News and Interviews

The Word on the Street interview with Shannon Bramer


Shannon Bramer understands the strange intersection between the sad and the funny, the strange and the precious. Hence the title of her fourth collection of poetry, Precious Energy (BookThug), which draws on the highly relatable, deeply wonderful, often overwhelming, and entirely bittersweet experience of being a parent and navigating domestic life. 

Deft and never over-heavy, the poems are furiously bright and smart, injected with play and humour, with a poignancy running deeply throughout. LEGO, sex, basements, fatigue, fish sticks, and more fill these pages to bursting. 

We're thrilled to wrap up our series of interviews with guest authors from The Word on the Street by speaking with Shannon today. She tells us about finding love at a past edition of The Word on the Street, shares some praise for BookThug founder Jay MillAR, and tells us about her favourite Ontario spot, which has a very memorable name. 

You can see Shannon read in person at The Word on the Street this Sunday, September 24, in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent from 12:30pm-1:00pm.


Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent this year.

Shannon Bramer:

I’ll be reading a selection of poems from my new book of poetry, Precious Energy, published by BookThug in September 2017.


Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


One of my favourite memories of WOTS is the very first time I attended—I must have been around 21 or 22 years old, fairly new to Toronto and completing an undergraduate degree in Theatre Studies and Creative Writing at York University. It was probably 1995. I had a crush on someone I would later fall in love with, and we shyly wandered around together, visiting the booths, looking at all the books. It was a gorgeous, sunny, romantic (!) September day.


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book you've read.


When I think of an Ontario author (versus a Toronto, or more broadly, Canadian author), I think about poet and publisher, Jay MillAr. Timely Irreverence is one of my favourite books of poems, ever. I can feel where he is standing, what he is seeing, when I’m reading Jay, and he is in Ontario. There is always a sense of an internalized physical landscape, of his being held by it, challenged by it, moved by it. He’s devoted his life to poetry with his wife, Hazel. I highly recommend reading him, too.


What's the best advice you've ever received or the best advice you would offer about public readings?


For me what works best is to read work that I’ve practised and to keep it fairly short. I usually have a small handful of poems chosen ahead of time with a few extras in mind in case my belly tells me I need to change it up.


Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?


I grew up in Hamilton, so I feel very connected to the edges of things, escarpments. There’s one spot I would love to see again, a place I go to in my mind. It’s called The Devil’s Punch Bowl—and it’s this incredible deep gorge, with waterfalls and magnificent layers of coloured rock. I’m going to have to plan a field trip!


What can you tell us about your next project?


Pencil Kit Productions will be producing the full-length version of my most recent play, The Hungriest Woman in the World, at Theatre Passe Muraille in December 2017. It’s a dark comedy about a woman who desperately wants to see a play about an octopus with her work-obsessed, preoccupied husband. When he refuses she goes to the show alone and crazy things happen. Claren Grosz, a young and incredible talent from Calgary, Alberta will be directing.

I’m also delighted to have a fully illustrated book of poems for young children forthcoming from Groundwood Books in 2019. 


Poet and playwright Shannon Bramer lives in Toronto. Previous collections of poetry include: suitcases and other poems (winner of the 2000 Hamilton and Region Best Book Award), scarf, and The Refrigerator Memory. She has also published chapbooks with above/ground press and BookThug, and regularly conducts poetry workshops for students of all ages. An illustrated collection of poems for very young children is forthcoming from Groundwood Books in the spring of 2019. Precious Energy is her first full-length collection in over a decade.

Buy the Book

Precious Energy

Precious Energy, the fourth collection of poetry from Hamilton-born poet and playwright Shannon Bramer, is a uniquely playful collection of vibrantly sad, peculiar, and often funny poems about domestic life, motherhood, and the baffled child that remains within us all even as we grow up and into whatever person we keep trying to become. Featuring a coterie of subjects, from fish sticks and LEGO pieces to mothers too tired to have sex and solitary swans in everyone’s basement, these poems dexterously navigate a landscape of domestic isolation, insecure attachments, and confused personal boundaries with honesty and unexpected humour.