The three Rs: Jonathan Bennett

April 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today’s writer, Jonathan Bennett, is the author of five books including the critically acclaimed novels, Entitlement and After Battersea Park, two collections of poetry, Civil and Civic, and Here is my street, this tree I planted, and a collection of short stories, Verandah People, which was runner up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. He is a winner of the K.M. Hunter Artists’ Award in Literature.

Jonathan Bennett’s other writing has appeared in many periodicals and journals including the Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Quill and Quire, Southerly,  Antipodes, Matrix, This Magazine, and Descant. Born in Vancouver, raised in Sydney, Australia, Jonathan lives in the village of Keene, near Peterborough, Ontario.

When did you first know you wanted to write books?

When I read Dubliners. I suppose I was about 19. While I’d been writing bad poems, the odd juvenile short story, and the like; it had never really occurred to me before then as an actual possibility. But, the language of that book, coupled with my enormous naiveté, made me believe it was something I could do.

What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?  

I begin by drinking lots of coffee. Then I write until my back aches. I can go for many, many hours. But I don’t write every day. In fact, I can go weeks without writing. But, the story, or poem, is always there circling. I am always “writing” in a way, filtering the world through the project I am at. So, when I do sit down, I am ready to strike.

What do you read while you’re writing?

If I am writing poems, then fiction. If fiction, then poems. I read non-fiction all the time—I rarely write it.

What have you read recently that you really loved?  

I don’t really love books. I more admire them. So, let’s go with that… Amos Oz’s Scenes from Village Life. It really hung around and came back to me. Barnes’s Sense of an Ending I also thought was a fine example of how absolutely complete a story can be. I just finished Stray Love by Kyo Maclear and thought it a really beautiful novel.

What are your all-time favourites?

I’m going for living writers here. David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life. He writes the body like no one else, and this is my favourite of his I think. Anything by William Trevor or Alice Munro. As for poets, I go back to often, or will eagerly buy anything new by: Les Murray, Robin Robertson, Ken Babstock, Karen Solie, A.E. Stallings, Seamus Heaney. Those are who come to mind today…

You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?

Writing, and I suppose I would start watching films.

What’s your third R?

My family.


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