Today’s interview features Dominik Parisien, who contributed to the Body issue with his poem “Train in my veins“. This is Dominik’s third appearance in Stone Telling, after “In His Eighty-Second Year” and “Let me show you you“.
Dominik Parisien’s first published poem appeared in Stone Telling 7. Since then, his poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Ideomancer, Shock Totem, Strange Horizons, Tesseracts 17, and Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Dominik is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.
(I can still peel an orange
reassemble its skin like a torn
map tracing the routes
with my trembling fingers)
– from Train in my veins
ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?
The image of the train came from seeing an abandoned train wagon hidden in the middle of a wood by a lake near my wife’s family’s cottage. There is probably a mundane explanation for it being there, but I don’t care for such a reason. I started imaging how it might have arrived there, independent of a railway, which turned into imagining the train travelling throughout various outlandish locales. Eventually, that culminated in the train travelling in/across a body, which is perhaps the most complex of all landscapes.
Many people are afraid of ageing bodies. Not necessarily of ageing per say, but of losing control of their own bodies. You often hear folks talk about preferring to die young, of wanting to die in their prime. Not wanting to lose any of their autonomy, strength, physical attraction, etc. I find that there’s great beauty in an ageing body, and I wanted to show how age and disability don’t negate beauty and fascination. So I decided to tour an ageing body while exploring some of the fears and preoccupations that can occupy its mind.
ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?
The body is absolutely one of the main themes in my work. I believe my first published poem, “In His Eighty-Second Year”, which appeared in Stone Telling 7, set the tone for much of my poetry. Themes of disability and ageing run throughout many of my poems, and while there are certainly other themes that attract me, those are probably the ones I identify with most strongly.
ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?
I’ve mentioned this before in a Stone Telling roundtable, but I worked with the elderly for quite a few years. I do volunteer work with the elderly without family. I visit my friends at the retirement home when I visit my family in my hometown. Their narratives aren’t often represented, especially in genre, and that preoccupies me. Going back to that idea of people saying they would prefer to die young, I think that the concept of ‘better dead than disabled’ or ‘enfeebled’ or ‘old’ or whatever you want to call it, is a serious imaginative and empathetic failure. Ageing is a universal human experience, so how is it that we see so few of these narratives in a field that prides itself on flights of imagination?
ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Time Traveller’s Almanac is coming out in North America from Tor Books in March and the UK version is already out from Head of Zeus. I was one of two editorial assistants for that project and it is a massive, comprehensive, and very fun anthology. More anthologies are in the works.
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