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Lucky Seven Interview with Keith Garebian: On Poetry, Politics and “Weapons of Demolition”

Accidental GeniusIn a recent Lucky Seven interview with Open Book Toronto, author of non-fiction and poetry Keith Garebian chats about his new collection Accidental Genius: The Pantheon of Modern American Poets which will be published by Guernica Editions in Spring 2015.

In the political satire, Garebian finds the humour and motivations of right-wing extremist rhetoric. He presents well-known utterances of egregious political, social and cultural atrocity as if they were modern poems deserving of serious academic consideration in order to deflate right-wing extremists in North America.

In the interview, Garebian speaks about the project’s development and thematic concerns, and about his general writing life— the process, inspirations and rituals that he depends on while working on his projects.

He explains that the purpose of the project is to bring to light the ignorance of Republican political opinions by first “inflating them in the guise of serious poetry.”

“When you think [for example] of all the Republican candidates for President in the last election and those gearing up for the next one, you realize that underlying their astounding ignorance and wackiness is their implicit belief in a Constitutional right to be Stupid…I selected some of their most inane statements or utterances and set these up as “poems,” wrote mock-serious poetic commentary on them, and started with a Preface that was itself a parody of academic seriousness.”

His thematic focus centres specifically on the question: “how should we treat these offenders?” and uses parody and satire as his  “weapons of demolition.”

Though Garebian explains that he does not have an elaborate writing routine, or specific rituals which help guide his work, art in all its forms has a strong influence on his writing.

“I go by inspiration, and that can come in many ways — from reading a wonderful writer or watching a film or studying a painting. It really depends on the subject and my motive for writing. I almost always write in my office in my apartment, where I have a vast library. I now also almost always create directly on my computer, which makes editing easy and quick.”

Moreover, he comments on literature in general, and stresses the difficulty of defining “greatness” in a book. He explains that all art forms depend on “making their own path,” and “challenging conventions or expectations.”

“In my case, a great book would be one that spurs my own imagination, satisfies my curiosity, makes my spine tingle, makes me wish that I had created it. I respond to different great books differently, so I cannot define greatness. Besides, definitions are the business of philosophers, not creative writers.”

He is currently awaiting publication of Georgia and Alfred, which “deals with the personalities, sexuality, and art of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz,” and working on a second collection of Armenian poems to follow his first, Children of Ararat.

Keith Garebian is a widely published, award-winning freelance literary, theatre, and dance critic, biographer, and poet who lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Of his 19 books to date, five are of poetry, including Frida: Paint Me As A Volcano (Buschek), Blue: The Derek Jarman Poems (Signature), Children of Ararat (Frontenac) and Moon on Wild Grasses (Guernica), for which he supplied the cover paintings and illustrations. Among his many awards are the Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Award (2010), the Canadian Authors Association (Niagara Branch) Poetry Award (2009), the Mississauga Arts Award (2000, 2008 and 2013), a Dan Sullivan Memorial Poetry Award (2006), the Lakeshore Arts/Scarborough Arts Council Award for Poetry (2003), and an Ontario Poetry Society Award for Haiku (2003).

To read the full Lucky Seven interview with Keith Garebian visit the Open Book Toronto website: http://www.openbooktoronto.com/news/lucky_seven_interview_with_keith_garebian

Accidental Genius is available on the Guernica Editions website: http://www.guernicaeditions.com/title/9781550719819

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