First Language(s): French
Second Language(s): English
oꞴli̊que/o is a burgeoning poet who recently migrated to Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Following several months in Malaysia devoted to tracing out the migration patterns of sea snails, he’s glad to have unveiled his own direction in life as a residential carpenter. To date, his poems have appeared in two print journals, The Ottawa Arts Review and PACE.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I recall frequently scouring my school’s library for any book falling under the genre of horror. I gorged on the Goosebumps series like grapes. One by one, I checked out R.L. Stein’s books, gravitating towards any I hadn’t yet read (or any that I’d thoroughly enjoyed). Other times, I checked out urban legend anthologies. Of these, one book in particular stands out, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. As an eleven-year-old boy with an impressionable imagination, those gray-scale ink illustrations dripping with beauty, in tandem with their gruesome repertoire of tales, I was imprinted with a lingering fascination for all things grotesque. To this day, my daydreams (nightmares?) surprise me with images reminiscent of Harold the Scarecrow skinning a farmer over a roof or The Wendigo dragging a forest guide against snow-laden grounds until his feet burned away.
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
When I turned fifteen, a few of my friends got together to buy me a guitar as a birthday gift. I immediately grew enamoured with the process of learning to play an instrument, the trance of creation. Sometime later, once my knowledge and skill grew competent enough to craft songs (to get girls), I found that I enjoyed scribing lyrics almost more so than sequencing notes and chords together. Before long, I had more lyrics than musical compositions. Being a shy kid, I also found poetry to be less anxiety inducing than the performance elements integrally tied to musicianship. So, my writing found its roots in musical processes that neatly diverged into two seemingly distinct yet compatible activities, together an early mosaic that represented a burgeoning tendency for artistic expression. Since then, I’ve virtually ceased playing guitar and writing songs altogether, but poetry, even twelve years later, remains an anchored and engaging creative act (that conveniently keeps my lady happy).
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
I ventured into the bush to work as a tree planter. I worked in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. These summers were thoroughly ripe with unforgettable experiences ranging from staring into the eyes of an adrenaline-drenched black bear from ten feet away, wild liquor-fuelled tent parties, to enduring unending days under deluges of rain and bugs. Though, Alberta was the most memorable. There, the company I worked for transported us from camp to our work sites exclusively via helicopter. The amalgamation of ascending at 7am sharp submerged under the drone of helicopter rotors as grogginess gave way to heightening anticipation, all the while gazing over the vast forest landscape, cultivated a viscerally stark intensity in our days. There was one day, partnered with Isaac, when we were assigned a special mission: planting burns. This is when trees are planted into ashen soil spots where rejected lumber is burned. Turns out ash makes excellent fertilizer. In the helicopter, we were given a map indicating drop-off, burn spots and the pick-up location. From site to site, we rushed and trundled through year-old overgrowth and swamps to plant the trees. By day’s end, we’d planted 4500 trees each, personal bests.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
A musical atmosphere is an essential component in achieving that sweet mesmeric state of creation. For fostering a genuine flow, I rely on instrumental compositions. Lately, I’ve been listening to Caroline Shaw and Olivia de Prato. Generally, I avoid lyrically loaded content because, while they can foster a greater spontaneity in my register, they do tend to stress and scare off the already elusive scenes and figures of my imagination. Though, there are intentional exceptions. I’ve before coupled single albums to the crafting of poem cycles, using the duration of the album as a timer for its writing sessions. For this kind of process, I prefer to listen to albums in which singing is incorporated as another element in an immersive instrumental ambiance. What I seek, call it a shamanistic quality. I want to be hypnotized when writing. The band, Swans, has given me the most success in becoming so. When reading, on the other hand, I require complete stillness, silence. I like to chew on an author’s sentences, weighing them, rereading and digesting them until they’re a natural part of me. Lyrics tend to interrupt that process, thus I foster as pure a solitude as I can muster.
Issue Fall '19