Interview with Doug Tanoury
Occupation: An occupation is what you do to pay the rent. A vocation is what you were always meant to do and may or may not pay the rent. My occupation is a customer service consultant. I help large companies improve how they interact with their customers. That’s my day job. My vocation is poetry. The nuns that educated me at the little parish grade school I attended as a child would say that a vocation is the work that God meant for you to do in your life. I feel that is a very accurate description of my relationship with poetry. It is something that providence has had a hand in and it may sound crazy, but I feel divinely called to do this. It is what I was always meant to do.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I was in my early teens when I got my first typewriter, a Remington Noiseless. I think I was 13 years old. I discovered that I had a talent for stringing words together. At that time in my life, I was spending my entire summer vacation reading books. I was finishing a full-length novel a day. I know that the fact that I was locked in my bedroom all summer reading books was causing my family to be very concerned. All I knew is that I loved books. So, before I knew I was going to be a writer, I was a reader.
What are some of the sacrifices that you made to get were you are at?
I don’t think I’ve made any sacrifices. Sure, I’ve always had a day job because no one can make a living writing poetry, but I love this art form and am dedicated to it. I am doing what I love. I have been writing poetry all of my adult life. I have worked at perfecting my skills at this craft for many years without interruption or distraction.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope in five years I’ll just be doing what I am doing now. I have been poetically productive and have been able to publish my work widely. I couldn’t ask for more than that. I have been writing with a number of talented poets at Athens Avenue. There are three Canadian, two Israeli, one Irish and four American poets, and most of us have been writing together for a number of years now. I see myself still writing with Athens.
Where do you see the future of publishing?
I think technology is creating a new kind of literacy.
I think in the future paper books will be as much of an anachronism as
parchment or papyrus. That doesn’t mean the end of literacy. It only
means literacy is changing. I think in the future electronic publishing
will supplant traditional paper publishing. The Internet has fostered
multimedia expression. Text, graphics, audio and video will all coexist
side by side in a peaceable kingdom. New Technology has made publishing
accessible to everyone, just as the printing press made reading
accessible to average people. Publishing will be more egalitarian in
the future. It won’t be controlled so much by editors and publishers of
the literary establishment. Publishing for the people, is the motto for
this new movement. It is taking hold at a grass-roots level and I find
What advice do you have for other aspiring poets?
Don’t smoke! Seriously, I hate to give advice, but I think that the first thing young poets should do is study the craft by practicing it. It is also very helpful to establish communication with other poets. There are writer’s colonies all over and new poets just need to find the one that is right for them.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that aspiring writers make?
The whole writing process is about the poem, not the poet. Maybe it just takes a lifetime of working with this form to realize it’s all about the art. It is the poem that is important, so don’t let publishers, critics or editors distract you. Nothing else really matters beyond the poem itself.
Who are some of your role models and why?
As a boy, Robert Service, the poet of the Canadian Yukon was a favorite of mine. The Cremation of Sam McGee is just the kind of poem that will catch a young boy’s imagination and sense of adventure. I also was an Edgar Allen Poe fan. I loved The Raven, El Dorado and Helen. He also wrote a sonnet To Science that I still remember.
How do you manage your time social vs. work? Do you have trouble balancing that?
There has been balance in my life, perhaps more than in the lives of many poets I know. Poetry isn’t more important than the people I love. It is a reflection of the people I loved and of who I am. I always had a day job, and my responsibilities to my family always came first. A poet is very much what I am, but I am also a husband and father. I’ve been lucky enough to integrate my art into my life or maybe I just integrated my life into my art. I’m afraid you’ll have to ask my children or my wife for the honest answer.
What is the most important thing you hope to gain out of your career?
I want to have contributed to progress in this art form. I think that is my greatest hope.
What inspires you?
The poets I write
with at Athens Avenue are an inspiration to me. Their work is so good.
Someone will write a poem and you say to yourself, “I wish I had
written that.” I say that a lot. I am very fortunate to be able to
write with such fine poets. If you love poetry, you cannot help but to