Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Adrienne Gruber

Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Adrienne Gruber

In her book ‘The Queer Art of Failure’ Judith Halberstam offers alternative ways of knowing and becoming. Instead of valuing the conventional paths of belonging, achievement and completion, she thinks about and champions the ways of “failure”: losing your way, giving in, being excluded, forgetting, awkwardness, coming apart. Not just rejecting the “normal,” Halberstam shows alternatives to success as paths that have always been there, moving away from mastery and coherence. In this series of Q&A’s with contributors to our upcoming Queer issue, we play with these ideas. When we aren’t trying to finish first (or finish anything) where do we end up?

Think back to when you started writing. What’s an earlier influence you outgrew, abandoned, or turned against?

I think I probably turned against most of the poets I had thrived on in my earlier years. I was exposed to a lot of Saskatchewan and so-called “Prairie Poets” during high school and in my early twenties. I loved them all at the time but there came a point where I felt stifled by what they had to offer me. I’m back on board with most of those poets now, though. I just needed some independence, some exploration. I needed to leave the nest.

When a piece of writing doesn’t work out, what do you do with it? Discard? Fold it into another project? Salvage parts?

I usually keep it somewhere on my computer, thinking in the moment that I’ll use it again. I almost never do. I guess those pieces don’t make it for a reason.

What do you do with your rejection letters?

I keep them but I’m not really sure why anymore. I used to think I’d do something cool with them but I’m too lazy. They remain in a storage locker in the basement of my apartment building. I’ve started tossing recent rejection letters.

Do you plan out the piece beforehand or find your way as you go along? A combination of both?

I wish I was a planner. I wish I had some sort of epic plan for every poem I’ve written. Or even for some of them. Or even just for one of them. They all start out pretty random.

When a project is finished, how do you start the next one? Or do your projects overlap?

I tend to have several barely-started or half-finished writing projects on the go. It makes me feel productive to have a variety of things that I’m working on. To balance things out. It also makes me feel useless because most of those projects never get to a publishable place. And it allows me to always have something to talk about when asked what I’m working on. Usually by the time a collection of poems is finished I’ve been heavily involved in something completely different for a couple of years.

Have you ever not sent a piece of writing somewhere because it seemed “too gay/queer” for that publication?

No. There’s no such thing as “too queer”. Unless George Michael’s face is on the cover. I’d submit to that mag in a heartbeat.

What do you do to procrastinate?

Eat. Clean my apartment. Answer emails. Facebook. Rearrange the photos on my fridge. Look up recipes for meals I’ll never make. Shop for maternity shirts online. Poke the cat. Answer interview questions.

Has anyone ever said something completely discouraging to you as an artist? Did it take the wind out of your sails or did it drive you forward? Or both?

I feel like that must have happened at some point. I seem to have blocked it out. I’ve had some almost acceptances of my 2nd manuscript that broke my heart a little bit. It was for the best really. I shudder to think of what that book would look like if it had been accepted two years ago.

Can a piece of writing fail, or is that a bullshit notion?

Sure it can fail, but that’s a personal thing. My work fails me constantly. I don’t think anyone else cares that much to comment, but I obsess over it. When it comes to the work of others, I just assume its fine and they know what they’re doing.


Adrienne Gruber is originally from Saskatoon and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC.  Her first poetry manuscript This Is The Nightmare was published with Thistledown Press in 2008.  She has been short-listed for the CBC Literary Awards, and her poem ‘The Rope’ was selected for publication in the anthology, The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2010.  Her chapbooks Mimic (Leaf Press) and Everything Water (Cactus Press) were published in the fall of 2011.