Former Swoon co-host Kayla Czaga is about to publish her first book of poetry! I caught up with Kayla, over some tasting flights of beer at Vancouver’s Craft Beer Market, to ask her about For Your Safety Please Hold On and her plans for the future. Maybe it was the beer, but we ended up talking about a much wider variety of topics, like writing workshops and processes, illness and death, and sex and pornography, with frequent non sequitur asides.
When I asked Kayla how she chose her title, she said, “I wanted to call the book For Play—.”
“Foreplay?! I love it!”
“No, For Play. But the publisher said no.”
“What about Foreskin?” I asked, laughing and thinking of our earlier conversational forays into sex and porn. “Did you ask about Foreskin?”
She ignored my ridiculous suggestion and instead said, “I thought For Play would be clever. You know, as the title of a first book? But they said the title didn’t represent the content of the book, and I agree. There are too many poems about my family. It might seem creepy.”
“Oh. Yeah,” I agreed.
And, indeed, For Your Safety Please Hold On now seems like the perfect choice for a title because I’m swooning for the poems inside.
The book is divided into five sections: Mother & Father, The Family, For Play, For Your Safety Please Hold On, and Many Metaphorical Birds. I felt particularly drawn to the sections about parents and family, but perhaps that is because so much of my own writing centers on family.
I asked Kayla whether she has shown the poems in these sections to her parents. Kayla’s mother has not seen most of the poetry that is in her new book and Kayla worries about how she’ll respond. “I don’t know how she’ll take it,” Kayla said, “She probably won’t say anything.”
Kayla has tried to share poems with her father, but his typical response is, “I don’t get it.” Even when the poems are accessible, as so much of Kayla’s poetry is, her father seems to think he must find the answer to a complicated mystery within each of her poems, which Kayla says is not the case.
Personally, I love the accessibility of Kayla’s poems. For example, the tender way she exposes the relationship between a father and the daughter struggling to get to know him in “Observations”:
…Every conversation we’ve had could fit
in his ashtray. Instead of his life, my father
spoke of fiscal reports, the NDP, wars
in other parts of the world—current affairs,
he called them. In a language I didn’t know,
my father spoke only mouthfuls of smoke.
Or, the simple-but-oh-so-true social commentary in “Poem for Jeff,” where some are “fucked blatantly / while others are fucked subtly, gradually over time.”
Or, the way Kayla can tell a story that grips you, holds you till the last line, like the time her father fled Hungary, clothed in a blood-stained shirt, which she relates in “My Father, Winning Me $242 at the Kitimat Golf & Country Club, Last Christmas.”
I am so excited for this book of poetry that I can’t help but ask Kayla about the future.
“In your wildest dreams, do you ever let yourself think: what if you got nominated for a major award? Do you ever think that far ahead?”
“Well, I know that Nightwood puts up its authors for all of those awards,” she says. But more than anything, Kayla worries about what she would do next if she won a major award at such a young age. “What’s the rest of my life supposed to be then?”
“Yeah,” I agree. “That would horrible. …Ugh! God, I hope that doesn’t happen for you! I like you too much to hope that happens for you.”
But Kayla is too modest to sense my sarcasm. “Are you being facitious?” she asks.
“Yes,” I assure her.
This Sunday, Nightwood Editions launches its fall line-up, including books by Alex Leslie, Elaine Woo, and Matt Rader, and of course, Kayla Czaga. The launch will take place at the Grand Luxe Hall at 202 East 8th Ave at 7 pm. This is a free event that is open to the public! Please come celebrate fellow Swooner Kayla Czaga! You can find more information at the public Facebook event Nightwood Editions Vancouver Book Launch.