Susan Ioannou [susanio]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
Around the end of grade one, as soon as I could sound out words enough to print them (many misspelled) on paper, I began mimicking detective programs on the radio. The short, action-packed stories I wrote were full of loud effects such as “Bang! Crash! Boom! Socko! Wham!” One story, “The Death of the Murdered Girl”, was published in the Brantford Expositor newspaper when I was seven. After that, the stories just kept flowing. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I was drawn more to writing poetry.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
For me, writing a poem is a long, slow process of discovery. Once the idea for a poem gets into my head, I start writing down whatever occurs to me about it, then lay the pages aside. A day or two later, I come back and look at what I’ve written. Is there any shape to the ideas? Where are they going? What is the centre? I read the lines aloud, trim, reword, rearrange, then put the pages away. Another day I come back and scrutinize everything with fresh eyes and ears. Again, I search for the point underlying what I am groping to say and the shape of the poem that is trying to emerge. Each day, I work on a fresh copy of the poem, but keep the previous versions, in case I need to backtrack. This process goes on and on and on, usually through dozens of rewrites, until finally the poem finds its shape and is saying what at first I didn’t fully know it wanted to say, but now I sense it finally does. Overall, much of the process is intuitive, but once the poem’s general direction has become clear, I also apply my knowledge of writing technique to help with the editing.
What well known writers do you admire most?
I admire any poet whose poems can touch me, offer insight, or teach something about the art. British and American poets I admire include Ben Jonson, John Donne, e.e. cummings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and May Sarton. There are many Canadian poets I respect: to name just a few, Patrick Lane, Charles Lillard, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and P.K. Page in the literary establishment, and in a younger generation, Alex Boyd.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I write poetry to please the Muse. Of course, I also hope there will be someone “out there” who enjoys or is touched by what I create. A lot of the time, though, it feels as if the words are flying into the unknown. Book reviewers provide feedback on a work’s literary merit. However, writing to suit their tastes or fashion is not the same thing as art. I believe a writer must be his/her own harsh critic, filtering any praise through the tight mesh of high personal aesthetic standards. Over the years, what have delighted me are the occasional notes from readers sharing how they felt about something I created. I am always touched that anyone would take the time to let me know.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
My awards include a Norma Epstein Foundation Award for Poetry, Media Club of Canada Memorial Award, Okanagan Short Story Award, and Ontario Arts Council Writers’ Reserve and Works in Progress Grants.
What are you working on now?
In 2007, Your Scrivener Press published my unusual poetry collection Looking Through Stone: Poems about the Earth, on the theme of geology, metals, minerals, and mining history. In 2008, my book Holding True: Essays on Being a Writer appeared through Wordwrights Canada. My current project is polishing an as yet untitled collection of short stories, to be published in 2009. Details will eventually appear online at http://www3.sympatico.ca/susanio/feature.html