Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Richard: I started writing in high school. My first influences were the poets we covered in class. I remember Wordsworth’s “I Wander Lonely as a a Cloud” having an impact on me then. His use of simile and personification made me realize those weren’t just words we had to memorize to pass a test, but the tools of a writer. Unfortunately, we didn’t do very much modern poetry, so this lead to me thinking poetry mostly had to rhyme or, at least, follow meter. It wasn’t until my university days that I realized how wrong I was. However, I became ever more committed to writing in fixed forms (i.e. sonnets) in those days, and became pretty stagnant as a poet as a result.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Richard: I have three poets I always go back to read at some point: Margaret Atwood, Charles Bukowski, and Al Purdy. Bukowski taught me how poetry doesn’t have to look like “Poetry,” but needs to be infused with authentic emotion. Whereas Atwood and Purdy are just so talented with language, that I am in constant awe of their poems. They often express authentic feelings, while also working over the language, like any good poet should. For example, one of my favourite Purdy poems, “The Beavers of Renfrew,” wows me every time I read it, with lines that still make me stop and reflect on the language use, the poem’s meaning, and our own place in the universe and history, which is what the poem is about.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Richard: I grew up in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It influenced me in that Nova Scotia has a a strong history of labour movements, which has lead me to be a little more left leaning in some of my poems. To be honest, Nova Scotia’s biggest influence on me would be having to relocate over 4000 kilometres to find a stable job. This is a common experience on the east coast of Canada, especially in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The part of Nova Scotia where I grew up, Cape Breton, once had a coal mine and a steel plant (where my father worked) that employed thousands of people. Both of those industries closed in the 1990s, leaving my home in a precarious economic state. The themes of financial stability and money show up in my work often. For example, my poem, “Disconnected” (published by “The Mark Literary Review”), deals with some of the financial struggles I remember from growing up, and features “bill collectors,” who have been a recurring character in my poetry.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your writing/describe?
Richard: I’m not much of a traveller, so not really. I have driven from Manitoba to Nova Scotia a few times, which has affected my view on Canada. However, I find whenever I write about travelling, my poems fall flat for some reason.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Richard: I have always written since I was in high school, so I can’t think of specific moment that got me started. I’m the type of person that thinks writing is cool. The idea of creation has always fascinated me too. Creativity is one of the most important values in life, in my opinion. If I lived in a country where I was unable to speak my mind, or write what I wanted to write, I would end up in jail.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Richard: I enjoy reading, anything Star Wars, and also have a six-year-old son, who keeps me busy most of the time. I usually write after he goes to sleep, early in the morning when he’s still half asleep, or on my lunch breaks at work.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Richard: My second chapbook, “The Kind of Noise Worth Writing Down,” is due out in early 2022 from Kelsay Books. My first chapbook, “The Loneliest Age,” (also from Kelsay Books) was released in 2020 and is available here: https://kelsaybooks.com/products/the-loneliest-age
Q8: What is one of your favorite lines from a poem of yours or others?
I love these two lines from Al Purdy’s “The Beavers of Renfrew”: “And what is great music and art but an alibi for murderers?”
I tend to have a darker view of humanity, so these lines sum that feeling up well. They also work within the poem, as it deals with the idea of humanity’s place in the universe not being quite as elevated as some of us would like to think
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Richard: There’s the poetry workshop website, “Pig Pen Poetry,” where I learned numerous invaluable lessons about editing my own work. I also had a professor in university who ran a literary society. It was a place where students brought their creative writing to have it critiqued. That professor was quite critical, and scared away numerous students every year. I stuck with this for four years because I knew it would toughen me up to criticism. It worked because that experience was instrumental in helping me to accept that my poems aren’t going to liked by everyone, and that you lose something artistically when you try to pander to everyone’s tastes.