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  • An Interview with Nicole Brossard
  • Nicole Brossard (bio), Judith Roof, and Melissa Bailar (bio)

“When I made the first circle of what would become a spiral,” feminist poet and novelist nicole brossard tells us, “I wanted to illustrate a hole in the patriarchal meaning.” To illustrate this hole is to render it graphic: that is, to illuminate it as both written and as vivid, animate— a space for living.

Brossard’s work involves, incorporates, the breaches in patriarchal meaning created by second wave feminism. These breaches “allowed space to move and move and move, creating a spiral opening toward a new meaning.” Brossard’s writing and thought spin out the living possibilities of such openings, experimenting with the dimensions of and approaches to what she calls “productive uncertainty.”

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Seeking out new poetic dimensions of sound and word as well as time, space, and speed, Brossard’s aesthetic practice inhabits multiple dimensions: spirals of language, image and sound; frames within frames of dialogues in locations that warp from the Caribbean to Canada; spheres that flex histories of women and women’s writing. As the graphic accompanying the following interview illustrates, the realm of Brossard’s writing, too, takes many shapes, makes many connections, and swirls through history, politics, and women’s consciousness. [End Page 247]

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Additional material in graphic cited from:

Nicole Brossard, Picture Theory. Translated by Barbara Godard. (Toronto: Guernica, 2006).

Nicole Brossard. Aerial Letter. Translated by Marlene Wildeman. (Toronto: The Women’s Press, 1988).

Nicole Brossard. Lovhers. Translated by Barbara Godard. (Toronto: Guernica, 1986).

Nicole Brossard. Mobility of Light. Edited by Louise H. Forsyth. (Waterloo, Ont: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009).

[End Page 249]

Having visited the Rice University campus to give a poetry reading in the Rice Humanities Center’s “Emerging Disciplines” series, Brossard talked with us about her writing and thoughts on feminism. Her comments on the afternoon of November 22, 2013 shaped the form of our transcription of them on the following pages as they take their place among other citations from Brossard’s published work.


Maybe it’s good to start with a question that you raise often in your work, which is, “What is a sentence?”


For me the sentence is what helps to construct the sense, the meaning. I easily get bored if the sentence is subject, verb, and complement. Something has to happen in the sentence so we suspect that something is displaced without consciously identifying what and how. The order of the words creates its own space for invention. White space, gasp, rupture have to be there somehow.

This is why my relation to prose has always been ambivalent. I am probably unfair toward prose because I often have the impression that nothing exciting happens in the sentence. As if soon or later one has to write sentences such as “La marquise sortit à cinq heures” or “Mary is going to work. She will stop at Coco’s bar and buy a cup of coffee.” I get bored, and this is probably why I cannot write a traditional or conventional novel. Something has to happen in the sentence. The sentence is the novel. If we think of Picture Theory, especially that novel, so many things were happening in the sentence.1

For sure it has to do with the fact that when I was writing that book, I could simultaneously register the visual dimension of the word, hear its sound (la dimension sonore), feel its meaning and its symbolic dimension. All of these dimensions of the word would converge. And then of course, the different layers of meaning would come together, the word being thread with emotions, thoughts and sensations. It’s la charge affective, which I think is quite vivid in Picture Theory. For me the sentence is a place where I can think and move forward, and at the same time it allows some space for a poetic dimension, because when poetry makes it into the sentence not only I do not get bored but I fly with it. My prose writing is informed by poetry. I can think of Mauve Desert2...


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