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The Chat with Patrick Grace

Grace author photo

April is National Poetry Month in Canada. There’s no better way to celebrate than to take a deep dive into a fabulous debut collection of poems from a talented writer.

Patrick Grace’s Deviant (University of Alberta Press) has just been released and it’s a stunning collection, exploring queer male intimacy with remarkable tenderness and courage.

Patrick Grace is an author and teacher who divides his time between Vancouver and Victoria, BC. His poems have been published widely in Canadian literary magazines, including Arc Poetry Magazine, Best Canadian Poetry, Columba, EVENT, The Ex-Puritan, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, and more. His work has been a finalist for literary contests with CV2 and PRISM international, and in 2020, his poem "A Violence" won The Malahat Review's Open Season Award for poetry. He has published two chapbooks: a blurred wind swirls back for you (2023), and Dastardly (2021), both of which explore aspects of love, fear, and trauma that represent a personal queer identity. Deviant, his first full-length poetry collection, continues to explore these themes. Follow him on IG: @thepoetpatrick.


Congrats on the launch of your debut full-length poetry collection, Patrick! Deviant is a such a haunting and gorgeous book of poems. What does it feel like to have the collection out there in the world?

Thanks, Trevor. It’s both thrilling and terrifying that Deviant is loose in the wild. It’s a very personal collection of memories, dreams, love, and fear—fear about being different, about secrets I hid as a child, the men I encountered growing up. Deviant also faces dark truths in queer relationships that often go unreported, untold, and unheard.

There’s a great quote I read somewhere that goes like this: My biggest fear is that someone will read it. My second biggest fear is that no one will read it. I wonder if this is true for some writers, especially poets. I know it’s how I’ve felt since holding the book in my hands: this is real, it’s here, and I’m hopeful for a lasting impact within Canadian literature.

My biggest fear is that someone will read it. My second biggest fear is that no one will read it.

Tell me more about the title.


Ah yes, deviant. The word that never appears anywhere in the collection. When I had to decide on a title, I reflected on music, on all the albums I’ve owned since I was a kid. I used to love opening CD liner notes and hunting down the reasons for the album title. Some singers choose it from a song name, or a line in a song, or as a statement that doesn’t appear anywhere in the music. I liked this last idea the most.

Brett Josef Grubisic, in a recent review of Deviant for The British Columbia Review, summarized the word "deviant" and its sordid history, its connotative prejudices, and asked "how dare deviant show its face" in 2024. And he’s right. It’s a charged word, a hateful, nasty, pointed accusation. And that’s why I did it. Like a slap in the face. I’m here, I’m queer, so be it. So be a little deviant.

But I also chose it for its other etymological roots—to deviate, to wander away, to turn from what’s expected. In the last half of Deviant, the poems shift focus to a man I dated years ago, a man whose actions I considered as deviating from social norms. The psychological and emotional games he played, the gaslighting, the stalking—his actions made him the deviant, too. The speaker and this man both deviate in different ways throughout the collection.

One of the most powerful themes is the way in which queer intimacy can be both a place of profound pleasure and safety, but also a space of fear and unease. Can you talk about this dichotomy a little more and how it comes up in your work?

As a child, my sexuality was a secret I loved to keep close. I revelled in my many crushes, both on TV characters and older kids at school. Adolescence soured it into fear, compounded by all the terrible cliches in pop culture about what being gay looks like. The threat of ridicule or violence followed me everywhere. As an adult, the fear disappeared, only to be replaced by complexities and harsh realities of romantic relationships. When I crafted the childhood poems for this collection, I felt safe again, safe with memories, the innocence of simple attraction. It was an easy time, and I miss it. Later poems in the collection mix safety with fear to evoke a sense of yearning, the slight terror of expectations from strangers, the unknown. It’s easy to really love from a distance. As a poet I love men the most through writing, remembering, reflecting.

It's easy to really love from a distance. As a poet I love men the most through writing, remembering, reflecting.

A particularly devastating (yet beautiful) poem is "Vermilion," which traces a fraught and difficult night in which the speaker feels “certain if I stop I’ll be safe,/levelled but alive on a hospital bed.” Many of the poems ride the tension between the desire to escape and the longing to stop running, either metaphorically or literally. In your own experience, how does poetry serve as a safe space to explore these tensions?

“Vermilion” was a difficult poem to write. It took months to land on the final form. Some versions were experimental, others longer, some shorter. The effect is still the same: in the poem, I found myself running—both literally and figuratively—from a man I wanted to be safe with. When he drank, he changed into someone else, someone I had to flee from, often at night when we were out late. This is not an imagined-scenario poem. Yes, in "Vermilion" I consider letting myself get hit by a car, to end up in a hospital and be taken care of, to tell my story, to be seen. No one could see what was happening when it was happening. I think poetry lets the writer be a witness to personal trauma and dangerous experiences that can’t be processed at the time. Again, I find it’s often about safety from a distance.

Tell me more about one of the poems that you carry especially close to your heart, and why it is so meaningful to you.

Thank you for asking this question! I love to love a handful of poems in Deviant. "Arthur" is about a boy I met at Scouts camp in the Okanagan. I was about eight or nine years old. It was a magical, beautiful escape from home, a little shock to the system. I met a boy named Arthur who I never saw again after that summer. I remember I’d watch for him in the mess hall at breakfast, or wait for him to sit next to me on the bus during trips to the lake. I’d write about him in my journal, and he’d read what I wrote and laugh a little. You have to cement your early loves on the page—it’s the only way for them to stay alive. "Arthur" was an experiment in very short lines, a few words each. It’s made me want to write more in this voice—part statement, part imagery.



Avalanche lilies dotted the snowmelt
the night I lost my keys. It grew
difficult to speak, to undo the last hour,
his body on a bender again,
bones a thirsty loam. Midnight. Still early.
The next neon sign torches
a vermilion night. He goads me to run
into the swollen road, every ending
touchable twin pinpricks of light
ready to deface me—
cold freedom, black highway, this way this way, this
time double lines dividing the unpredictable
into before and after.
I’m certain if I stop I’ll be safe,
levelled but alive on a hospital bed.
I can tell them how I wanted this
night to end,
sleepwalking dunes in dusk,
singing barn owls to sleep,
the moon nowhere to be seen—
the brightening dream, only a flame
where his head should be.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

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