Questions for derek beaulieu

derek, firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time to participate in this project. Secondly, I would like to thank you for writing new and innovative poetry!  Reading your works have been inspiring and I have been fascinated by the style and techniques that you use.  The questions below cover a variety of topics on your work and inspirations, I look forward to seeing the answers.

Before i start with your questions i want to thank you for taking such a considered look at my work — i greatly appreciate it. my apoologies for the delay in my response; my classes and travel have kept me away from the computer…

1) Several of your published works have been in collaboration with other talented poets, what draws you to working with others? What are some pros and cons you have found by doing so?

i think that part of the job of the poet is to engage with more than their own work — i believe that poetry is part of a larger conversation that includes teaching, publishing, editing, commentary and critique, discussions and social interaction. our work only benefits from the engagement in several different aspects. it worries me when i see poets who don’t do anything except write and publish their own work … and to that end i try to promote other people’s work, try to promote conversations through collaboration, through critique and through publishing.

2 ) I’ve noticed that you never capitalize your name, why is that? Was this perhaps influenced by e.e. cummings idea of individuality and free form with capitalization and grammar? Speaking of influence, you have discussed in previous interviews your view on the need for sharing of ideas. A quote that stood out to me was “Authors are now judged not by the quality of their writing but of the infallibility of their choices”, which was stated in an interview with Lemon Hound circa 2010. What has led you to this point where you are so comfortable with what Goldsmith would state as thinkership?

i don’t capitalize my name (a very small and passive pseudonym) for several reasons — i like the symmetry of the lower-case “d” and “b” (and as a former colleague of mine pointed out, when i include my middle initial capitalized, “A”, my initials are still symmetrical); my poetic inspiration, bpNichol, also did not capitalize his name; and lastly i wanted to uncapitalize my name, instead of “Derek Beaulieu” as a means of drawing attention to letters and to quiet the poetic ego.

ive been working in conceptual writing and visual poetry for a while now, and feel that there is a lot of cross-over between the 2 practices. most specifically, a lot of abstract (non-narrative, and especially non-semantic) visual poetry demands a “thinkership” in a way that conceptual writing also demands.

3) Your poetry often incorporates a mathematical like concept, I have noticed this in poems such as aquarium, zen basho, and somes. Being a writer you are probably mostly related to English and art, but do you have a strong math or science background? What would be your advice to students on how to not be defined by one subject?

i have a strong background in neither math or science (it took a few tries in high school to get my math skills to a comfortable level), rather i am interested in how artistic practice can overlap with other disciplines. i think that poetry MUST engage with the sciences, design and ANY other subject (interior design, automotives, archeology, anything) in order to thrive) — find your passion (and don’t be limited to art), and see how the vocabulary of that subject can power your own writing.

How to Write by derek beaulieu

4) I find it very interesting your shout outs to Basho in frogments from the frag pool. Was this perhaps because of the way he branched out from the traditional kigo, to design a new form of poetry, haiku; is very similar to what you are doing, completely changing the face of poetry?

i wouldn’t go far as to say that im “completely changing the face of poetry” — im working within a genre, but i am trying to add to the conversation.

5) What is the best compliment you have ever received?

well my daughter a few days ago said that “with that shirt on, daddy, you look like a bumblebee”, but in terms of poetry, i liked hearing ‘i didn’t know that poetry could do that.’

6) You have tested the limits of the letters of the alphabet; designing your poetry in a way that does not resemble words, but instead shows letters in a new interesting light. Do you think you will get to a point that 26 letters available will not be enough? Have you considered making a whole new alphabet to push the limits further?

i don’t have any plans to create new letters (tho i was greatly influenced by Dr.Seuss’s volume ON BEYOND ZEBRA in which he postulates the 26 letters which come after “z”). this short film shows just the characters in unicode:

my hands are full enough with the potentialities of those letters…

7) Along with being the publisher of a smallpress you founded, you are also involved in social broadcasting through twitter and blogging. I know you have stated the importance of the internet, but do you fear that technology is going to diminish the usage of hard copy books? How do you think that situation would affect the population, how would it affect you personally?

this argument come sup every few years, and while i think that the role of e-books is growing, i don’t feel that it will adversely affect how we use books as they are today. these new technologies will simply augment the book – hardcopy books aren’t going anywhere — i think the larger issue will be for the writers — i think that limiting your work to a series of pieces of paper is a hindrance. posting entire manuscripts and finished editions online for free is the way to go — let the books into the wild of the internet; it wont eliminate the book or sales — it will simply draw more attention to the object themselves. don’t hoard your writing in a book, share it!

thank you so much for your questions — i am really honoured to be able to chat with you!

derek beaulieu

Author of five books of poetry (most recently the visual poem suite silence), three volumes of conceptual fiction (most recently the short fiction collection How to Write) and over 150 chapbooks, derek beaulieu’s work is consistently praised as some of the most radical and challenging contemporary Canadian writing. In 2011 beaulieu was named by Broken Pencil Magazine as one of Canada’s “Top 50 indie artists of the last 15 years” and in 2007 was the Alberta Magazine Publishers’ Association’s Volunteer of the Year. He has also been nominated as part of The Calgary Herald / Calgary Public Library 10 Calgary Mavericks (2010), Avenue Magazine’s Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 (2009) and the Alberta Magazine Publishers’ Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2009). beaulieu is the youngest writer in Canada to have his papers collected in extensio by Simon Fraser University’s Contemporary Literature Collection. Publisher of the acclaimed smallpresses housepress (1997–2004) and no press (2005–present), and former editor of filling Station, dANDelion, endNote, Speechless and The Minute Review, beaulieu has spoken and written on poetics nationally and internationally. His first volume of criticism, Seen of the Crime, is forthcoming from Snare Books. beaulieu has taught at the University of Calgary and with the Calgary Board of Education and currently teaches at Mount Royal University. He can be found online at

Tatum is a scholar of languages and an investigator of structure, she holds a certain meraki and is certainly a pochemuchka. These two qualities, of doing things with love and creativity while asking a lot of questions has led to her success in publishing her poetry by the age of 8, she also uses these qualities to her advantage while travelling around the world and adding to her collection of Le Petit Prince in various languages. Along with her love of letters and letters of love, Tatum is also an accomplished athlete, competing in running and swimming at a provincial level. Tatum states that her future cannot be predicted; instead she will create it.

One thought on “Questions for derek beaulieu

  1. Derek beaulieu,
    I was first drawn to your poems because of the unique style that you write in; I have always been fascinated with the structure of literature. After talking to you I have found myself even more intrigued with your work. It is a great privilege to be able to talk to an author and have them answer the questions you have about their work, and even more so a privilege when the responses are so thoughtful and detailed. Thank you for your advice on incorporating many different disciplines into art; I started thinking about it and realized how boring art gets when it is defined by one thing, therefore what you said makes perfect sense to me. I cannot wait to find my passion in life and run with it, incorporating it into my writing as I go along as you suggested. I am interested that you mentioned Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra , after you said that I made the connection that some of the poetry I have seen of yours reminds me of the letters in that book! Especially the last letter that is the anagram of the entire alphabet. Thank you for sharing that you were influenced by that book and thank you for sharing that amazing video on Unicode, I was mesmerized. Lastly I would like to let you know that I share the same view as you do on ebooks as a tool to share work and not diminish hard copy books. There are so many amazing things being written it would be a shame for them not to be accessible through the internet. On that note, I cannot wait to read more of the amazing things you write! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my questions it was greatly appreciated and a very exciting experience all around.
    All the best,
    Tatum Dooley

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