This week we’re very pleased to present an interview with Windsor poet Laurie Smith. Studying under Alistair MacLeod, she has her MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. She is the Co-Publisher/Editor at Cranberry Tree Press, and she runs creative writing workshops. Her newest book of poetry, Suck and Spit (2020), is available now from Black Moss Press. Please enjoy this exclusive interview and excerpts from Suck and Spit.
Q: Where did you draw inspiration for Suck and Spit?
LS: After my last collection, Said the Cannibal, I was still in a mood to explore the macabre, the taboo, and upon review of my file folders recognized another recurring theme: poison. I pulled together what I already had, did the usual hocus pocus, brainstorming and additional research, and here we are.
Q: Can you tell us about the process of choosing the title for Suck and Spit?
LS: My working title had always been Aegopodium Paranoia, but Latin titles are probably a turn-off, and when “suck and spit, suck and spit” got a huge laugh at a reading, I realized it was much more provocative and easier to pronounce.
Q: Suck and Spit was a collaborative effort with the students of the University of Windsor’s Publishing Practicum. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
LS: Fun for me. No doubt somewhat shocking for them! And it all went so fast. Too bad it didn’t end with the big party in April. That was a disappointment; it still feels incomplete.
Q: Do you have any ideas for your next book?
LS: Oh, please! I have at least six to ten other projects awaiting my focus. A few are near completion. No spoilers, but someday I anticipate putting out a boxed set!
Q: Can you share a list of poets who inspire you and explain how they impact your work?
LS: William Shakespeare – I like his dirty mind and innuendo. Margaret Atwood – her attention to the inner voice, her wry humour, and her leadership as a Canadian literary artist. John B. Lee – he gets me! Other than John, I don’t want to name contemporaries for fear of leaving someone out. (Same thing goes for all those past poets I’ve studied.) But I DO get greatly inspired by the local poets who come to my workshops. Being with other creative minds and bouncing ideas around is so stimulating, and I learn as much as I teach them, I’m sure.
little girls dressed up for school back then.
my favorite lavender crinoline made me feel like
a princess, all puffed out and as important as
the job our daddy gave us sometimes after dinner.
here’s another plastic bottle, try to open it
and get the candies.
but if we did he felt he’d lost
and would come back a week later with
a different kind of candy, a new plastic bottle.
we had no idea this game was science,
didn’t know about the kids
our father pumped full of activated charcoal
every other night
when some frantic parent had to call poison control,
be told to rush the child to the nearest hospital,
how many pills do you think he swallowed, ma’am?
‘til the time my sister and i were stumped, so flustered
that we couldn’t get this one open,
pressing down until our palms had dented circles,
twisting every way and upside down,
what is this puzzle daddy, why can’t we have the candy?
we even tried a pair of pliers,
but he said to smash it with a hammer would be cheating.
good girls, yes,
i think you’ve done it!
i’ll have your mother take you downtown for new dresses.
we were never told our job was saving lives
as daddy’s guinea pigs, testing the safety caps he made
to keep bad candies out of small mouths.
Suck and Spit 2020
properties of cinnamon
i) cinnamon floats.
will not absorb liquid.
will not mix into my kefir.
cinnamon is ground up bark.
it was a tree.
this is how our ancestors made
i am trying to drink a boat.
it is supposed to be good for me.
mostly it sticks to the sides
of the glass.
ii) what we learned in grade 3 social studies:
from 1271 to 1295 marco polo traveled across asia
in search of silk and spices and he met kublai khan.
when he got home to venice he wrote a book
about his adventures.
so i thought marco polo invented cinnamon.
iii) a prize fit for kings and gods.
apollo had a deep appreciation.
temple virgins left bowls full.
iv) now picture them on mt. olympus:
hey, poseidon – i dare you to
swallow a teaspoon of this stuff in under a minute!
hermes, are you in?
athena, the sensible one,
warns of the toxic effects of coumarin and the risk
of asphyxiation or a collapsed lung.
the girl was no fun at parties.
v) it is told the phoenix builds its nest
from cassia, but
a firebird rises from ashes, fully fledged,
no need for eggs. nest.
vi) mayan chocolate? no such thing.
the mayans had no knowledge of cinnamon.
perpetuated by the cruel folks at häagen-dazs.
(bronx, new york.)
limited edition, they called it, once establishing
so i got an ice cream machine
and learned to make my own.
vii) chai tea
Suck and Spit 2020