachne from Nightboat!
RA: How has the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic affected your writing practice?
EKG: The pandemic coincides with deadlines for my MFA; I just sent off a draft of my thesis. I don’t have the brainspace to start new poems in this waiting period. And that has been difficult because I metabolize things by writing, so this undiffused energy turned into the project called BECAUSE I AM STAYING IN (archived here: https://eleekg.com/because-i-am-staying-in/). It’s literally “re-creational”. The Getty Museum invited people to try restaging pieces of art with objects in their home. I did one as a joke and then got completely hooked on the process. Making physical things is such a relief! And so diversionary! I realize now I did the exact same thing when I was waiting for my second book, Trauma Head, to come out: I set myself a constraint and made the Trauma Head medical file chapbook, which ended up being nominated for the bpNichol Chapbook Award.
RA: What are you working on right now?
EKG: I’m trying to break narrative habits. I’m jumping into association and sound.
RA: Do you have any new work forthcoming (in journals, chapbooks, collections,anthologies, etc.)?
EKG: In April 2020 I am happy to welcome Yvonne Blomers’ Sweetwater anthology (Caitlin Press) which I have a poem in, and Jason Christie’s nobody chapbook. (https://n-o-b-o-d-y.ca) I want to explore and restore for a while. Thanks for asking!
Zuihitsu for Chris Kraus
Let’s lift a glass to balance and fix the pyrrhic story
that correspondence times ambivalence
equals reading the dictionary well.
Example: all I want is a whole and empty hand
when every room tastes of pre-snow.
What to study, if not something within this little polyglot.
Where else am I fluent. Quickly confessed
I can spit until my tongue burns, read the page wide open
dive through slits in a sheet. Slide
over and ask myself directly
how much waiting can I bear.
Rhetoric touches my shoulder, refuses to gulp.
Here again I am playing faint and edible
for hours. I pick at the glass curtain between hope
and another word for yearning is skirt.
Elee Kraljii Gardiner is the author of the poetry books Trauma Head, a chapbook of the same name, serpentine loop, and the anthologies Against Death: 35 Essays on Living, and V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For a decade she directed Thursdays Writing Collective, a beloved Vancouver-based writing program. eleekg.com