Allison Chisholm’s book On the Count of None is the culmination of years of hard work and random flashes of inspiration.
The Kingston local first began writing eight years ago following the example of her husband, who’s also a writer. Since then, her works have appeared in various publications including Chatbook, On the Count of One (a publication unrelated to her book), and other literary journals.
However, On the Count of None is her first full-length poetry book.
Within the book, Chisholm includes poetry from these past publications as well as unpublished works and newer pieces. She explains that her publisher urged her to not only include her old works but also to experiment with her writing through longer prose poems.
She admits that if it weren’t for his direction, she might not have been inspired to write some of her newer work.
However, whether it’s her old work or something newer, the poet’s writing remains experimental. The poems in On the Count of None range from pieces with longer to other poems with just one word per line.
The poems are generally freeform, and sometimes vague and disjointed, which makes them difficult to decipher. Chisholm says this is intentional.
“I’m inspired by familiar constructs in our culture. Usually, I might be interested in a phrase or word or something I overheard, so I put those ideas together and disjoint them,” she told The Journal in an interview.
Overheard phrases aren’t Chisholm’s only source of inspiration. She also pulls from obituaries, birth announcements, and even horoscopes—but don’t expect her horoscopes to tell you how to live your life. The poet didn’t consult star charts when using horoscopes in her writing process. She chose instead to build on what might appear in a newspaper, progressing to delve into the absurd. This might look like telling readers they “have a handshake that makes sinners squirm” or encouraging them to “try and appeal with a small person in a quiet river.”
Just as Chisholm is inspired by the culture around her, she’s equally inspired by the strong literary community in Kingston.
She attends a monthly reading session hosted by poet Bruce Kauffman, where she shares her own work and listens to the work of other writers. Through these sessions, Chisholm has built a writing support system and met like-minded peers.
She also writes collaboratively with her husband and friends, and as part of the M Society, which Chisholm says is a secret writing group in Kingston made up of women with a shared interest in arts and literature.
Now, the poet gets an opportunity to become a more involved part of the writing community she so admires. On Sept. 29, she’ll be headlining at a Kingston WritersFest event called “And The Journey Continues,” reading alongside other local poets.
She told The Journal that she intends to share some of her newer unpublished works. It’s a chance to hear Chisholm’s surrealist verses in her own voice.
Eccentric and fun, Chisholm’s work invites readers to enjoy the absurd, even momentarily, and to remind ourselves that not everything has to always be so serious.
Her work is an examination of popular culture and everyday reality through a surrealist lens. Not afraid to make readers uncomfortable with its imagery, but not lacking in wit either.
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