Sue Goyette’s poetry has appeared on the Toronto subway system, in wedding vows and spray-painted on a sidewalk. With three collections of poetry published, including the most recent tour de force Outskirts (Brick Books) she’s been nominated for several awards. Here, the Halifax poet contemplates misery, happiness and life as a…dancer?
What do you consider your best quality?
My enthusiasm though it’s not always a good thing on the dance floor.
A quality you desire in a partner:
A sense of humour and a sense of direction.
What do you appreciate most about your friends?
That they’re willing to disagree with me, and that they laugh at the right time.
Your worst quality:
The dark side of my enthusiasm which can make me operatic or single-minded.
Your favourite occupation:
I really like being a poet.
What is your idea of happiness?
August, my backyard and its trees, the tiny lights in them, friends, my record player and a good box of records.
Your idea of misery:
Besides the obvious: hunger, poverty, war; the inability to do what I love, not being able to see my kids and step-kids and, way at the bottom of the list, mosquitos and tippy canoes.
If you could be someone else for a day who would it be?
I’d like to be a dancer in a Marie Chouinard choreographed performance with all of the physical strength and grace that would require. It would be amazing to feel that kind of leap and play and to be in a body that is capable of that. Or maybe a biologist working with packs of wolves and coyotes. It would be fascinating to be familiar with the habitats and habits of that kind of wilderness and to be able to track a pack through the woods.
Where you would most like to live?
Somewhere sustainable but urban, I like the energy of a well-run city. I was just in New York and it was pretty amazing. I like it here because the Atlantic keeps me humble.
Orange and raspberry next to each other.
Wolves and foxes. (Owls, bats).
Your favourite poet(s):
There are so many poets who’ve been essential to me. Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, René Char, Rilke, Paul Celan, Saint Denys Garneau. More currently: Dean Young, C.D. Wright, Amy Gerstaler…
Roch Carrier, Italo Calvino, Katherine Mansfield, William Faulkner.
Your favourite fictional heroes:
I still think of Hagar Shipley from Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. Her spiciness and bewilderment in the face of aging still rings vivid and true and I read that book many years ago.
Your real life heroes:
The Dalai Lama, people who ride their bikes in Halifax, organic farmers, teachers, activists, artists, people who work with children or seniors, nurses, kids standing up for other kids, people who talk and listen to teenagers.
Your favourite food and drink:
Sweet potato tempura and udon noodles and I really like real lemonade though some days it’s a poutine and a Kilkenny.
What is your greatest fear?
Having a greatest fear is my greatest fear. The idea of a “greatest fear” totally freaks me out. I’d be on the look-out for its long shadow all the time, and it would be out there, like the ocean: skulking.
A natural talent you’d like to possess:
I’d like to be able to sing. To really sing. But then I’d be unbearable, one big, constant Vegas act.
How you want to die:
Peacefully, elderly, surrounded by family and dear friends.
Your present state of mind:
I’m pretty relaxed and happy.
Favourite or personal motto:
Goethe’s “Do not hurry, do not rest.”
This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Atlantic Books Today