Interview with Kyeren Regehr
All Lit Up: What did you learn writing Cult Life?
Kyeren Regehr: I learned a manuscript is like a melting pot that I can pour any number of elements into, and eventually, if heated steadily over the slow-burning flame of the subconscious, all the dross rises to the surface and can be scraped away. It also became clear during the editing process that even when telling a true story, emotional veracity is sometimes more important than literal truth.
ALU: If you were a character in a Choose Your Own Adventure story, what kind of quest would you be on? What three things would you have with you on your journey?
KR: Not so long ago I spent five weeks in a palm leaf hut in the Amazon jungle—no electricity, the only food a bowl of plantains and quinoa morning and evening, bathing and clothes-laundering in a river next to a cave of bats… scorpions, giant spiders, thieving monkeys, far too many exquisitely beautiful creepy-crawlies. My next Choose Your Own Adventure is a quest for human happiness in the jungle of my own garden, I’ll have a soft blanket, a good novel, and a steady supply of hazelnut chocolate (fair trade and plant-based).
ALU: Where do you draw inspiration from outside of poetry?
KR: What’s alive and juicy always inspires me both in my writing and in my life—the natural world, music and other art, humour, spirituality, good people, my family. The word inspiration comes from the action of breath, to breathe in (obviously); to fill oneself up with life. It’s too easy to fill ourselves up from the vast deadzone of the consumer culture, which is sedating and utterly uninspiring. I try to cultivate a feel-good mindset and fill up with small moments of gratitude for simple things (it’s not a perfect practice). Writing often comes from a place of trying to understand/unravel what doesn’t make sense, or from something that sparks my curiosity. A curious person is easily inspired.
ALU: Help us with a poetry prompt for our readers. Can you come up with a writing prompt for our readers to write their own poetry?
KR: Here’s a quick fun prompt, a kind of modern quasi-ekphrastic idea for a poem. When you’re ready with your notebook open, take several moments to breathe several full and deep breaths (to get out of your head and into your body). Actually do this until you feel a physical softening and slowing down. (Don’t skip the breathing, it’s a vital step.) Then… scroll through the camera on your phone (yes, your phone!) and stop at the first image that provokes an emotional/physical response. Something that makes you smile, cringe, sigh, etc. Don’t second guess yourself, don’t think about it. As soon as you feel it, stop. Use this image. Become curious about the quality of light/shadow/colour (or lack thereof), about the curves/angles/depth etc, until you can look through the image and into the beginning of a poem. (Tip: If you get tangled in thinking, return to the breath.)