Spiderlilly and Contemplation: An interview with Tonya Liburd

Tonya Liburd is one of our members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.  Like many of us, she wears many hats including Associate Editor for Abyss & Apex.  

She was longlisted for a 2015 Carter V Cooper (Vanderbilt) Prize, and her work has appeared in Space And Time, Cascadia Subduction Zone, Postscripts to Darkness 6, UnCommon Minds, Expanded Horizons, the Mondays Are Murder series, Polar Borealis Magazine, Grievous Angel, and elsewhere. She’s also an affiliate member of the Horror Writer Association. She blogs at https://thespiderlilly.wordpress.com and recently spoke with us about her poetry and inspirations.

We’re looking forward to seeing more from her in the future!


Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a writer? What was one of the hardest things for you to learn?

I’m Canadian born, with Caribbean ancestry and my Caribbean ancestry is multiracial. What was the hardest thing for me to learn? Things that stood out in my most recent novel were being consistent with tenses – I can switch tenses like nobody’s business; if I’m right there with the writing, the tense switches. Also, transitions between novel scenes was something I had to do repetitiously in rewrites.

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When are you most satisfied with a poem? When does a poem bore you?

I’m most satisfied when it matches the emotion I want to convey. A poem bores me when it’s pretentious, or too obscure.

What’s a poem you usually suggest for a reader who wants to read you for the very first time?

They’re all behind a paywall. But my favourite poem of mine is “Contemplation,” published by Cascadia Subduction Zone in July, 2016 (www.thecsz.com).

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What’s been your family’s response to your path as a writer?

I haven’t been doing this long enough for my family to realize I’ve been making a mark.

Who do you look up to as your literary heroes and heroines?

Nalo Hopkinson, Nisi Shawl and Linda Addison are my literary heroines, my goddesses; writing that shaped me as a youngster were Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack Monkey, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, Michael Anthony’s novels, and V.S. Naipaul’s work.

Do you have any poetry projects you really hope to take on in the next few years?

I don’t have any at the moment I’m working on – I’m focused mainly on my novel and my short stories at the moment – but I’d like to do a collab with Linda Addison when I grow up artistically as a poet.

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What’s your favorite music to listen to as you write?

I have an eclectic variety of music genres I listen to, but it’s mostly electronic in some way. Braids, Aphex Twin, John Hopkins, FKA Twigs, Telepopmusic, Bon Iver.

If you could have any creature, fantastic or real, for a traveling companion, what would it be?

An otter!

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Coffee or Tea?

Oh, definitely tea. Peppermint or Earl Grey.

What’s your preferred writing space?

I write mostly at home, but you do need to shake things up. I will go out to the large McDonald’s at the corner, or I’ll go downtown. The Glad Day Bookshop is a nice place to go.

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What keeps you going as a poet?

Emotional support and moral support. And not pushing too hard, taking my time, and taking breaks. I’ve learned to pace myself so I don’t burn myself out prematurely, which is key this year, as I have a lot of writing projects.

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