Jason Christie has been published in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies. He has also contributed as an editor, along with Derek Beaulieu and A. Rawlings, to the anthology Shift &Switch: New Canadian Poetry, published by Mercury Press in 2005. His books of poetry, i-ROBOT (EDGE/Tesseract, 2006) and Canada Post (snare books), are wickedly funny and fiercely intelligent. Most recently Jason was short-listed for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. He’s also a swell guy who knows the importance of ordering a caesar with brunch.
How do you work your way through revisions? Do you have any tricks or theories to removing commas, words or lines? Any special chairs or states of mind you like to work from?
Jason Christie: Revisions are writing. I slam words down really quickly when I write. The poems usually rush out in one sitting. I love revising poems. I revise endlessly. As regards special chairs or states of mind… my writing has always had to adopt a guerrilla stance toward sitting somewhere and thinking deeply and at length, meaning I’ve written poems in the mechanical room, beside the boilers and next to a water tower of a Sears Department store in Calgary, meaning I’ve written poems on my phone while hiding from torrential rain in Vancouver, meaning I wrote poems at a bar called the Absinthe Pub which used to be located beside Winters Residence at York University in Toronto, meaning I meander through life without ever feeling the need to blockade the world or time in order to write. Writing and revising happen constantly. I am open to the possibility of writing anywhere and anytime.
My theories are almost all tricks. When I revise I mostly look for anything that doesn’t startle me and I wreck it. So, I tend to let the sound lead me through a poem and if that isn’t working then I arrange words and sometimes mangle sentences so that the sounds move in interesting ways. On a cursory level my poems probably look like blocks of prose and I work really hard to make them function on a very obvious discursive level while also playing with the sounds that spill over and around the punctuation from sentence to sentence. I think that is the real power of a prose poem: to be at once sensible and
impossible to sense. The rootedness of prose gets to jangle off the unobtainable sonority of syllables. Revising becomes a way to tighten and heighten the discomfort between the world and the way words approximate it.
Robert Lowell wrote that “Revision is inspiration.” To what extent do you think that’s true? How would you rewrite Lowell: “Revision is __________”
Jason Christie:Revision is the key to comedy! Or was that revision? Repetition is the key to revising… Inspiration is the key to comedy? Things that aren’t obvious the first go round become glaringly clear with time and revision opens the possibilities of a poem.
Do you feel any difference or make any distinction between editing a single poem all by its lonesome and editing a series of poems for a collection?
Jason Christie: Well, I think that editing a collection and editing a poem share a lot of things in that editing a poem full of lines/sentences requires the same kind of small and local attention to detail with an eye to the macro effect that editing a book full of poems requires when you are looking at things on a poem by poem level. I believe that move from the small and local to the large and global is a really important aspect of writing. Moving that way through a poem, revising along the
way, demonstrates an openness to alterity that is also extremely important to understanding myself as a poet and my relationship to language/things/others, especially my small and local role relative to the larger, faceless power structures that I encounter.
Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to editing your own work or someone else’s?
Jason Christie: I don’t have pet peeves about editing at all. I enjoy editing a lot. Getting the chance to read something by someone else that is rough, unfocused and unpolished is extremely exciting. I feel privileged to see things in that state, not only because the person trusts me enough to invite me in to the process but also because the writing often has an immediacy that is polished away by the time a press considers the book/poem/story publishable.
Are there any lines from an early draft of a poem that you’d like to share? What ideas, principles or gut feelings guided you through those changes?
Jason Christie: I don’t keep early drafts around. It isn’t that I’m worried someone will find them and think that they are awful. I just don’t feel compelled to archive my writing.