From the North of a Small Town to the North of Toronto

A Discussion between Sarah Pinder and Mat Laporte

Sarah Pinder, author of Cutting Room (Coach House, 2012) and Common Place (Coach House, 2017) was born in 1983 in Sault Ste. Marie and grew up in Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie. Mat Laporte, author of RATS NEST (BookThug, 2016), was born in 1984 and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie. They didn’t meet and become friends until 2012 when they both lived in Toronto. There they collaborated on various projects and events as members of the CPRG (Contemporary Poetry Reading Group) from 2012–2015. They met on the night of May 16th, 2016 to talk, among other things, about growing up in Northern Ontario and what effect that had on their writing.

Mat Laporte: I sit at work (in Toronto) and look at the rent prices in different cities. If I could pay less rent then maybe I could work less — work like a part time job — and find some sort of balance? But where? And will the city have the other things that I need to be happy?

Sarah Pinder: What do you feel like you need? And that is a sincere question.

ML: I need to feel like people are making things, making art. I think that’s the main thing.

SP: I think for me, an appealing thing about Toronto is more than one person doing a thing. As opposed to, “That so-and-so person who does X.” The one person in town who does X. Which is kind of what it felt like living in Wawa.

ML: I always felt like art was something that was made somewhere else. When you’re in the Sault, obviously there are people making art, but the real stuff seems to be being made somewhere else. I realized recently that living (in the Sault) I kind of juxtaposed New York and Toronto on top of each other. Growing up they were interchangeable. I was always really excited about living in Toronto. But then living here…so you’re in the north, and you’re like looking down, not looking down on people…

SP: Geographically looking down.

ML: …yes, geographically looking down, and there are these exciting things going on down there and you think, “that’s where I need to be.” And then you get to Toronto and it’s still the same feeling. [Laughs.]

SP: Yep. Yeah.

ML: Because we still have that outpost feeling here, living in Toronto, and it feels like the really exciting stuff is being made in New York or California or Europe, anywhere but here. And I feel like that underlies a lot of art making here.


Read the rest of the conversation in the Winter 2017 issue of CV2.

This interview is excerpted from a longer piece published in CV2.

Sarah Pinder is the author of Cutting Room (Coach House Books, 2012) and Common Place, forthcoming from Coach House Books in 2017. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Expozine Small Press Awards, and included in magazines like Geist, Arc and Poetry is Dead. A long time zine-maker, you can find her work in Montreal’s Distroboto art vending machines. She grew up along the north shore of Lake Superior and now lives in Toronto.

Mat Laporte was born in Sault Ste. Marie. He is the author of a tetralogy of chapbooks: Demons, Billboards from Hell, Life Savings (nominated for the 2013 bpNichol Chapbook Award), and Bad Infinity. His poetry has been featured in publications such as The Recluse, The Brooklyn Rail and Lemon Hound. RATS NEST, Mat’s first full-length novel, was released by BookThug in October 2016.