Five Questions with… Larissa Andrusyshyn

Larissa Andrusyshyn will read from Mammoth at IFOA on October 23 and 25.

© James Di Donato

IFOA: What inspired the very memorable title of your poetry collection?

Andrusyshyn: I wrote the manuscript under the working title “Extinctions” but the book was more about life and living things and I didn’t want it to turn into an elegy. My brilliant editor Jason Camlot with DC Books suggested the title. When I began to write the character of the mammoth I felt the tone of the book had changed and I was energized by it.

IFOA: What do you hope to achieve in combining poetry with science?

Andrusyshyn: The project began as a kind of excavation to unpack my father’s death but I wanted to avoid sentimentality. I saw myself writing from the point of view of a researcher and I was heavily influenced by the documentarian tone of Werner Herzog. Sometimes, it’s his voice I hear in my head while I read over my work.

Curiosity is what drives both scientific exploration and poetry. I write about the things I’m fascinated with and the things I struggle to understand; everything from death to particle physics might be subject for me. I want to write poems no one has written before, like all writers do. We are all trying to figure life out, I just happen to write poetry.

IFOA: Who were your favourite writers as a child?

Andrusyshyn: I remember having significant love for Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak when I was very young. I was pretty nerdy so I read a lot of anthropology books, I was marked by the biography of “Lucy” by Donald Johanson, she was the 3.5 million year old Australopithecus found in Ethiopia. I was also really into lyrics and music so I would cite Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan as favorites too.

IFOA: If you could time travel, where and when would you go, and why?

Andrusyshyn: Well, my head says go back to the Pleistocene era, I’ve always wanted to meet a mammoth or write the next great ice age novel. But I would go back to my childhood and hang out with my family. It would be amazing to have a talk with my dad as an adult, the last time I saw him I was 11 years old. There are so many stories I’m sure I missed.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I wish I could…

Andrusyshyn: Earn a living as a writer? Save the whales? Talk to boys?

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Andrusyshyn: Humbling.

For more about Andrusyshyn’s appearance at IFOA, click here.