Interview With Candice James, Poet Laureate of New Westminster

a lyrical voice that people love to read in books…
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Candice James is New Westminster’s Poet Laureate, serving her second 3-year term.
Her first publication, “A Split in the Water” (Fiddlehead: 1979); the most recent is“Merging Dimensions” (Ekstasis Editions 2015). She is Founder, Director and Past President of Royal City Literary Arts Society; Past President of the Federation of BC Writers; Founder of Poetry in the Park, and co-founder of Poetic Justice. She is the recipient of the Bernie Legge Artist/Cultural Award 2015 and the recipient of Pandora’s Collective 2015 Citizenship Award. Candice is also a visual artist and a singer/songwriter/musician. Further info can be found on Wikipedia

Alok Mishra: The general notion goes that the poets are free. They enjoy the freedom to tell the Sun is cold and winter is warm! How do you see this freedom that poets enjoy?

Candice James: We are free and we are rich…..why? Because we have the words and the words can take us anywhere in the universe and set us into any painting or mood we choose.

Alok Mishra: As a poet, what do you feel when you have to write about the things you did not experience? I have often read poets writing about death, and experience of death. Is it ethical to write only on perceptions?

Candice James: There are learned poets and there are inspired poets. The learned poets worry about such things. The inspired poets just let the words and cosmos flow through them onto paper.

Alok Mishra: For you, can poetry be practical? Or it is just the abstract?

Candice James: It is both for me at different times and almost in different spatial dimensions.

Alok Mishra: Today, we only know one thing when it comes of a writer or poet’s life – is he or she a best-seller! How do you feel about the commercialization of creative writing? There are many who do write better than these ‘best-sellers’; what are your views about it?

Candice James: I write poetry because it is my calling. If I make any money that is fine. If I don’t make any money that is fine also. I write to leave a mark on the world that will light the way for another poet in another time and place; a mark that will last live on long after I am gone.

Alok Mishra: I would love to know if you could describe your journey as a poet and eventually to a poet-laureate. Like many other poets, do you also feel that poetry matures with the development of time?

Candice James: I have always written poetry since I was a teenager. I was fortunate enough to have my first book published in 1979 by a very impressive publisher “Fiddlehead Poetry Books”. I changed horses in mid -tream and began playing music and singing for a living and also songwriting. I did however continue to write poetry but just never sent it to any publishers. I hung up the band and music saturation in 2006 and moved back into the poetry scene. I was appointed Poet Laureate in 2010 and am currently in my second 3-year term. I often wonder where I would be today if I had simply stuck with the poetry instead of getting side-tracked into the music business. Your other question “do I feel poetry matures with time” My answer is no. Poetry changes with time as we humans change constantly with the passage of time. Every 7 days we have a new outer layer of skin. We are not aware that we have a new skin, however, we do. Our skin has changed and continues to change as does our daily life and our thoughts and consequently our poetry. It has nothing to do with maturity, it has to do with time, place, space, and mind.

Alok Mishra: How often do you write today, ma’am? I know some poets who make a goal to write certain number of poems a day. Do you have such rules?

Candice James: I don’t have any schedule or rules regarding writing poems. When they come they come. Sometimes one poem comes and other times ten poems come. When they call to me, I write them.

Alok Mishra: As a poet, everyone has certain influencers. Which poets do you think have shaped the poetry in you, or have major or minor impact on your poetry?

Candice James: William Shakespeare, Michael Drayton, Oscar Wilde, Fred Cogswell, Rod McKuen and Leonard Cohen are the major influences that have shaped my poetry over the years. I have a great respect for these writers. J

Alok Mishra: Let our readers know about your books to come, or any projects you are working on.

Candice James: I am currently working on manuscript 10 which will be a book of poetry reflecting my mood of the time, and I am working on a book of “short” poems, which will make for light and easy reading….like a coffee table book.

Alok Mishra: What advice would you like to offer to them who are new to poetry writing?

Candice James: Read the poets you love and when a line or two comes into your mind that feels wonderful, stop what you are doing, pick up a pen and write those lines down and continue until you have a poem.

Alok Mishra: While I thank you for your time and answers, I would love if you could make poetry out of nowhere! What are the four lines that you can write right now?

Candice James: As the moon slid behind the ebony veil of night
I spied a bow of stars within a slice of rain,
As the pales ghosts of yesterday spun
The wisdom of a thousand fools into a crystal dream