Arts

Poet reads from his published works in the local annual series

 Photo by Rod Pederson

In Canada, it’s notoriously difficult to make a living as a poet but that’s exactly what Andrew Faulkner does. The University of Ottawa English major from the class of 2007, found himself back in Ottawa on March 25 as a part of Versefest, a poetry and performing arts series where he read from some of his three published works. The series runs until March 30.

Faulkner is the author of two chapbooks, Mean Matt and Other Shitty People and Useful Knots and How to Tie Them, which was shortlisted for the bpNichol award, given to the best Canadian chapbook. His most recent work, Need Machine, was his first full-length book of poetry, something he’s been working toward for a number of years.

“It’s a book — as a whole bunch of first books are — that’s unofficially a best of all the poems from my 20s,” said Faulkner. “It’s not like I sat down with one coherent project in mind, so there’s not one or two big inspirations.”

Faulkner feels his time at the U of O is where he was really able to take off as a writer. In his second year, he enrolled in a creative writing course after he started getting “an itch” to write. From that point forward, it was support from the community that helped give him the confidence he needed to pursue poetry more seriously.

“Ottawa has a really lovely and supportive writing scene,” he said. “Not always the biggest but I couldn’t have picked a better place to start dabbling in it.”

While at the U of O, he even volunteered at the Fulcrum, mostly so he “could steal CDs from the arts editor.”

Faulkner and his wife, Leigh Nash, who is also a poet, recently moved to Marmora, Ont., midway between Ottawa and Toronto.

“It’s sort a dart on the map thing,” he said. “I went to school in Ottawa, Leigh grew up there. We still have tons of ties to Toronto, and it’s such a nice little midway point, so we feel like it’s treated us well.”

While Faulkner hasn’t been writing since the move, he’s optimistic that with the change of scenery, he can spend more time writing.

“Our hope is that it’s going to allow us to get away from some of the distractions,” he said.

Outside of writing, Faulker also co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing new and young authors. He and Nash started the press in 2008, when the pair was in graduate school together at the University of Guelph Humber campus.

“It’s sort of like training wheels,” Faulkner said. “Chapbooks are much more ephemeral than real books, so you don’t have to commit to this big huge immortal thing with a soft spine, ISBN, and it really being out there.”

For the first number of years, they had published between four to six chapbooks a year, but with an inability to get grant money, it’s been a struggle to keep up that pace.

“In the last year or two, we’ve certainly fallen off the wagon a little bit,” said Faulkner. “You don’t get any money for chapbooks; it falls between the funding for full-length magazines and books.”

Faulkner also works as a mortgage agent, but with the move, he and his wife are looking to focus their time on writing.

“Obviously, it’s a challenge. You’re not bringing in seven figures from writing poems,” he said. “It’s a struggle for money but in the end the struggle ended up being time.”