News and Interviews

The Proust Questionnaire, with Claire Kelly


Claire Kelly's debut collection, Maunder contains poems that have been praised for their ability to "swagger, stalk, tiptoe, and promenade inquisitively through time and place" (Michael Prior). These are poems that readers can amble through, drinking in their subtle wit and brainy wonder, much like a walk through a new but somehow familiar environment. Those familiar with Claire's work through her chapbook and journal publications will rejoice in this collection, and new readers will find a favourite. 

We're excited to have Claire join us on Open Book today to take our version of the famous Proust Questionnaire. In her responses, she tells us about why you'll want to go to her house for a cup of tea, shares her favourite authors, and offers an awesome motto that doubles as great dating advice (don't miss this one!). 

What is your dream of happiness?

Because I think hapiness is not a permanent state, maybe a perfect sip of tea or laughing so much you cry.

What is your idea of misery?

Being asked/told to sit still and not talk. Meditation, or the poor attempts I’ve made at it, is not a pleasant experience for me. Sensory deprivation tanks might as well be a iron maidens. 

Where would you like to live? 

I’ve always thought it would be cool to have an elaborate train car and travel across the continent, but truthfully, I will live anywhere that has a good library or a good library system that trades books between branches/cities.

What is your chief characteristic?

I’m quick. Not particularly deep, but quick.

What is your principal fault?

I am not great at forgetting slights. 

What is your greatest extravagance?

I buy a lot of tea. I don’t even have a proper teapot right now (I am in the process of researching) but I have enough loose leaf tea to start a trade embargo with the Windsors. My boss says I should add books to this answer, but books aren’t an extravagance, they are a necessity. Now I’m rethinking my tea answer because god help anyone who approaches me early morning pre-tea. I may not be extravagant. 

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?

Honest neuroses. When someone tries to show a flaw before the person points it out even though they would have never noticed the flaw in the first place.

What do you value most about your friends?

Humour and empathy.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Lack of empathy, which is usually lack of imagination. Also, some people smell.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself? 

That I sometimes get caught in my own head and miss when someone is feeling hurt or frustrated.

What is your favourite occupation?

Nurses and social workers are pretty necessary. I am absolutely glad someone does those jobs. For me, I never wanted a job. I have one because that seems to be required for money, but if I was independently wealthy I would do nothing workwise.

What would you like to be?


What is your favourite colour?


What is your favourite flower?


What is your favourite bird?

Magpies. I hadn’t seen one until quite recently and now they are a part of my everyday life.

What historical figure do you admire the most?

Jane Gooddall is pretty awesome, minus that plagiarism incident. I’ve been listening to a podcast (The Secret History of Hollywood)about James Cagney, who seems like the swellest guy.

What character in history do you most dislike?

There’s not much to like about a Nazi.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Ali Smith, Virginia Woolf, Eden Robinson.

Who are your favourite poets?

Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Stevie Howell, Coleridge.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

I dressed up as Robin Hood for Halloween twice as a child, so let’s go with that.

Who is your favourite painter?

Three-way tie: Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Emily Carr.

Who is your favourite musician?

Joanna Newsome.

What is your favourite food?

Hmmm… right now I’m craving a burger.

What is your favourite drink?

Tea: Lapsang Souchong; Beer: Oatmeal Stout; Wine: Okanagan Gewürztraminer; Cocktail: Old Fashioned with Maker’s Mark; Juice: Peach. 

What are your favourite names?

I’m liking Brecken right now and Henry and Mordecai. Most names that pair with Kelly just sound like trouble though.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

I wish I had a better sense (or any sense) of direction.

How do you want to die?

I want to not be in pain and not cost too much money. Carbon monoxide poisoning—in the far future—doesn’t seem too bad. 

What is your current state of mind?

I could use another tea.

What is your motto?

Start as you mean to go on. (which is the only dating advice my mother gave me).


Claire Kelly’s work has been published in various literary journals, including The Malahat ReviewExile QuarterlyEvent, and Prism International. Her chapbook, Ur-Moth, was published in 2014 by Frog Hollow Press. Maunder is her first full-length collection. She lives and writes in Edmonton, Alberta.

Buy the Book


Maundering is both a physical and verbal process. One can walk in a maundering, aimless fashion and one can verbosely maunder on. Claire Kelly’s debut collection, Maunder, contains poems about the physical act of walking as well as the mental act, what is seen and what is reflected on. These poems allow the reader to amble across the page, stepping from image to image, place to place, striding, pivoting in different, unexpected directions.