Award winning poet/photographer, Lynn Tait, is a member of several professional associations including the League of Canadian Poets. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and in over 60 anthologies.
Lynn’s approachable presence and infectious smile light up our Lambton Writers’ Association gatherings. It’s been such a pleasure to interview her for Writers Networking.
G: Lynn, when did you first know you were a writer/photographer?
L: Hmmm. As a writer in the general sense –fairly early. About 9 years old. A poet – I had a fabulous Creative Writing and Theatre Arts high school teacher – Sandra Lawrence, who I am still in contact with through Face Book, who encouraged me; but I did not publically call myself a poet until about 10 or so years ago, even though I’ve been publishing in literary magazines since I was 15 years old. I’ve been writing for over 40 years. There was a 5 year stretch when I wrote nothing, but sang bass with Seaway Sounds, an international barbershop chorus based in Sarnia. It is quite a disciplined style of singing. We competed, so choreography, costume, and make-up was important, as well as exact phrasing musically. I was asked to do a poetic interpretation of Danny Boy for competition and this led me back to writing. Photography: Ha ha. I fell into it through spending hours on the back of my husband’s motorcycle ruminating over life decisions until I thought: This is crazy! So I decided a camera might help and it did. I joined the Sarnia Photography Club. Wow what a great supportive organization that is, with amazing people! I have no problem calling myself amateur photographer or visual artist even though I’ve only been doing it for the past 11 years.
G: How do your previous work and/or life experiences influence your writing/photography?
L: Work-wise very little. The plan was to study Journalism at Ryerson, but life got in the way and I left home at 16. I attended Waterloo University by correspondence after I married and that influenced my writing. I planned to major in English, minor in History and Philosophy, but my son was born, money and time was not there, (my husband was a shift-worker), so I worked part-time as a school bus driver. I could pursue hobbies and be a wife and mother pretty well full time. I read a lot and that is a major influence and life experiences have been a great influence, but indirectly. Music is also a huge inspiration.
G: What are the genres in which you write or work as a visual artist? Do you have a preferred one?
L: With writing it is mostly Poetry, usually non-rhyming, but I do like to work with forms. Erasure poetry and the glosa interest me. I do write the occasional review when asked. I’m not very disciplined, so unless given a task and deadline I seldom write prose. I would love to write personal essays, and had a talent for essay writing in my early twenties, I’ve never been focused long enough to seriously take the time for it. As a visual artist, I am a street photographer. The photographer in motion. My life and travels do not lend themselves to careful scrutiny of subjects, and a good portion of the population do not have the time in their lives either. I quickly size up the subject and snap away. This used to bother me, but now I feel it’s part of who I am and what I do, so I just go with it. I love working in black and white. I love re-touching in Photoshop. I see beauty in ugliness, things broken and abandoned. I also like clean lines – which amuses me. I am a messy, disorganized person by nature. I could never see myself as a working professional, or studio photographer.
G: Do you have a favourite location for writing?
L: No. But I’d love to have a 3 or 4 season sunroom. That would be ideal. I love big windows. I work in my backyard in good weather. I usually write using my laptop, but have been known to write poetry on back pages of books I’m reading. I mark up books, so usually have a pen or pencil handy – I’ll lose the idea if paper isn’t right there, so I’ll write on what is immediately available. I wrote only late at night, but after working and family, afternoons work best now.
G: What kinds of books do you read?
L: I love reading. I actually stopped for a few years. My husband bought me a Kindle and I got right back into it. I use it for travel and at bedtime. I also buy and read hard copy books especially Poetry and Reference books. I never read just one. I always have between 3 to 10 books on the go. I read history books. I love critical essays on Canadian and American Poetry and Poetics. Just books on essays alone, right now I’m reading Wallace Steven’s The Necessary Angel, Jeffrey Donaldson’s Echo Soundings, Twenty Poems that Could Save America and other essays by Tony Hoagland, and Jane Hirschfield’s Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. And that is a partial list, not including poetry or history books I have on the go.
G: Do you wish to share anything about your personal life?
L: I’ve been very blessed even though there has been a lot of tragedy and loss in my, and my husband’s life the past 5 years. We lost his father, brother and our son. I’ve lost many writing colleagues and personal friends and my Mother has Alzheimer’s,. The time will come she will not recognize me. I’ve always had a very difficult relationship with her, but now realize it was the beginning of dementia in the 70’s, which she managed to hide, that made it even more trying. My husband and I have a very strong relationship, good family and amazing friends. We travel when we can. I’m definitely no saint, I do not attend church, but friends, family, and my faith in Jesus keeps me together. Still it’s been very difficult and sad. Each day is different.
G: Have you participated in writing contests?
L: Yes, but not often. If I want a subscription of the literary magazine, or it’s themed and I have something that might fit, or it is a pleasant challenge. That is how I gained interest in erasure poems. I try to enter Contemporary Verse 2’s yearly contest. 10 words, 48 hours to write the poem. This year I managed to make the shortlist in FreeFall’s yearly contest. I did not win, but the magazine decided to publish both poems anyway. I love judging poetry contests. I really prefer judging, rather than entering. Occasionally I do well with photo contests.
G: What works have you published to date?
L: I am not a really prolific writer and I’m rather fussy who I send submissions to. I write quickly, but the editing takes a long time. I’m always making changes, but nearly everything I’ve ever written since 1997 has been published. That’s pretty good, especially since I don’t submit an awful lot. Between poems, the occasional review and article and photography (I’ve had my visual art/photography on 5 book covers and a literary magazine) I have about a 5 page resume. I have 2 full poetry manuscripts on the go right now.
G: What are your thoughts on traditional vs indie publishing?
L: Indie publishing has come a long way, as has self-publishing. I would definitely prefer traditional. There are some advantages. Easier to get into certain writing organizations. You have the support of a usually well-known literary publishing company behind you. That helps with PR. I couldn’t forgive myself if I did not try submitting to traditional companies first. I’d always wonder . . . I’m not a good self-promoter, or self-starter. I would go with an indie if need be, or perhaps if I had already used a traditional company in the past.
G: Anything else you wish to elaborate on?
L: Oh goodness, haven’t I yapped enough! ha! I would like to thank you, Gloria, for thinking of me for your blog, and for this interview.
The appreciation has indeed been mine, Lynn, and I wish you continuing inspiration and joy in your creativity.
I do agree that indie and self publishing have come a long way, but from where I am sitting it looks like the future belongs to the small press. Furthermore, it is networking initiative such as this site that will crown our writing ventures.
The interview was inspiring… Great job Lynn Tait and Gloria Pearson.
Interested to read your opinion on small presses, Ike. I love them.