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Write On Ottawa: In praise of the literary brilliance of Michael Blouin

By Alejandro Bustos on August 12, 2013


The National Capital Region is full of fantastic poets.  To showcase this amazing talent, we will feature in the coming months many of our local poetic wordsmiths.  Today we focus on one of our region’s literary pioneers.

Michael Blouin is one of the best writers currently working in Ottawa.  Like a DJ who mixes and matches from different genres to produce a magical flow, his literary efforts combine fiction, poetry and music to produce a hypnotizing narrative.

His most recently published book, Wore Down Trust, is a mesmerizing poetic-novel.  “I would classify this as a novel told in poetry because it has a narrative flow that you don’t see in a poetic book,” says Blouin in a phone interview.

The fulcrum of the story is a short meeting in 1975 in Fredericton, New Brunswick between music legend Johnny Cash and the Canadian poet Alden Nowlan.  The tale is split into two parts – the first section focuses on Cash, the second on Nowlan – in which each character describes their respective lives.

wore downWhile the subject matter is fascinating, it’s the structure of the book that is pure genius.  Instead of presenting a standard narrative, the book mimics a traditional 12-bar blues pattern, in which the characters and author “sing” together.  The result is neither a standard poetry book nor a typical novel, but rather literary music that transports the reader into a captivating world, in which a musical icon and a famous Canadian literary figure bare their souls.

“I write more traditional novels, and I like the freedom of not playing by these rules,” says Blouin, when asked about the process of writing Wore Down Trustwhich won the 2012  Archibald Lampman Award.  “I want to forge something that you can’t call poetry, or fiction, or non-fiction, it’s just is what it is.”

This literary ability has not gone unnoticed by critics.  Blouin’s first novel, Chase and Haven, won the 2009 ReLit Award, and was a finalist for the 2008 First Novel Award.  For its part, his first poetry collection I’m Not Going to Lie to You, was a finalist for the 2008 Archibald Lampman Award.

As part of his ongoing efforts to push literary boundaries, Blouin created a video trailer of Wore Down Trust that can be seen above.  This coming fall, meanwhile, Blouin is set to release I Don’t Know How to Behave,  which tells the story of stuntman Ken Carter, who dreams of jumping over the St. Lawrence River in a rocket powered Lincoln Continental.

The plot revolves around a movie director, based on Canadian cinematic legend Bruce McDonald, who is planning on making a film that describes what happens to Carter.  The third character is McDonald’s assistant Gillian, who is very losely based on Canadian poet Gillian Sze.

The upcoming book, Blouin tells me, will be told through a collage that includes rap lyrics, photos, history of Canadian cinema and chaos theory.  The plan is also to create a musical soundtrack that accompanies the book.

In addition to publishing a musical/literary book on a stuntman,  he is currently working on a manuscript called Skin  House, which he plans to give to his agent soon.  Until these works are published, however, do yourself a favour and go out and get one of Blouin’s books that are already available.