Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most, now and currently?
Cora: When I was 5, my mother gave me a notebook and said, “Let your pencil wander.” I’ve been writing ever since. At first, I wrote short reviews of the books I borrowed from the children’s library. Then poetry, and a short story when I was 10. Of course it took years before my work was eventually published.
My influences are eclectic, cross-cultural, and in a continuous state of flux. I would include Latin American poets such as Borges, Bolaño, and Delmira Agustini, Europeans such as Kosovel, Szymborska, Lorca, and Pushkin, and many Canadian poets such as Anne Carson, Jan Zwicky, and Steven Heighton. I’m also continuously inspired by the many poets in my community.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Cora: There’s a huge leap from doing some writing to committing yourself to be a writer. I started preparing for that leap when I was 25, and faraway from home, in a place called Salta in northern Argentina. Finding myself uprooted and with some free time, I recorded my experiences, the characters I encountered, and the magnificent Andean landscape and culture. Argentina made a writer out of me.
Q3: Who has helped you most with your writing and career?
Cora: My writer friends and local community groups such as the Quebec Writers’ Federation have been instrumental. I’ve had many mentors, including my teachers in writing workshops and courses, the editors who helped me craft my stories, essays, poetry, and books, and the writers I meet at events and festivals. I try to open my heart and mind, be receptive to the teachers who come my way, listen to their advice. It’s an ongoing process.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?
Cora: Montréal, where I grew up and live now, is a city of exiles, artists, and poets. Our community thrums with a cultural vibrancy that informs my writing.
One theme I explore a lot in my work is the question of belonging versus nonbelonging. My parents were refugees from Estonia who came to Montréal like so many others displaced by war. We stood out in our neighbourhood for the languages we spoke and our demeanour. This perspective of being an outsider is most evident when I’m writing about Latin America.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
Cora: It’s always my latest book. Which is currently Fear the Mirror (Véhicule Press, 2021), a collection of stories. The book, a hybrid of memoir, fiction, and nonfiction, is my most urgent and personal work to date.
Q6: What are your favourite activities to relax?
Cora: Because writing is so sedentary, I try to walk, swim, or dance every day. I also play piano. Lately, I’ve taken up the ukulele which has been liberating. I’ve given myself permission to be bad at playing the ukulele which makes it all the more fun.
Q7: What is a favourite line/stanza from a writing of yours?
Cora: The last lines of my poem, “Note to a Mapless Self.”
“Take flight you trampoliner, dare to tumble, somersault, vault bluewards and be true to Pushkin’s promise to the angel: Not in vain you’ve sent me light.”
This poem, from my latest collection of poetry (Not in Vain You’ve Sent Me Light, Guernica Editions, 2021), reminds me to be playful and authentic. Writing is a lot like bouncing on a trampoline, I think. It takes courage to fling yourself up high.
Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song that always comes back to you as an inspiration?
Cora: My music is as eclectic as my reading. It’s a weird mix of rock, folk, blues, classical, tango, and any band featuring my friend Dac who sings and plays drums and piano.
I have a multitude of songs in my head that compete for space, but a line I really love (from “I’m Not Afraid to Die” by Gillian Welch) is: my hobo soul will rise. It speaks to my origins as the child of a long line of refugees.
Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, projects that you’d like to promote?
Cora: My latest book, Fear the Mirror, is available in bookstores and online from my publisher (http://www.vehiculepress.com/q.php?EAN=9781550655773).
Bonus: Any funny memory or strange occurrence that you’d like to share during your creative journey?
Cora: This was both beautiful at the time and strange in retrospect, like so many writers’ pandemic stories. My friends and I put on a show called March in the Beauty that featured our writing and music in a place called Résonance Café. It was a thrilling night on a Friday in March 2020, with lots of people and a great energy. The next day, Montréal went into lockdown and all public gatherings were banned. It was the last show we performed together for over two years!
Cora Siré is the author of five books – two poetry collections, two novels, and her latest, a collection of stories, entitled Fear the Mirror. Her fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in many anthologies and magazines in Canada, the US, Mexico, and Europe. Her work has been translated into French and Spanish. Author website: www.quena.ca.