For earlier installments of Greg Santos's interview with Canadian poet Jason Camlot, click here:
GS: Rob Allen was your teacher but also a colleague and a
friend of yours. The whole last part of
The Debaucher was dedicated to him, as well as your poem “Bewildered” from
Attention All Typewriters. Could you
talk about Allen’s influence on you and your work?
JC: Subtle, I suppose. He wasn’t an overbearing mentor in any way. I was his roommate while I was still an undergraduate and he seemed to have no qualms about that. He wasn’t much of a father figure, in that way. But he was probably one of the first people just to treat me like a writer. Like a peer. Even though I wasn’t his peer by any means. But he treated me that way. That was worth an awful lot when I was young, that’s for sure. In treating me as a peer that meant just allowing me to be around him and to watch him. You hear rookie hockey players talk about what it’s like to be in the dressing room with veterans and seeing how they prepare for the game. . . I still don’t know what that means exactly but I can sort of understand by analogy. When I lived with Rob, watching him how he went about his day and when he read, when he wrote, when he thought, and so that was influential. I like his writing a lot. I suppose I was influenced by him more than I know because he worked well in short lyric forms and he was in certain ways a lyric poet but he also worked very well in long serial forms. One of his teachers at Cornell was A.R. Ammons. He introduced me to Ammons as well in poems. So I think he was a major influence in the way I approach poetry formally, as well. Although, like I said, it was always a subtle influence because he never imposed anything on me. He let me hang around his bookshelf and I would pull things off myself. Occasionally he would give me a book but it was usually a Gilbert Sorrentino novel. Who he just adored. So, he was a great influence but in great part by being a great friend.