Ritual Lights: An Author Interview with Joelle Barron
Joelle Barron is a writer and editor, and Ritual Lights is their first poetry collection. Barron lives as a settler on the Traditional Territory of the Anishinaabeg of Treaty 3 and the Métis people (Fort Frances, Ontario). Ritual Lights (icehouse poetry, 2018) was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and in 2019, Barron was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers. They share their experience writing Ritual Lights.
Darcey Neale: There are many depths that your poems in Ritual Lights go to explore the nature of survival. How did you decide where to start?
Joelle Barron: I definitely didn’t set out to write about survival; writing poetry has always been an outlet for me, and at a certain point, I realized that this theme of survival was emerging on its own. I never really started writing Ritual Lights; it sort of formed itself around me, like a poetry shield.
DN: What was your writing process for the collection? Did each poem string together one after another? Or did you take time between them, to figure out where to go next?
JB: I wrote the poems in Ritual Lights over the course of about five years. I have never been much of a planner when it comes to writing, and I don’t typically set out with an idea of a collection in mind. I just write whatever I need to, and what emerges always teaches me about myself.
DN: What is your favourite poem from this collection? Why?
JB: “Artemisia Paints the Violent Deaths of Men” is a particular favourite. I don’t know that it’s a terribly clean poem, but it’s reflective of a pure, intense feeling. The turn is stark. I was saying something that I very much needed to say. I think it’s brave.
DN: Illuminating dark spaces is a beautiful premise for poetry and there is a wide breadth of human experience within this collection. What other observations of life did you draw on that translated into your poetry?
JB: The collection sort of ended up telling this loose narrative that led from survival of sexual assault in multiple forms, to the formation of a new, queer family, and the rejection of patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality. When I look back on the poems now, I see this really clear theme of emerging, of coming out (literally and figuratively). Stepping into the light.
DN: What did you learn from writing Ritual Lights?
JB: I learned that I never want to be called resilient again.