Patrick Warner grew up in Claremorris, County Mayo in Ireland before moving to St. John’s in 1980. While here, he received a B.A in English and Anthropology from Memorial University and began his career as a writer. He’s published several poetry books such as All Manner of Misunderstanding, Precious, and Octopus as well as the novel One Hit Wonders.
Known for his sharp and dark wit, Patrick has written a new book My Camin, a book about misfits, art, spirituality, and identity. The Muse correspondent, Tim Parsons, recently had the pleasure of interviewing him.
How did you get your start in writing?
I was always a big reader, but then I got bitten by a poetry bug in my late 20s and spent the next decade reading little else as I tried to figure out what I liked so much about the form. I don’t know what in me changed to allow for this focus; maybe some sense that there was a disconnect between my internal life and external life and that metaphor was a way to bridge the gap.
Has your life in St. John’s influenced your writing style?
Well, nature rolls right up to your doorstep in St. John’s and I love that. I can’t say the place has had a direct influence on my style. I find that I get depressed in the long winters and that tends to make me more introspective. In the summer I just want be out doing things.
You’ve written so many poetry books, each with a variety of subjects. Writings about insurance companies, neanderthal skulls, catholic schooling, and exile are just a few of the numerous topics you’ve written about. What’s your process of finding what to write about?
In poetry, I never decide what to write about. I try to stay open- read good books, walk in the woods, meditate. Then something hits- a mood, a line from book I’m reading, an image that keeps recurring in my memory and suddenly finds a match in the present reality. I recognize a certain energy-a feeling that is part frustration and part excitement.
With fiction, I take a more deliberate approach. I set out to explore ideas, usually ideas that have got under my skin a little. My new novel, My Camino, is a satire of the art world, identity politics and the culture of political correctness. It’s about three friends: an African American man, a transwoman and an Irish immigrant who strike it big in the New York art scene; but the dream quickly sours and the trio, in full retreat, decide to bike the Camino de Santiago. Along the way, they concoct a revenge fantasy.
Are there any writers you’ve felt inspired you?
DH Lawrence, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Joseph Brodsky, Czeslaw Milosz, Lorrie Moore, Anne Enright, Alice Muno, Martin Amis, Patrick de Witt, Lynn Crosbie, A.R. Ammons, John Ashbery, Dorothy Parker, to name a few.
Apart from poetry and satire, are there other genres you’d like to write about?
I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at drama.
How has your B.A in English and Anthropology helped your creative writing?
They gave me some good foundational texts..
Do you have any current projects in the making?
I’m thinking about writing a play about sociopathy in young women as evidenced by the #MeToo movement. I’m kidding….. Maybe.