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Poetry Month Q&A: K.I. Press on motherhood and her latest collection

Originally from rural Alberta, poet K.I. Press has lived in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa. She’s now lived in Winnipeg for a decade, long enough, she says, that it “has slowed down the pace at which I can process urban fluster.”

Since moving to Winnipeg, Press has launched her third collection, Types of Canadian Women and of Women Who Are or Have Been Connected with Canada, Volume II (Gaspereau Press), got full-time work as a creative-writing instructor at Red River College, and gave birth to a daughter with fellow poet A.J. Levin.

In her fourth collection, Exquisite Monsters (Turnstone Press), Press turns mothering poems on their ear, while focusing on biomechanical androids and pop culture.

Q&Q talked to Press about her latest collection, which launches May 7 at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Booksellers.

What made you choose to write about pregnancy and mothering, but with a slant? I wrote a lot of mothering poems for the simple reason that I had a baby. Only a few of them have survived into the book.

The pop culture and science-fiction references in Exquisite Monsters started with a Battlestar Galactica obsession. I’ve been a fan of a number of sci-fi and fantasy shows over the course of my life, Battlestar being only one. I was pregnant during the final season, and – this is in the poem – I missed the very last episode because it was on while I was giving birth. I somehow found this significant.

EMonstersHow has teaching creative writing at RRC’s creative communications program affected your writing? I experiment and am more confident in many more styles, genres, forms than I used to be – something I’m trying to hone by working on the multi-genre MFA at University of British Columbia. Getting older and losing fear of failure also helps.

Where I teach, I teach all the creative-writing forms, and to students who are generalists, not people who specifically want to be one kind of writer or writers at all. So I had to give myself crash courses in forms I’d never even considered writing before, just so I could teach them. I haven’t published in other genres yet, but there’s no rush.

Now that you’ve written four books, what have you learned about the writing process? I need structure. It’s much more satisfying to work on projects that have a relatively clear scope and direction from the outset. I got lost a bit in this book, which is one of the reasons I’ve been so long between titles. This is was definitely the loosest project I’ve done; it took much longer to whip into shape.

Is there anything else you want people to know about Exquisite Monsters? The flip-book title poem is totally an experiment, and I don’t mean in an experimental-poetry kind of way. Please hack it up with scissors, draw pictures on it, etc. It’s supposed to be interactive. It’s supposed to be a fluid piece.

This interview has been edited and condensed.