Your cart is empty.
Behind the scenes of "More Sure: poems and interruptions"

Behind the scenes of "More Sure: poems and interruptions"

By Arsenal Pulp Date: April 29, 2024 Tags: More Sure, A. Light Zachary, APP Authors, Poetry


A. Light Zachary gives a behind-the-scenes look into the how and why of their award-winning debut collection, More Sure.

Hi, I’m Light.

The two questions writers are most often asked in interviews: How did you write this? + Why did you write this? It’s easier to answer the how. That, first.

I had a manuscript of poems in 2019, but I knew I could do better. I decided to whip the whole thing through 49 more drafts and then publish #50, no matter what. This took three years, often replacing older poems with new ones as they came to me. All 49 times, I began by transcribing the former draft into a new document while reading it aloud to the room.

The room was empty. After the plague began in 2020, I found myself becoming a much better, more disciplined writer in isolation. Æmilydickinson Light Zachary. In my Toronto garden, I spent time with the coyotes who secretly live in my urban neighbourhood, and they helped me to consider my own relationship to queer visibility. Other teachers: Dionne Brand and Kevin Connolly helped me with line and precision while the book served as my graduate thesis.

Arsenal Pulp knew of the ongoing work and extended an offer after I showed them draft #46. With the guidance of editor John Elizabeth Stintzi, I worked obsessively toward #47, 48, 49, 50. I taped a dozen arrangements of the book to the walls. I walked up and down the dirt road to my family’s home in New Brunswick, singing poems to hear their rhythms. One day, this surprised a moose. It almost killed me—“CanLit.” This improved the poem—you’re lucky I lived.

While still editing the book, I seized the opportunity to design my own cover. The illustrator Saul Freedman-Lawson drew the coyote silhouette, and APP’s Jazmin Welch refined the type and texture. My choice of that Malevichesque red square is explained in a poem, but nobody I’ve spoken to has figured it out yet—one of many Easter eggs I hid for my own entertainment.

How did you write this? Why did you write this? I am always tempted to give the “right” answer, which is: many of these poems are poems of hope, commiseration, and love for my transgender family, and the book is a vehicle to get the poems into those and other hands. But, while that’s all true, I did it for me. Early in the process, I would think of that Toni Morrison speech: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” All 50 drafts, 211 poems (47 survived), and eight years of work were toward that goal.

Last spring, after More Sure had finally met the world, I sat on my front porch and read the whole thing through. It really is my favourite book, I decided. I’m comprehensively proud of it. I have been so happy to hear that many of you—readers—are pleased with it, too. Light. ☼

WINNER, ALA Stonewall Honor Book 2024
FINALIST, League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award 2024


For more of Light’s thoughts on More Sure, read their recent interview in American Poetry Review >

Read Light’s poem “Archivists,” featured in Poetry Pause by the League of Canadian Poets >

A. LIGHT ZACHARY is a writer, editor, artist, and an autistic, queer human who lives between Tkaronto (Toronto) and Signigtewa’gi (New Brunswick), Canada. More Sure is their first book of poems. / @alightupon