Friday, June 7, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 1.3

Meet Mattieu Dominic Ramsawak.

Self-proclaimed "bumbling romantic" (see picture), Mattieu Dominic Ramsawak is more importantly an up-and-coming poet to reckon with. Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, he has been gracing the Canadian literary scene with his effervescent wit and attacks of his maddeningly fantastic assonance since 2007, when he began his HBA at the University of Toronto. Most recently, Mattieu's poem "Schumpeter’s Gale, or The Joker Must Have Read Marx" has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Poem of the Year contest, run by a lesser-known backwater literary rag called Arc Poetry Magazine (in case it's unclear, that was sarcasm), the results of which are still pending. He also dabbles from time to time in the blogosphere. If you feel like checking it out, you can read Mattieu's sage advice on how to be a hero* or allow him to enlighten you about the meaning of the words irrelephant, quark and bumfuzzle, to mention only a few.

In case you're not yet sold, you should know that Mattieu is also just a generally rad dude. Over the last few years he's been the Arts Editor of the campus paper at U of T Scarbrough, he's coordinated Xpression Against Oppression — a social justice initiative raising awareness about racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression, as well as the fund for people who combat them — and has helped complete a research project culminating in the production of a groundwater system in rural Ethiopia. ...Right? He also enjoys cricket and the sound of rain and unicorns

Here's what he had to say to us:

Let's start with something easy: Give me the cereal box break-down of your style  how would you describe it if you only had a blurb on the side of a Wheaties box to sell someone on what you do? (For bonus points, give me a cereal-style title for your body of work, a tagline, and/or some mock nutritional information.)

Mattieu’s Goo-Goo-Ga-Joobs

Intoxicate your taste-buds with this mostly-digestible something-ness; words you can eat with a big spoon!

Nutritional Value:

“Eating words has never given me indigestion” - Winston Churchill

Semi-Valuable Epigraphs - 19 g (36%)
Obscure pop-culture references - 21 grams (UB40%)
Misused punctuation mark’s - 18 g! (3;2 %)
Unicorn Tears - varies (seasonal)
Doubt - 11 g (2%)...?
Caribbean English-Creole words and phrases - a lil nks

Can you remember the first time an writer's work really reached out and grabbed you? If so, who were they, and what about their writing caught your attention?

I’ve always been a huge fan Dionne Brand’s work. I share much of her cultural heritage, and was moved when I first read No Language is Neutral, her Governor General’s Award-nominated collection. Her words are raw, powerful and genuine, and her writing has definitely influenced my own.

As a 'part 2' to that question: now that you've grown a little as a writer, are there any writers who inspire you, or whose work really makes you want to work harder/better/faster/stronger? Are there any qualities you can point to specifically in their work which stick out to you?

Recently I have been infatuated with the work of Stewart Cole (Questions in Bed). I love the powerful and often romantic images he employs as he explores the restlessness and doubt that plague young adulthood. I’ve also been digging the written work of Saul Williams. His notions of youth reclaiming language and religious ideals are pretty cool.

In your own work, are there any themes, images, or characters (etc.) that you find yourself drawn to, intentionally or otherwise? What are they? Why do you think they resonate with you?

I’d say that I generally try to be as diverse as possible with my subject matter. Lately I’ve been working on stuff related to social science. I think poetry is a great avenue towards thoughtful discussions about some of the most pressing social issues of our time. I’m also a bumbling romantic (a very polite “fuck you!” if you think that’s cliché :p). I often write candidly about the usually very awkward romantic moments that I encounter in my own life.

In the spirit of celebrating reading and writing, how do you like to read? Are you an out-louder? Do you prefer peace and quiet? What's the ideal set of conditions and location for you to read?

I’m mostly a quiet reader. I like to read to people so I don’t mind reading out loud if I have a willing audience, but for the most part I prefer to bury myself silently into whatever world I’m reading about.

(One important exception: I’m a huge fan of Pearls Before Swine, a comic strip by Stephen Pastis. I always read that out loud, even if I’m on public transit. It has the kind of dialogue that’s funnier when read aloud, and I almost always laugh out even louder than I read!)

Just for fun, give me a pairing: one of your favourite works/authors and one of your favourite beverages (alcoholic or not). Why do they go together? How do they complement one another?

I’d definitely have to go with Michael Robbins and Absinthe. His poems are pretty zany as they are; I can only imagine how trippy they would be if he were on a bad Absinthe trip when writing them. That would be incredible!

Because we're all insatiably curious little bastards, can you give us a little taste of what you think you'll be reading come June 15th?

Words and lines and some more words. I will swear at least twice. If you want more, you’re just going to have to come to the reading!

Last question: give us a short (less than 75 words) third-person bio blurb about yourself which covers any awards/distinctions you're proud of and what you're tackling right now.

Mattieu Dominic Ramsawak is a young poet whose work appears in several not-well-known-but-very-high-quality creative writing publications. Recently, one of his poems has been shortlisted in the Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year Contest finals. He is headed to the UK in the Fall to pursue a Masters of Environmental Development Policy, and hopes to write lots of poems (and drink many pints) while he is there.

* Note: We should clarify that in this blog post, Mattieu doesn't actually promise to make anyone into a hero, only to make them feel like a hero. Actually he doesn't make any promises whatsoever about the generation of said feeling anywhere. Which is to say don't hold him accountable for any disappointment, if, for some reason, you happen to incur any after reading said blog post. If you're really bent out of shape about it you can talk to him about it on the 15th, when he will be reading at our event at The Only Cafe, but be aware that only civil negotiations will be permitted on the premises. 

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