the 2020 roll of nickels year in review

I know you're probably searching for silver linings in this year largely-lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. They're likely few and far between, and you'll take whatever you can get. Well, dear reader, look no further

2019 was the quietest year in this blog's 14 year history, featuring a mere 25 blog posts. 2020 was on course for a similarly sluggish total (I posted only eight times between January and May), but once the initial shock of the pandemic and quarantine had subsided (and my wife and I had figured out how to manage two kids under five with - initially - no child care support) I set to work making Roll of Nickels a more vibrant space for the remainder of 2020. If I wasn't going to be able to talk poetry, and celebrate new books, in person, I was damn well going to do it here. 68 blog posts followed between June and December.

Those posts largely fell into two categories, neither of which will surprise longtime readers: author interviews and quotes from the interviews and essays of others. The quotes were derived from a stack of books, and from 120+ bookmarks I'd accumulated in my browser. All in all, I posted 43 quotes in 2020, way up from the one lonely quote I posted in 2019... Excerpts will continue trickling out on the blog well into next February, after which I suppose I'll have to start reading the internet all over again. If you're interested in quotes on writing, click here to read them in one endless list, or check out the "quotes on writing by..." section of the sidebar to select particular writers who most interest you.

2020 was also a big year for my interviews with poets and writers. I published eleven interviews this year (tying last year's record), and in the process surpassed 70 interviews all-time (you can browse all my interviews here). You can read highlights from this year's interviews below, which once again were primarily conducted for my Poetry Month interview series with Read Local BC. Much thanks to them, and to EVENT and The Puritan, for providing space for my interviews in 2020.

is in the house!
Beyond the blog, for me 2020 proved to be a well-timed off year between books (I've had a poetry collection or anthology out every year since 2016, and my fourth poetry collection, Strangers, will be out in 2021). I wrapped up my final Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and What the Poets Are Doing launches (in Victoria, Halifax and Fredericton) in the pre-COVID months, flying back from Fredericton less than a week before the country went into lockdown. I even managed to sneak in a few interviews promoting the various books. 

After that, things got quiet, though I did manage to write a couple short essays on my experiences editing Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and selecting the poems for the Poetry in Transit program. I devoted most of the rest of my poetry-community-building energy to organizing fun nonsense on Twitter, like the "Poetry March Madness" competition I held in March/April (which aimed to crown "the greatest poet of all of space and time"), and the "Book Cover Emoji" quizzes I ran throughout the summer and fall. Oh, and writing out every last word of my newly expanded, text-based "Introduction to Poetry" course with SFU, which has been re-branded as "Poetry 1" and will get started in January! 

The blog highlights are all from interviews this year. Let's get to it!

April 2020: The In-Between Place: An Interview with Francine Cunningham

"I didn’t want to include a translation guide for the Cree because if you know, you know, and if you don’t, that’s okay. I hope that there is a good balance in the book for folks, but ultimately I know who I write for, who I work for, and I’m okay with that." - Francine Cunningham

April 2020: Bowing to Silence: An Interview with Lorna Crozier

"One of the reasons I love poetry is that it bows to silence. There are spaces after the end of the line and spaces between stanzas and sometimes spaces before you get to the end of the page. Those spaces pay tribute to what can’t be spoken, to pauses, to hesitations, to gaps in our knowing and speaking. When we chose one word, we are gagging dozens of others. Poems, I believe, honour the impossibility of being able to utter something that matters in order to utter something that matters. Only in that state of doubt and doubtless failure can poetry come into being." - Lorna Crozier

April 2020: to love our beautiful planet even more: An Interview with annie ross

"i am grateful i grew up in a home where ghosts and others considered ‘impossible’ by mainstream culture were my everyday experiences." - annie ross

April 2020: Visible and Unmistakable: An Interview with Kyla Jamieson

"One of the fundamental questions I ask myself is how I want my work to make people feel. Where do I want to take people, and what do I want to leave them with? Can I leave people feeling like they’re closer to themselves than they were when they started reading?" - Kyla Jamieson


April 2020: Dew on the Hummingbird's Wing: An Interview with Yvonne Blomer

"The idea from Lilburn of “thrusting the world aside to grasp the presumed light within” is very much an issue with poetry. What is the light (or meaning, in a metaphorical sense) to that which I’m seeing before me? Why can’t we just see the river and let the river be?” - Yvonne Blomer

April 2020: Playfulness and Gravitas: An Interview with Jillian Christmas

"I try in my writing to speak from my experience but to leave room for the experiences that I could only ever imagine." - Jillian Christmas

April 2020: The Monastery of Poetry: An Interview with Evelyn Lau

"Most of my thirties, when Living Under Plastic came out, was basically spent in hibernation. I had stopped writing prose, and couldn’t find enough work to sustain myself; rather than admit my increasingly dire circumstances, I hunkered down and went through my savings as slowly as possible. When your external life shrinks, your interior life opens up — something to remember, perhaps, in these current times." - Evelyn Lau

May 2020: To Reach Each Other With Love: An Interview with Shazia Hafiz Ramji

"Port of Being was the first time my parents found out about the extent of my addiction. I am very lucky that they accepted me and continue to love me. In a strange way, that book has allowed me to feel more at ease in the world because it loosened some secrets (especially the addiction-related ones) and trauma." - Shazia Hafiz Ramji

September 2020: Old Stories Made New: An Interview with David Ly

"The book challenges ideas of what the narrator thinks is safe. The queer community (online and off) is lauded for being a “safe space,” which isn’t actually true: There are pockets of danger with different forms of discrimination. There are also moments of intimacy where it should feel safe, and it’s not." - David Ly

October 2020: The Shadow Element: An Interview with Terry Ann Carter

"I am also a lyric poet, and write and read longer forms. The longer poems feel (sometimes) like a story, or a re-creation of some particular place or person or relationship. There is metaphor, and extended metaphor, the lines just bubbling up and sizzling on the page. Haiku has a quietness about it; a shadow element." - Terry Ann Carter

November 2020: The Hurricane Inside One Household: An Interview with Tanja Bartel

"There’s this misconception that people who publish their first book later in life were struggling to do it all that time. Nope. Some of us simply spent years doing something else." - Tanja Bartel

I'm so looking forward to 2021, first and foremost for the vaccine that's going to get blasted into my arm, but also for the deluge of interviews I'll get to bring you. My Read Local BC series will be back for year three, and my already-completed interviews with poets Sadiqa de Meijer, Jen Sookfong Lee and Shaun Robinson will find their way into publication (in addition to whatever else I cook up). And, y'know, having a new poetry book out in the world is going to be pretty nice, too!

"When your external life shrinks, your internal life opens up," wrote Evelyn Lau in April. I hope that proved true for you in this difficult year, and that your external life gets a chance to open up, too, in 2021.

Happy New Year, all!

1 comment:

Rob Taylor said...

Ah! Someone who still comments on blogs! Bless you, Daniela. Your book and chapbook have been two highlights of my year!