Arts & Entertainment
1 min

From screen to paper

Former Halifax poet laureate Tanya Davis turns her video How To Be Alone into an illustrated book

Former Halifax poet laureate Tanya Davis's new book is a reworking of her video How To Be Alone. Credit: Shannon webb-campbell
Viral video poem by filmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis Andrea Dorfman

When poet Tanya Davis and artist Andrea Dorfman’s video poem How To Be Alone went viral upon its release in 2010 (it has more than six million YouTube hits to date), it became an international mantra for loners and lovers of solitude.

How To Be Alone’s most recent incarnation comes in the form of a hardcover book, featuring illustrations by Dorfman, published by HarperCollins.

A former Halifax poet laureate, Davis suggests places where one can revel in one's "aloneness" and encourages readers to take themselves out dancing, to the library, the gym, a park bench and for dinner. She believes aloneness is an act to be celebrated and encouraged.

“Andrea and I had been speaking a lot about the nature of solitude, and loneliness, how the two aren't always one and the same,” Davis says. “We both spend a lot of time alone, as artists and just as solitary people, and we value that time.”

Dorfman (who was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy last year for Flawed) and Davis are longtime collaborators and friends and have just wrapped Heartbeat, a feature film written and directed by Dorfman. Produced by Bill Niven and Jay Dahl, Heartbeat is a romantic comedy in which Davis is the lead.

While How To Be Alone was originally envisioned as an onscreen performance, Davis found the process of putting a video poem on paper a different exercise in poetics.

“With a book, one can't predict how people will read it and thus hear it in their heads, so content, language, grammar all hold equal weight,” she says. “[Line breaks help] to shape, at least a little bit, the pace and timing of how people read.”