Helen Guri on Roughing It with the Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour

In an interview with Open Book Toronto, Helen Guri discusses the experience of canoe-tripping from reading to reading with a group of six scrappy fellow poets. It's an experience that, for Guri, changes the way one views one's craft, and it helps writers to overcome the anxieties associated with public readings. Guri's debut poetry collection, Match, came out last spring:

Open Book:

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to this unique approach to the public reading?

Helen Guri:

Writers tend to worry that no one will come to their readings. And they also worry about being sweaty on stage, so much so that they dress in uniformly dark clothing and seldom move their arms above the elbow. It makes them look like salamanders.

Arranging to read in a series of small towns and campsites and then travelling to them by canoe in the heat of summer seems like an ideal way to confront both of these anxieties head-on. By the end of the trip, I imagine we will all be thoroughly desensitized, which could either be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective.


Tell us one or two of the best outdoors/exploration/wildlife-themed books you’ve read (we’re getting in the mood for the tour!).


I was really excited to read a book that turns out not to exist — I had misheard my partner talking about some other book, whose title now escapes me. But the book I thought I wanted to read was called A Book of Boring Birds, which I imagined was a no-nonsense field guide to unremarkable little brown songbirds. Somebody should write it.

For the full interview, see here.

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