MB: I wanted to start with this: it is hard for one to assess oneself. It is a hardship not only prompted by the immodesty of the enterprise, but because one is incapable of understanding himself fullyRead More
PVT: I always wanted to be a writer.
MB: Do you write poetry, Peter?
PVT: Not really, but, I guess, visually. My language-poetry is wanting.Read More
Q: Why/How did you decide to submit this particular poem in the contest?
A: I read this poem at my friend’s party to a few writers and poets, and received a very positive feedback. The same night I accidently stumbled upon the contest announcement, and I decided to submit. I have never participated in any contests before. This is my first submission.
Q: What's the backstory to this poem? (How did it develop? What was its source(s) of inspiration?)
A: Once I got an email from a friend of mine, who mentioned something about the winter light. The way he phrased it, triggered in me this brewing mental activity of getting inside a poem almost instantaneously. I think I wrote it within a few hours although kept going back with editing. A plain word “light: - has been made new by bringing up memories related to my childhood: the train trip, the fever I had, while travelling from a small writers’ village, where a poet Anna Akhmatova used to live. I think that’s what’s interesting about memory, when your listen to its voices, sometime they click into place and there would be things you find there. And this memory creates a shape around which something lives—and how it gives hints about what that thing is, but does not reveal it entirely. The strangest thing - you suddenly end up noticing things post-factum that you never had noticed before.
Q: Do you remember your first poem? Care to share a couple of lines? What inspired that first poem or your first piece of creative writing?
A: I think it was a poem I wrote when I was a teenager about tea and honey, and what happened and didn't happen between people. [I don’t recall the exact lines] It seems, I was already on the verge of this ‘looking back’ moment when I was interested in why things did or didn’t happen and their effects on people –why we say "yes" or "no," for instance, why we speak or remain silent, why know anything at all if nothing lasts or remains the same.
Q: Was poetry your first creative outlet or was it another style of writing? Or another art form?
A: When I immigrated to Canada, the question whether to be an artist or a writer was solved on its own because English isn’t my mother tongue. And for sometime, I couldn’t write even in Russian. It was a rather painful experience that I can compare perhaps to a phantom limb effect. So I became busy with becoming an artist, a photographer specifically. However, I realize, how much these two mediums feed into one another, at times intentionally and at times not. There’s a way to think of it as a continuance. It’s all one poem, essentially. If I am lucky there’s some sense at the end that both are an example of a life lived and re-imagined in a search for music through contemplative experience.
Q: Do other forms of artistic expression and/or life experience influence your writing?
Photography and music mostly. Because photography, the one I am interested in, behaves the way poems behave, they make a sound. The experience becomes direct – images and poetry, like music, are a direct transmission. When photographs or poems are true, they do that. I often see images first, and then pile sounds on top of them to make a poem.
Another thing, after having lived in Canada most of my life, I can consider myself bilingual. And bilingualism makes one aware of the gaps in how different languages model the way we think and the world around us. It also makes you worry yourself with a lot of "maybe[s],"with misinterpretations, mis-readings, mis-pronunciations, as well as with strange things that occur with foreign language acquisition when expressions appear strange, even arbitrary, and the sentence’s structures clash in all kinds of unusual ways.
Q: Influences - Who influenced or encouraged your writing -- which writers/authors, other artists, teachers or mentors, loved ones?
A: Where do I begin? In no specific order: Paul Celan, Marina Tsvetaeva, Louise Gluck, Osip Mandelshtam, Anne Carson, Sylvia Plath, Robert Haas, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Carl Philips. A couple of years ago, I took a poetry course at the University of Toronto with an extraordinary Canadian poet Ken Babstock. His mentorship has been important to me. And of course my friends, some are poets and writers themselves, some are not – just thoughtful people.
Q: What do you do to develop your craft (ex. read, writing exercises, take classes and courses)?
A: Reading for sure but I mostly walk. As I walk, I occasionally jot down ideas, words or sentences. I took this habit after Erik Satie. He used to walk long distances to write his music.
Q: Tell us about your mentoring experience with Contest Judge & Mentor, Stuart Ross.
A: Stuart has this amazing ability to recognize, feel, when there’s something hovering beneath the verbal, that mysterious emotional place in a poem that makes it work. To see enough unknown in it to be brought out. Besides, I absolutely adore his quick sense of humor when he would say things that are constructive but funny and encouraging at the same time.
Q: How will Stuart's guidance inform your future writing?
A: Looking closely and rerouting the patterns, looking in the unexpected places, or as he put it himself: ‘write what you don’t know.’
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