(Donna and her dad, 1958)
a soft brown teddy bear and a
green crocheted blanket
are the only real things
in this hospital room
my dad’s in the bed
but the man in that bed
has never been real
not to me
he never said
never looked at me that way
never touched me lightly
I got his toughness
he taught me how to smoke and drink
and play cards and stay out all night
I got his temper
he taught me anger and how to put on the gloves and smack
without damaging my hands
when he’s dead
I want my bear and my blanket
© Donna Gagnon
(appeared in Issue 201 of Bewildering Stories http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue201/index.html)
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1. Your choices of writing for this week and your biography cover quite a range. Do you think of yourself as versatile, or do you tend to get bored with a certain genre, like plays, and move on?
I'm definitely versatile (you should see my work resume!). But I wouldn't say I get bored easily. I relish challenges and am always looking for the next one.
2. Who influences your work? I know you're a fan of Timothy Findley. Do you try to emulate him in any way ... or other people for that matter? Your husband is obviously a lunatic, does he influence you in any way?
Timothy Findley is my literary hero. He was one of the nicest people I've ever met and a real inspiration, not only through his writing, but through the way he lived and encouraged other authors. I don't think I emulate him in my writing, although I definitely hear his 'voice' frequently and hope that I treat others as kindly as he did. The most important things I've learned from reading Findley's work is: pay attention ... always ... and write about what is most deeply personal to people.
The very first thing I ever wrote (when I was 12 years old) was an obvious knock-off of a Nancy Drew book. I don't think I've done anything like that since.
My husband, the lunatic, is the only person in the world who can effectively peel me off the ceiling and pin my feet to the floor when I go off on one of my frequent emotional whirls. He and I met through an online writers' forum and I will be forever grateful to MSN Messenger and Skype for allowing us to talk daily for three years while we tried to figure out how to be together in one place. Doug and I are very different kinds of writers. Words pour out of him (novels, for heaven's sake) while my writing proceeds always at a snail's pace. It's good that we're both different in oh so many ways. We complement and encourage each other. One day, maybe I'll even be able to teach him how to edit and punctuate.
3. The poem 'My Dad' ... is that really based on your father?
'My Dad' was written many years after my father passed away. He was a challenging person. We had one of those intense and distressing father/daughter relationships that happen between stubborn people. He's been gone for eight years now and I often find myself examining what went down between the two of us. The blanket (and the teddy bear) in that poem were real. I gave them to him when he was dying in the hospital. At the time, I thought they would give him comfort. In retrospect, the person who needed the comfort was me.