Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gerald Hill, Jared Carlson: Hillsdale Poems, Map

Gerry Hill - photo by Shelley Banks
Gerald Hill, Regina
Regina writer Gerald Hill and artist Jared Carlson recently collaborated on a map of the Hillsdale neighbourhood of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hillsdale, a Map, is more than cartographic exploration, with poems that feature titles such as A Boy's Room, 1962, What Sisters Have to Say, and What's to Drink in Hillsdale.

I asked Gerry to tell me about the project, which he calls "one man's version of a suburb new in '56":

Shelley Banks: Why did you decide on a map?
Gerry Hill: I don't remember deciding. I just got the idea at some point — the usual mystery. But the idea arrived. I like it. It makes literal what we do most of the time as writers: map who and where we are. And it was so much fun to play with.
SB: How does map-making differ from poetry writing – or does it?
GH: Broadly speaking, they're much the same, I'd say: they both create a representation of a world.
In terms of Hillsdale, a Map, the text and visual components (splendidly integrated by designer Jared Carlson) are both part of the same impulse — to build my Hillsdale. 
Hillsdale, a map,
by Gerald Hill and Jared Carlson
Of course, I'm under no illusion that my Hillsdale is quite like anyone else's, or quite like the actual place. Although a documentary impulse is part of what has driven that work, and I've spent many hours in archives and interviewing long-time Hillsdalians and walking the streets and easements of the place, my poems are true to themselves first and the external referent second. We approached the map that way too: we wanted real map — Trevor Herriot told me he used it when he needed to find Calder Crescent — but we're more than happy to fool around, to play with our representations of a real world.
SB: Can you talk about impact of form, texture, context on writing? (What I mean is, this isn’t something a reader can curl up with; it needs to be expanded to be explored; it must be read in a different way.)
GH: We wanted a real map. By real, I mean a document meant to be folded and put away in the glove compartment, pulled out when needed. A few people have told me they get to the map in bits, gradually unfolding it, so to speak. I think you can curl up with it, though. Try it! The map is in no hurry.
SB: What next?
GH: Next year NeWest Press will be publishing my Hillsdale Book which will include all of the map text and, I hope, the map itself as a fold-out. I'm working out the logistics with the publisher. This Hillsdale project, including the map and a chapbook, Streetpieces, published last fall by Alfred Gustav Press, has given me everything I want as a writer, but it's done now (except for final edits on the book). I moved away from Hillsdale last year, and I'm on to new work: a nonfiction prose thing called "Learning to Draw", being a series of essays, each based on one of my lousy drawings. Drawings set in my new neighbourhood, mainly. Thus, this project is like the Hillsdale book — a notation of where I live and who I am, living there.
SB: The print run for this map was 100. Assuming that the recent mention of the map in the Hillsdale newsletter continues to fuel demand until all 100 are sold, what more could you ask of your readers? 
GH: Well, for my book launch next year I'm planning to rent a bus to drive around Hillsdale, stopping at points where individual poems are set and reading those poems over the bus PA system. The bus will be full, I hope, of my 100+ supporters (never mind that normal bus capacity is 46). We'll drink some champagne, then adjourn somewhere for further eat and drink. 
Thanks, Gerry! For all your answers — and the final question. (And perhaps this should be the point at which I introduce our new literary genre, and write — as I did by iPhone e-mail, "I love champagne! Not nearly so find if buses, though...")  

To purchase Hillsdale, a Map ($20), contact Gerry or Jared.


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