Meeting Josianne Barrette, Hysteria 2017 poetry category judge

Josianne Barrette is one of our team of poetry judges in the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. She is a contributor at À l’essai, Cygne Noir, L’Organe, Bad Nudes Magazine (Canada) and Les Éditions des Femmes d’à Côté (France). She was a semi-finalist for the CBC Fiction Prizes in the Short Story category. Her poetry has been published in English in Matrix Magazine, Vinyl Poetry & Prose and will be anthologised in a collection due for 2018. She lives and teaches in the Montreal area. You can meet Josianne on Twitter @JosiannBarrett.

Which poet inspires you and why?

Robert Kelly is my all-time favorite poet. I was thrilled to learn that he was named Dutchess County’s first poet laureate this year (2016-2017). His lyricism will never go out of style. Never precious nor hermetic, rather inclusive and collaborative. Having read his books from the 60’s onwards, I get the sense that Kelly has always been attentive to his environment and to his readers’ (conscious and subconscious) preoccupations. I inevitably go back to his work to refresh and redefine my notion of what language could bring to poetry in both the most mundane and sacred ways.

« I had a theme at last

 a kind of shapely pouting silence

a bunch of words beyond my grasp

all I could do was say them so I did. »

(From Invaders 14, Autumn 1993)

If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?

I never doubted for one second, whether things were at their worst or at their best, that writing was what I wanted to do. I applied to contests, submitted and dealt with rejection a lot. It forced me to open my world to other people and to ask for help and criticism. Only then did things start to unfold and only then did I realize the value of including multiple voices in my process to make it stimulating rather than solipsistic.

What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?

My favourite pieces of writing are Conrad Aiken‘s best-known short story, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” (1934), ex aequo with Shirley Jackson’s “The Intoxicated” (1949). Both short stories are truly original, like nothing I have ever read before. They both have brought up some deep, primitive fears inside of me. What admirable craftsmanship!

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?




  • Infinite Music by Adam Harper
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt

It’s funny to realise that the concept of silence emerges in almost all of my answers in this interview, from Robert Kelly’s poem to Conrad Aiken’s story to Shūsaku Endō’s novel. Silence must be a crucial part of reading and writing. I’ll look into it.

Do you have favourite writing or reading resources to recommend?

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