Writers Reading: Joshua Trotter

Last Wednesday at Scott House, Trent alumnus Joshua Trotter ‘00 gave an entertaining reading and Q&A session as part of the Writers Reading Series hosted by the English Literature Department. Every year the Writers Reading Series create space for members of the Trent and Peterborough communities to meet and chat with authors of Canada’s favourite poems, essays, short stories, and novels. This is the 28th season of the annual event that keeps on growing.

The night was opened by words from Professor Lewis McLeod thanking everyone who makes the event possible. The Barbara Rook Lecture Series, The T.E.W. Nind Fund, the School for the Study of Canada and Indigenous Studies, The Frost Centre, English Literature and Cultural Studies, the Public Texts M.A. program and Traill College. Every one of them make this event happen.

McLeod described Joshua Trotter as “a poet with a fine sense of irony” and in light of recent events south of our border, a good sense of humor was needed that night. Trotter’s first book, All This Could Be Yours (Biblioasis) was selected by the National Post as one of the top 10 poetry books of 2010. His second book, Mission Creep, was published in 2015 by Coach House Press. Joshua’s work has been anthologized in Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets and The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Living in Montreal, Trotter is a co-founder of littlefishcartpress.

Trotter read snippets and poems from both of his books. The author described his own work as a “white noise burst” that one can read very closely, “or when sitting on the toilet”.

In his first book, All this Could be Yours, Trotter takes lines and snippets from some of the poems he likes. Not to benefit from or mock other people’s work, but to respond, play, dislocate, transform and create something new. “By doing this I add dimension and history to my work,” Trotter explained.

His second book, Mission Creep, is an extension of the first one, not only using poems, but incorporating other lines, ideas and fragments from radio, books and the internet. He creates a smart, eccentric, allusive, trendy, and original collection of poems to share. My favourite of the night: “Captain Frost at Midnight”. “The Teacher and the Peach” was also read at the request of someone in the audience.

Trotter described how he likes to play with his writing. He uses Google translate, dictation apps and other audio programs to listen to and edit his work. “I like to read my work out loud. The sound of my work is important. It is speakable and listenable”.

The title of his second book, Mission Creep comes from a military term that describes when a mission or project loses it goals but still, unintentionally, continues and broadens.

Arthur had the opportunity to ask Trotter a few questions.

At what point in your life did you decide to share your writing?

At the beginning I wrote because I liked it. I thought everything I wrote was awesome, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t awesome. I wrote for many years before showing it to anybody. Eventually I met people whose writing I enjoyed, I met them here at Trent actually, and we edited each other’s work. Through that I gained confidence to share.

What is your advice for young students aspiring to be writers?

Write. Write and read as much as possible. If you want to write poetry, read poetry of all kinds, even poetry that you might not be interested in. If you really want to write; write.

Do you plan on keep writing and sharing your work?

Yes, I am working on new stuff, and I have no idea if I will publish or not but I like the process. I am hoping it will be a book someday but that is not really the point. I enjoy writing. I was very surprised when the publisher took this book. We will see what happens next.

Readings are held almost every week at 7:00 p.m. in the Scott House Junior Common Room at Catharine Parr Trail College, located at 310 London Street. After each reading authors and audience members are invited to an informal reception at The Trend.