CULT LIFE, poetry by Kyeren Regehr

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.)


THE DIFFICULT, nonfiction by Stan Dragland


Stan Dragland is originally from Alberta and lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He is Professor Emeritus, Department of English, Western University. He has taught creative writing at the Banff Centre and at Los Parronales, Chile. He was founder of Brick magazine and Brick Books, a poetry publishing house. Between 1994 and 1997, he was poetry editor for McClelland & Stewart. His first work, Peckertracks (1979), was shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award; Floating Voice: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Literature of Treaty 9 (1994) won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian literary criticism: 12 Bars (2002) was co-winner of the bpNichol Chapbook Award; Apocrypha: Further Journeys (2003) won the Newfoundland and Labrador Rogers Cable Award for nonfiction; Stormy Weather: Foursomes (2005) was shortlisted for the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award. Strangers & Others: Newfoundland Essays (2015) was shortlisted for the BMO Winterset Award). His recent work, Gerald Squires, has been nominated for the NL Nonfiction Book Award.


THE DIFFICULT is Dragland’s seventh work with Pedlar. If anyone were to insist that I, Beth Follett, explain myself, that I demonstrate my impartiality toward this writer who happens also to be my dear companion, I would say, Look deep into the heart of all Stan’s works, for you will find one theme especially repeated there, the theme explored by Rilke with his young student: We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us. . .that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. Readers of Dragland’s works will find their own ways to new, stranger and perhaps more difficult works, will find that by reading such books they are altered for the better, their own ways of reading the world forever changed, forever enriched.


Pleased to have GERALD SQUIRES (NONFICTION) and ODERIN (POETRY) on the NL 2019  Book Awards short lists. So proud of all those who worked tirelessly on these two books, especially Stan Dragland, author of GERALD SQUIRES and editor of Agnes Walsh’s ODERIN. The winning titles to be announced on DEC 4 and NOV 25, respectively.
Presently Pedlar Press is offering GERALD SQUIRES at $40. If you wish a copy or two, let us know. Or buy here.

Beth Follett, Publisher