Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 4.1

Meet Ben Ladouceur.

Ben Ladouceur describes himself as a "die-hard man about town," which is something that very few people involved in Toronto's literary scene would be inclined to disagree with. After all, it's not uncommon to find Ben gracing the stage at one of Toronto's many readings, or to stumble across his poetry in your favourite journals. He's all over town, and not just this town, either -- his work has appeared in some of Canada's best titles, from coast to coast: Winnipeg's Contemporary Verse 2 and Victoria's The Malahat Review, as well as Toronto mainstays like The Puritan and Dragnet. [It is worth mentioning here that Dragnet has just launched their first anthology, in which Ben's work appears, and which you can order on their website.]

It doesn't take a long time to understand why Ben is in such high demand. His poetry, lyric though it is, also often shares the funny, instantly relatable nature of a good bar story. His poems are well measured and emotionally complex, with a solid, energetic core to them that makes reading them a genuine pleasure. When we first heard some of Ben's work, we were blown away by the balance they demonstrated, especially when you're lucky enough to hear them read in person. When he reads them aloud, the poetry takes on a new dimension: his delivery is straightforward and unpretentious, but very self-aware and with a clear understanding of how he wants his poems to function. The overall effect shares a lot with watching a comedian at the top of their game, in that you feel like you're in on a great joke, or that the poem you're listening to could only be understood by you and the people listening around you. It's a remarkable feeling.

Most recently awarded PRISM international's Earle Birney Prize for his poem "Gran Vals," Ben has also been nominated for a plethora of other poetry awards, including the John Lent Poetry Prize and The Pushcart Prize. And as if those weren't flattering enough, one of Ben's poems was even selected for inclusion in this year's Best Canadian Poetry 2013. 

Originally from Ottawa, where he achieved both an undergraduate degree in English Literature, and a Master of Arts degree in Canadian Studies, Ben has settled in Toronto for the moment (suck it, other Canadian cities!), and his reputation is going nowhere but up. We managed to harass Ben into answering a few questions for us before the reading on the 29th, which you can read below.

[Reply to this post with your favourite RL Stine Goosebumps book, and we'll give you a shout-out on Facebook and Twitter! We're calling Say Cheese and Die, though.]


An Interview with Ben Ladouceur: Goosebumps, Making Pizza with Anne Carson, and Two Years of Dogs.

1) To get the ball rolling: For any audience members who have never had the chance to read your work before, how would you describe it? (For bonus points: on this month’s theme of ‘natural forces,’  what would the weather forecast be on the day your work is being read?)

The boring way to describe my work, I guess, would be to call it lyric poetry, often personal/confessional, and usually dwelling on queer themes. The weather forecast? It would be raining actual cats and dogs.

2) Can you remember the first time a writer's work really reached out and grabbed you? If so, who were they, and what about their writing caught your attention? Are there any elements of it that you still find yourself chasing, in some way?

The very, very first books to reach out and grab me? I am not ashamed to cite R. L. Stine’s “Give Yourself Goosebumps” (choose your own adventure) series, which were first published in 1995, when I was eight years old. I ate those books up. I can see why literary fiction and CYOA books have not, to my knowledge, done much commingling. However, I think the CYOA genre and lyric poetry have some common ground – most prominently, the use of the second person singular. It helps me to think of the beloved (the “you”) as a particular person – a reader who is following my instructions, taking my characterizations to heart, and enjoying the journey from point A to point B.

3) 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?

There was a two-year period during which I mostly wrote about dogs. The other night I did a reading (the Dragnet Anthology 1 launch, which was a great time) and a friend from Ottawa, who hadn’t seen me read for years, came up to me after and was like, “What happened to the dogs, Ben??” I don’t know what happened to the dogs. These days, most of my work happens to focus on relationships of all sorts between males. I do not know precisely why this has become a theme of mine, but it has.

4) If there's one thing that you'd like people to feel when they read what you’ve written, or something that you’d like them to take away from your writing, what is it?  

I don’t know. There are no inappropriate responses. The best possible feeling I could instill in people, I guess, would be an urge to go home and make art. That’s the dream, right?

5) 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?

Lorrie Moore and pinot grigio. I know, first hand, that they go well together.

6) 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.

Ben Ladouceur is a die-hard man about town. He was recently awarded the Earle Birney Poetry Prize. His work has been featured in magazines such as The Malahat Review, The Steel Chisel, The Puritan, Dragnet, Ryga: a journal of provocations, CV2, Prism International, Echolocation, and Arc, and in the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2013. His website is


1) What’s your desert island book/album/film?
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Album: Music in Twelve Parts by Philip Glass.
Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

2) Which artist, living or dead, would you meet for lunch?
Anne Carson.

3) Which Toronto restaurant would you take them to?
We’d make pizza at my apartment together and it would be adorable.

4) Most underappreciated novel/short story out there, in your opinion?
“The Torontonians” by Phyllis Brett Young.

5) Any chance you’ll give us a little hint at what you’ll be reading on the 25th?
Think road trips.


Ben Ladouceur currently serves as a contributing editor for Arc Poetry Magazine, and his work can be found online in The Puritan, Dragnet, and Ryga, as well as at his personal website. His published works include the chapbooks Alert, Mutt, and the forthcoming Impossibly Handsome. Should you care to tweet him to tell him about how much you love his work or how your day is going or something, you can find him under the handle @ItsBenLadouceur. 

Photo credit: Charles Earl.

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