Born: Bobcaygeon, Ontario
Resides: Perth, Ontario
Trillium Book Award–nominated work: Killdeer (2011)
Selected additional works: Eighteen Poems (1973), The Crucifixion (1979), Homes (1979), A Minor Operation (1983), Why I Haven’t Written (1985), Old Enemy Juice (1988), Amanuensis (1989), The Unsaid (1992), Hearthedral: A Folk-Hermetic (1996), Trouble Sleeping (2000), The Bad Sequence (2004), An Oak Hunch (2005), White Porcupine (2007), The Little Seamstress (2010)
Biography: Phil Hall was raised on farms in the Kawarthas region of Ontario. He moved to Windsor in 1972, where he received an MA in creative writing. In 1973, he published his first book, Eighteen Poems, in Mexico City. He considers much of his poetry “work writing,” having to do with the concerns, language, and ideals of labourers. When Hall moved to the West coast, he joined the Vancouver Industrial Writers Union as well as the Vancouver Men Against Rape Collective, and ended up teaching at the Kootenay School of Writing. In 1976, he started Flat Singles Press, a small imprint that primarily publishes broadsides and chapbooks. Hall has since worked as the literary editor of This Magazine, taught writing and literature at Toronto’s York University and Ryerson University, and has been a poet-in-residence at a number of universities and writers workshops. His Trillium Book Award–nominated Killdeer has already won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
Joseph MacKinnon: Killdeer has made a big splash in the Canadian poetry world. Can you tell us a bit about the collection?
Phil Hall: A book of essay-poems. The only punctuation is the dash. I like the dash for its speed, and I use it as musical notation. My stanza, in these, is the sentence or partial sentence, again a musical pacing. Reels and jigs.
Many of the pieces are about people: Margaret Laurence, Bronwen Wallace, Libby Scheier, Dan Jones, Nicky Drumbolis. My models for these poems were the French poet René Char, his work, and also old fiddle tunes.
Hoedowns. I like that word, hoedown. It means, Put your hoe down. Cut the rug…
Joseph MacKinnon: How did you react to this Trillium nomination for Killdeer?
Phil Hall: I think of Killdeer as a very Ontario book, and of Ontario as my country. So to be recognized by the Trillium folks means a lot to me. Samuel Johnson said, everyone secretly wants to be thought well of in his hometown. (more…)