Your Dream Vacation, with Andy McGuire

PapirmassINTERVIEWS

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Andy McGuire‘s poetry is humorous and in a format you’ve likely not encountered before, so it should come as no surprise that he is also a visual artist and musician (he has released two folk records and shared the stage with acts like Justin Rutledge, John K. Samson, and the Great Lake Swimmers). Below, we talk dream vacations, the hierarchy of apples and oranges, the necessity of bear bells, and list-making. Find his list poems in Issue 69, paired with the photography of Sarah Bodri.


 

Your poetry in this issue takes the form of lists.
How did your practice evolve to this simple, yet highly inventive, form? 

The lists began as an accident. About a year ago I came across the word Afghanistan and immediately made a list called Top Ten Stans, which included preeminent Stans such as Stan Cup, Stan Park, Paul Stan, and of course, Afghanistan. It was fun as hell to write. I had my first taste of the widening of sense that lies at the heart of the lists. I love the sparseness of the form, the freedom of its constraints. I get to shake my chains in maternity pants. Poetry and lists share a long history. I want to lend the poetic list new life on a distant sister planet. What began as a side project has become a full manuscript. Side projects often steal the limelight.
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Give us your top ten life moments. 

10. Detained in Nashville (2013)
9. House raid (2004)
8. Building the Darryl Hannah (2009)
7. Arrested in Florida (1998)
6. The drive across Canada (2008)
5. My first solo gig (2010)
4. Landing in Resolute (2008)
3. Having all of my writing and music gear stolen (2014)
2. Shooting a pigeon with my Daisy (1993)
1. The week I started writing (2008)

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What role do lists play in your personal life? 

I recently conceded to the holy mess of life and started making daily to-do lists. I am very organized in my writing practice, not so much when it comes to library late fees and remembering birthdays. The Top Ten poems unfolded from my personal life, in the sense that most of the them were written while I was taking breaks from writing. Lists leapt from the ether while I was reading, washing dishes, walking to the gym.
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Are lists inherently hierarchical?

Apples and oranges would be the sovereigns of grocery stores if this were true.
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You’re going on a road trip. What’s on your packing list? 

Passport
Underwear
Bear bells
Calamine
Written apology
Everything I own
Divining rod
Flare gun
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And what’s the playlist?

Roger Miller
Bill Callahan
Eric Church
Pregnant silence
Preemptive disappointment
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Favourite gas station tasty treat?

Tylenol
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What’s up next for Andy McGuire?

My first poetry collection, Country Club, launches in October with Coach House Books. I also have a non-poetry project in the works and will soon record my fifth album.

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Andy McGuire is our September 2015 writer. See more at andymcguire.ca