Over the next two months, coinciding with the Remote Possibility exhibition at Whippersnapper Gallery, we'll be posting interviews with different members of Roundtable's 2020 and 2021 Cohorts, discussing their experiences doing an online Residency, and of making work during a global pandemic. Out next interview is with 2021 Remote resident Miles Forrester
Please briefly describe yourself and your practice
I write poems which use different kinds of grids or other armatures to determine the order of how content occurs and combines in my poems. I like to draw the grids, but I’m not a good drawer, so the poems come forward with the grids as their secret under. It’s similar to how grids live in the real world.
Had you ever taken part in a residency before Roundtable?
I was in RoundTable for the 2015 ‘VS’ show. I was up on the third floor, working on something called “The Icosahedron of Comparisons.” The plan was that I’d hatch an infinite poem by putting concepts on a deltahedral grid till I got 20 really good ones and it’d be stitched together — to wit I could tour over it from one equilateral triangle to the next — and because of that, I could enfold and unfold repetition and novelty in a perfect system forever. Ultimately, it didn’t happen that month but I persevere.
Have you had any opportunities fall through as a result of the pandemic?
I’ve been writing more poems than ever during the pandemic, but the collapse of Toronto’s open mic scene has meant that I have no idea if they’re any good — like, pleasurable to read or listen to. I only have my own notion of what I like, and no-one can know that truly. No longer do I have a semi-regular, semi-casual cohort of acquaintances I can share a smoke with and ask if an idea is ill conceived or not. Sending poems to friends electronically can be pretty abject, essentially it’s just giving the gift of homework.
If so, how were you feeling about it during the time of the residency?
What’s been good is talking to artists about how the concept of the work works in the work. The questions I don’t get to ask because explaining them takes momentum out of performance. It’s also been an opportunity to make the concept a part of how the poem is encountered rather than an unremovable element of the poem’s crafting.
What other pandemic related issues were you dealing with during your time at Roundtable? Such change or loss of job, change to schooling, health issues, separated from loved ones, etc.
I’m going to guess just loneliness, even though I’m surrounded by human beings. So much intimacy without community is troubling. And it’s the one who’s absent that’s felt the most — even before the pandemic. Whoever thinks we can maintain a friendship over social media is a fool. Having a chance to tentatively meet someone and go through a year of unuttered smalltalk makes it pretty clear that what a person says is barely the reason I can love them.
How did they impact your work?
In the absence of writing to friends I’ve been writing about friendship. The joy I find in language is how it allows me to play in a discrete system. Subjecting that practice in paragraphs on other people who've only asked 'what’s up?' is unfair and wastes energy that should be a better poem instead. Ultimately I’m good, I’ll see them when I can see them.
How did these impact the residency for you?
Having a project in common removed a lot of the fear of being another interpellator. I could ask a question and expect a question in return without having to guess at intentions and reactions.
What about doing a remote residency was different than you expected?
Smoothness. Also, the similarity of a lot of our ideas, even with the variegation of approach. Similarity is not even the right idea actually, but a very pleasant sense of recognition. Even if it’s not apparent, there’s stuff said in the first week by RoundTabler’s that’s been cleaved or grafted to what I wrote months before. Feeling that something in my memory has been changed is one of the strange joys of art.
What ended up being more challenging than you thought?
It was putting a lot of trust in my computer to do its end of the bargain. There was a week where it was really wheezing and I wondered if I’d see the end of the project.
What ended up being less of an issue than you thought?
I really thought I wouldn’t be able to maintain the momentum, but I got everything I planned done. Much thanks to the executive. They offered an extra week and a lot of the ideas and the time it would take to achieve them immediately puzzled into alignment.
Did working / exhibiting online have any lasting impact on your practice?
I realized I really enjoy writing for a screen as opposed to a page. Maybe it’s the dynamic or tactile quality or just that I like the way letters glow, but I could definitely continue this project this way rather than waiting for someone to publish it (though publishers are most welcome to reach out).
Has the pandemic had any lasting impact on your practice?
I appreciate that writing is something that doesn’t take any space to do but time. It barely even uses up memory on your computer.