Monday, September 22, 2008

Line of Inquiry: Genni Gunn

Genni Gunn is a writer, musician and translator who has published two novels, two short story collections, two poetry collections, and two translations from the Italian of Dacia Maraini’s poetry. Her work has been recognized with nominations for a host of prizes, including the Commonwealth Prize, the Gerald Lampert Poetry Award, the Journey Prize, the John Glassco Translation Award, and the Premio Internazionale Diego Valeri.

Her most recent projects are the 2007 poetry collection, Faceless (Signature Editions), and an opera libretto, Alternate Visions, produced in Montreal in 2007.

Genni Gunn has a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the University of British Columbia. She lives in Vancouver.

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1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

Performance, for me, is a natural extension of creation. I say this, because I spent many years as a musician, and in that genre, although the practice and creation of new work took place in solitary confinement so-to-speak, it would have been useless without performance. Does music exist if there’s no one to hear it? When it comes to writing, sometimes in fiction, the performance takes place between the reader and the page. But poetry – a language of rhythms and sounds – begs be read aloud, so that its music can be heard.

2) What do you want people to know about Faceless?

In Faceless, I’m exploring the impulse for the edge, that intriguing attractive place between safety and disaster, and the faces and masks we don while journeying through our lives. I began the title poem when I heard that odd, interesting, ironic story about the woman whose dog clawed her face off, and her subsequent facial transplant. It naturally set me thinking about faces and identity, and the multiple facades and personas we adopt in our dealings with others.

3) Will this your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I’ve been to Winnipeg several times – once earlier this year for a day – and during my musician days on various occasions. I hear it’s a hotbed of art. Many of our finest writers come from Winnipeg, so there must be something in the water or the air. Oh yes, I hear it’s windy too.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I read constantly, so this answer will be out of date within days. However, two books I’ve really loved recently are Damon Galgut’s The Impostor and Daphne Marlatt’s The Given. In terms of my own writing, I’ve just completed a new novel, and I’m working on a collection of stories.

5) You've written both fiction and poetry. Do ideas come pre-packaged as fiction or poetry or do you have to live with them for a while before a form suggests itself?

I keep a journal of ideas, and don’t think about form until those ideas insinuate themselves into my consciousness. Sometimes two disparate ideas come together to suggest a story or a poem. Sometimes an image surfaces. Or a scrap of conversation. There’s no set rule. Whatever sets me off in whatever direction.

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Genni Gunn will be appearing at THIN AIR, Winnipeg International Writers Festival:
September 22 - Campus Program, University of Winnipeg.
September 22 - Mainstage, with Duncan Thornton, Andrew Davidson and Elyse Friedman.

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