Anna Pottier on Good As Gone

Anna Pottier on Good As Gone

Posted on March 13 by Kyle in Interview, Non-fiction
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Tell us about your book.

As many will note from the title, Good as Gone is a memoir about the life I shared with poet Irving Layton. Anyone’s life from the age of say, twenty-one to thirty-five encompasses many milestones. I was twenty-one when we first met, twenty-three when I moved in and thirty-five when I had to continue my journey solo. Irving was forty-eight years my senior. Given that I entered into the union at such a young age, the book traces the inevitable arc of my development as a woman, becoming an expert amanuensis, all while wanting to be a writer. Irving’s constant encouragement and support helped me grow in confidence and substance. Time, however, was drawing him steadily downwards. It is thus a profoundly human story, becoming a tragedy where those two arcs intersect. Enriching the book are never-before published photos as well as pithy, sometimes hilarious quotes, which I was privy to (such as Irving’s extensive overview of Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre). For the first time, I share many of Irving’s direct quotes explicating many of his poems and poetic vision. They are meaty enough to help students of Layton’s work decode his poetics. Finally, it is an intimate, scathingly honest depiction of my experiences and of Irving as he truly was – away from the flashbulbs and microphones. Many will, I think, be intrigued if not surprised at the Irving I knew.


How did you come up with the title?

Towards the latter part of our time together when stress and anxiety began creeping into Irving like arthritis into bones, he would turn to me with increasing frequency for answers and reassurance as to who was coming over or had such-and-such a letter been answered, etc. My joking response was to say that I could title my eventual memoir One Minute and Forty-nine Seconds: My Life with Irving Layton. “Why?” “Because that is how long I have between questions.” I began writing Good as Gone in January 2006, almost immediately after Irving’s death. Some seven years later, I was writing the chapter about an epic road trip I took in 2008. In it, I respond to a Craigslist ad from a singer-songwriter seeking a travel companion from New York to LA. My email made an impression, and when Ray Tarantino [ ] called, saying meet me at Nietzsche’s Bar in Buffalo on Saturday, that’s all it took. I was good as gone. The moment I typed that line, I knew I’d found my title. An artist’s worth is, I believe, exponentially proportional to the chances he or she is prepared to take for the sake of his art.  


What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?

Blacken pages. Write something every day. Irving also showed me by example how to persevere. He was extremely disciplined and I’m getting better at ignoring distractions like mewling cats, housework, etc. Being a late-bloomer does not concentrate the mind as much as death does, but it helps. 


What is your new project?

        Aside from assuring this fledgling falcon of a book gets nudged properly from its nest-ledge, I am gingerly blocking out a projected one-woman show based on Good as Gone. It would be the best way to bring choice scenes to life, nuanced and with all the attendant coloratura emotions and complexity. To say nothing of About Maria. Maria Chabot was Georgia O’Keeffe’s erstwhile friend and devoted helpmate. Perhaps the experience of devoting myself to an older, renowned poet, coupled with insights into the artist’s imperative need to create will lend useful clues regarding Maria’s failure to fulfill her writerly ambition. Everyone knows Georgia O’Keeffe…but what about Maria? There are several paintings (samples of which can be seen at ) waiting for me to complete, and there is a volume of short stories I am very eager to turn my hand to.