Conyer Clayton: One Question & A Poem

Conyer Clayton's beguilingly-titled, award-winning But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves is a collection of prose poems that visit dreamscape and the surreal. 

The title's line-up of items is beguiling in itself, sharpened with hesitation (those commas!) and linkage (those ands!). Then there's that opening But, skewing it all toward hazard: uncertainty, contradiction, protest, resistance. 

This poem, for example, swerves through a shifting present with an observing and questioning eye: 
I asked Conyer Clayton about the work titles do in their poems, and their process of creating them. 

"I am notoriously bad at coming up with book titles, usually relying on my editors or friends or partner to help me figure it out at the last minute, ha! But clearly, I love a long book title. This one simply felt right because it evokes the feelings, for me, of constant continuation, disorientation, and being unsure of one’s safety. Is this a safe haven or a place of danger? All the images could lean either way. I guess the answer for how I come up with book titles is that I fail at it for a very long time, and then someone else suggests a really good one, and I’m like whoa. Yup. That’s it.


"As for poem titles, I find these easier and they usually come quickly in the aftermath of a first draft. I think what they do on a craft level somewhat differs for each poem, but maybe what they have in common is that I’m trying to add something to the overall experience of the poem, not necessarily sum the poem up."

Conyer Clayton (Curtis Perry photo)

Conyer Clayton is an award-winning writer and editor whose multi-genre work explores grief, disability, addiction, and gender-based violence, often through a surrealist lens. They are the author of But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves (Winner of the Archibald Lampman Award, Anvil Press) and We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Winner of the Ottawa Book Award, Guernica Editions), and an editor for Augur and untethered magazine.