Editors Unplugged: Get to Know Our Speaker for How to Be Both Knife and Spoon: Poetry Editing with Clare Goulet

Interview conducted by Jessica de Bruyn.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand.

For this month’s program, we are honoured to be joined by Clare Goulet. Before we explore the world of poetry editing, here are some fun facts about Clare:

When we are allowed to travel again, where is the first place you would like to go?

London, England—my daughter is desperate to see her cousins—stopping in Iceland on the flight over to find lichen, climb volcanic slopes, and see more of the world.

What is the first poem or book of poetry you can remember that had an impact on you?

The first poem was D.H. Lawrence’s “Snake” in a British children’s book I read when I was about eight or nine. It had a volcano in the distance (which is maybe where that pull to visit Iceland comes from), and the poem was long, full of heat, disturbing, and mysterious. But the first poetry book that was huge in impact was Poets of Contemporary Canada 1960–1970 (before my time!), edited by Eli Mandel. It was a slim paperback with a white, black, and olive-green cover, which cost me $4.95, one of those little M&S New Canadian Library books. Inside were Al Purdy, Milton Acorn, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn MacEwan, maybe others. As a teen, I used to walk the road home from the school bus with my head down, reading it, bumping into the occasional telephone pole.

What is the note, query or suggestion that you give to poets you are working with most often?

Tough question! Poems celebrate and thrive on particularity, so each case, each poem, each problem has such particular needs—really, it’s the least generic and repetitive type of editing.  But okay, to answer:

Notes that start “What if…” and “Perhaps…”  🙂

More practically: I might note that some tiny aspect—a space or word or extra beat or phrase—is interfering with something already working really, really well and is distracting from a main move or arc or cadence or thought-feeling of a line or section. Often suggestions are about what to pull out without the thing collapsing, a bit like playing Jenga.

What is a metaphor that you think is overused in poetry?

I bow to the metaphors of the poets I’ve been fortunate enough to edit.

In my student starter-poets’ work, it would be any metaphor involving tears or romance, particularly tears as a result of romance, though I now banish romance as a subject in student projects to solve that issue (you can laugh, but it’s true).

What does a great day off look like for you?

Ocean cliff walk with my big, foolish dog, hot coffee, daughter, emergency poetry book, and a pocket of collected lichens—which are a cool composite of two organisms that in relation create this startling new thing. Lichens are a very fun metaphor for metaphor. It’s all poetry, really! I mean that: integrated forms—that’s how the world outside of language is and works, and poems printed on the page are, when they work, just an extension of that. Perhaps.

More about our speaker:

Photo of Clare Goulet

Clare Goulet has edited creative non-fiction, poetry, essays, science texts, and fiction; she served as a prose/poetry editor at The Fiddlehead under Don McKay, and for Brick Books and Gaspereau Press, as well as freelance and in-house. Co-editor of the anthology Lyric Ecology (Cormorant), she contributed a chapter to Listening for the Heartbeat of Being (MQUP), with current projects in text-based machine learning. She teaches editing and writing at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

Join us on Tuesday, April 27, at 7:00 pm EST via Zoom for How to Be Both Knife and Spoon: Poetry Editing with Clare Goulet by securing your ticket here. Editors Canada members are entitled to free entry. Find a promo code in your email or contact us at [email protected]. General admission is $7.


Jessica de Bruyn is a freelance substantive editor, currently specializing in working with new authors. She is an eternal student, having studied theatre, music, and writing for film and television, and is currently completing certificates in publishing and creative writing. Jessica is also the co-host of the podcast Pub Hub, which is a behind-the-scenes look into the world of publishing.

Leave a reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.