Interview with Candace de Taeye

Candace de Taeye’s poetry has been published in CV2, Carousel, Echolocation, and Joypuke. Her first chapbook Roe was published by PS Guelph. Her debut full-length collection, Small Planes and the Dead Fathers of Lovers, was published by Vocamus Press in 2016. Sheri Doyle interviewed her in Guelph, Ontario.

sd: What is the backstory of Small Planes and the Dead Fathers of Lovers?

CdT: The backstory is the not uncommon experience of growing up in a small town and the one or two degrees of separation that exist between the people and even the physical spaces, especially when many of the families have been there for generations. The small town specifically is Bowmanville, Ontario. In the poems there are references to the WWII P.O.W. camp, the Bowmanville Zoo, and the tobacco farm I worked on as a teenager (one of the few outside the Delhi/Simcoe area) all of which have disappeared since I moved away. The camp is currently being demolished and turned into a subdivision, the Zoo shuttered its doors this October, and the family that owned the farm no longer grows tobacco. The house, in the last two suites of poems, still seems to be very close to the way I left it—from the outside at least. I could have called the collection ‘Bowmanville,’ but I’m not sure as many people would have considered reading it.

sd: Readers might expect to find small planes in these pages, given the title, but we also discover Iceland, Sao Miguel, and Toronto Island among other islands. Can you tell us a little bit about the significance of the islands in the first section?

CdT: The small planes stem first from the crash that killed my high-school sweetheart’s father in his helicopter. Then, secondly, I noticed how ubiquitous they were over my in-laws house after my father-in-law suddenly passed away. To me they have come to represent absent fathers, as well as adventure and conversely pastoral landscapes. In a more introspective sense it was the Cessena flight over Bowmanville that first let me ‘zoom out’ on that small town and what lay further afield. As I get older and travel more, I still find myself boarding smaller planes, 10-50 passengers, to get to remote places, frequently islands, always taking notice of the similarities and differences between isolated communities. All of the islands mentioned I have travelled to in the last few years.

sd: All the poems in the first section are comprised of five couplets. In the sections that follow, the lines have a variety of visual presentations including poems spaced far away or seemingly detached from their titles. How does this development of form, from a tight to a free and experimental expression, function for the narrative arc of the book?

CdT: Honestly, the development of form, if any, would be inverse. Since chronologically “I, House” is the oldest section of the book, written about 5 years ago. “Blue Collar” was written shortly after. “For Sale” was written, purposefully in a similar style to the original “I, House” just shortly after I sold the house it was based on in late 2015. “Small Planes” is the newest series of poems, written in early to mid 2016.

I think often my poetry looks like the ‘house’ poems (the ‘Roe’ chapbook for example), because that seems like a natural way, for me at least, to control the flow and emphasis of certain words or phrases. The poems of “Small Planes” initially had varying numbers of couplets (4-8), but early on in the editing I thought I might challenge myself to shoehorn all the poems into a uniform 5 couplets. I do have other projects, not currently published, where I’ve imposed similar constraints.

sd: The section titled “I, House” explores a complex relationship between the house and the homeowner. Could you share some thoughts on the evolution of this relationship?

CdT: In my mind the “I, House” series of poems was sort of a dialogue between the house, who is the speaker in most of the poems, and the young, initially single woman who bought the home (me). Like any real, committed relationship there was a lot to get to know about one another, there was work and expenses and frustration, but as time went on we got comfortable with one another, our love deepened, and we were happy to just exist in track-pants watching Netflix and eating melted cheese on Triscuits.

Then I invited my future husband to move in, which initiated new challenges between the house and he and I. After the birth of our son, I soon realized it was time to move closer to family and that the 165-year-old house and I would have to part. It was an amicable parting, and from what I know of the new buyer there are a lot of similarities—female, single, twenties, professional. I do drive by the house most times I’m in Bowmanville though.

sd: Do you have any other writing projects in the works? What’s next?

CdT: I have not officially started any new projects, but I think the next collection will be poems about working as Paramedic in downtown Toronto for the last decade, about the people one encounters but more so the apathy and politics.

sd: What are you currently reading?

CdT: I just picked up Anne Carson’s Float and Susan Holbrook’s Throaty Wipes.

sd: What do you think of Guelph’s literary community as a new resident of the city?

CdT: I think it’s a warm and welcoming community. I’m awed at the number and variety of literary events around town every month. Much more accessible than Toronto, and frankly I’m not sure there was anything happening in Bowmanville. There were probably writers but they were cloistered away.