Q & A with Megan Gail Coles
What book(s) and author(s) are you reading right now and why?
I am rereading The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach as a refresher because I am working on a poetry collection for Anansi. Also, Edward Said’s Orientalism, Noam Chomsky’s Who Rules the World, Eduardo Galenano’s Open Veins of Latin America and Jenn Thornhill Verma’s Cod Collapse. This is all supplemental reading for my doctorate. I took Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread and Chingozie Obioma’s The Fishermen home to the Great Northern Peninsula to read on the couch but ended up spending my time painting the bay house and visiting my grandparents. My intentions with fiction go unfulfilled as of late. I blame this resolutely on going back to school. There is never enough time to read all the books but I will never stop trying. There are stacks of literary journals all over the house. #ireadriddlefence, obviously.
Is there a particular genre of films you find yourself watching? Or do you have any recommendations of series or movies on a streaming site?
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is very smart. Travel Man with Richard Ayoade for wanderlust. Showtime’s Kidding for dark humour and puppets. Anything Michaela Coel is involved in, Chewing Gum and her new show I May Destroy You especially. I think she is a super talent. The Scottish mini-series The Victim is fantastic. Jojo Rabbit and Parasite for contemporary films. Old movies for napping when it is raining. Jaws is unexpectedly apt for the times. We watched the The Last Dance obsessively like everyone else who misses watching basketball.
What music or artist are you listening to right now and why?
Mostly running playlists which we take turns creating so it is constantly changing every other week. Mine are a flurry of eighties and nineties hits. Beastie Boys and Annie Lennox. Fine Young Cannibals and Talking Heads. Stuff like that. I also listen to a lot of podcasts when I am cooking or puttering around the house. NPR’s Hidden Brain with Shanka Vedantam is my most favourite.
Are you able to keep to a routine in terms of your own work? Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for others who are struggling to work from home right now?
I go to my desk every morning regardless of time of year or project. I have taken my laptop with me to Hawaii and Ireland because I like routine and structure. My work regime was hard won off challenging economics and now I am very protective of maintaining it. I work best in the mornings and then quit mid-afternoon whenever possible to go outside for the warmest and brightest part of the day. The writing was slow during the lockdown, laboured and stiff. I found myself preoccupied with the world unraveling and this is likely reflected in output. But I think it is important to keep trying so that is how I coped. I recorded the audiobook for Small Game Hunting over the month of June which was outside of my normal routine. My advice: be patient with yourself and always remember, you are more than a mode of productivity.
Social media is exploding with daily check-ins, poetry readings, virtual art gallery tours, etc – is there anything in particular you have discovered that has delighted you?
I try to spend as much time off my devices and outside as I can so I have not been engaging with the virtual offerings. I think it serves me better to go outdoors or talk to Nan on the phone. I got a new wetsuit, though, so we could swim in the colder temperatures and that has been delightful.
How has food provided a comfort?
During self-isolation, it helped shape the days, becoming a feature event. We don’t go out to eat much and so that was not necessarily problematic but sushi delivery was missed while we were following the strictest protocols. My partner mastered a gluten-free brownie recipe which is quite excellent for me.
Can you describe the physical situation you are in right now – what location, who you are spending this time with.
I am dividing my time between St John’s and Savage Cove with my boyfriend and pets. Sometimes we go to Brigus. I spend most of my time with my sisters and my best friends who also happen to be sisters.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about being in NL during a global pandemic?
Space in nature. Go outdoors. Be in the forest. It is so good for you.
Any overall words of wisdom to share?
Do not lust after a return to “normal”. Normal was inequitable, unsustainable, and killing us. Rage after something better. Stop looking to the vulgar rich for answers to your problems. They don’t even know your problems because they don’t even have them. Hero worship is wrong and redelivers us to the same sad place. Capitalism is economic violence devised to further elevate people in positions of power toward untouchability. Demand equality for all, human and beast. The planet deserves our respect. Decolonize and destabilize systems of oppression. They do not serve you. Never have and never will.
What do you miss the most?
Dancing and swimming pools. Hugging my nephew.
Megan Gail Coles is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland, National Theatre School of Canada, and University of British Columbia. She is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Poverty Cove Theatre Company. Since graduating from theatre school, she has written numerous award-winning plays including Our Eliza, Bound, The Battery, Squawk, Grace and Falling Trees. Her first short fiction collection, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, won the BMO Winterset Award, the ReLit Award, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, and earned her the Writers’ Trust of Canada 5×5 prize. Her debut novel, Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a contender for CBC Canada Reads, and recently won the BMO Winterset Award. Originally from Savage Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, Megan lives in St John’s and is a PhD candidate at Concordia University.