Nightwood: What books did you turn to while writing Dream House?
Cathy Stonehouse: A lot of this book began as prose poetry, so while writing I often returned to my favourite prose poets, including US poet Killarney Clary, whose Who Whispered Near Me never fails to draw me deeper. Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space and the poetry of John Clare are both referenced. Two recent Canadian poetry collections, Render by Sachiko Murakami and blue gait by shauna paull, provided inspiration and courage.
NW: Is there a sight, memory or feeling that embodies your book?
CS: While writing this book I worked on some miniature dioramas which combine tiny plastic figurines with found natural objects, playing with scale so that the “small” found objects appear disconcertingly imposing, architectural. I’m not sure which category these artworks fit into (sight, memory, feeling) but there is some significant correlation.
NW: What lives on your writing desk?
CS: Too many pens. A miniature cigar-smoking badger and her beaten-up typewriter. Two largeish pieces of lapis lazuli. A note my daughter stuck up on her bedroom door when she was about seven and mad at me: “no idiots such as Cathy allowed.”
NW: If your book were a meal, what would it be?
CS: A mug of strong black tea and a serving of trifle.
NW: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
CS: Drop the word “aspiring,” and put in the hours.
Thank you so much for joining us Cathy! Make sure to check out Dream House here.
A long poem in six sections, Dream House takes its cue from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space in its investigation of female embodiment, calling up such feral, liminal spaces as the pregnant body, the aging mind, snail shells, broom closets, low-ceilinged pubs and abandoned pizza boxes. Part Tardis, part townhouse, part Howl’s Moving Castle, this wry, surreal and many-peopled narrative interrogates what metaphor might hold of history, both personal and social, after a mother’s passing. Its migrant speaker trawls through hedgerows and recipe books to unearth stained birdsong and undead civil wars, tracing a matrilineal path across four generations while traversing the haunted margins between existence and belonging.
Cathy Stonehouse (she/they) is a poet, writer, teacher and visual artist. As a young adult, Cathy migrated from Northern England, where she was born, to Vancouver, BC—the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, where she still lives. She is the author of a novel, The Causes (Pedlar Press, 2019), a collection of short fiction, Something About the Animal (Biblioasis, 2011) and two previous collections of poetry, Grace Shiver (Inanna Publications, 2011) and The Words I Know (Press Gang, 1994). She also co-edited the anthology Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), with Fiona Tinwei Lam and Shannon Cowan. She is a previous editor of EVENT magazine and currently teaches creative writing and interdisciplinary expressive arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC. Find her online at www.cathystonehouse.com.