last night at Art's Court. The sound wasn't great-all echo-y. For the launch of a Canadian poetry anthology, I expected a larger audience. This is the fourth anthology of Cdn poetry to come out in the past two years: Crozier and Lane's Breathing Fire 2, Pissing Ice edited by Fiorentino and MillAr, Open Field edited by Sina Queyras, and now this. A new anthology has just come out called Shift and Switch. Its Ottawa launch will be in January. I think it will be decidely more modern.
A few years back I spoke with Betty Gustafson whose husband Ralph edited the Anthology of Canadian Poetry in 1942, and The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse in 1958. She told me that some poets actually measured the amount of space they had in the anthologies and compared it to the other poets published.
I can see that anthologies lead to petty jealousies, and a new one edited by Starnino, a well known critic who's made a name for himself with scathing reviews, would be controversial. Calling a current anthology, The New Canon seems a tad arrogant somehow, especially when you believe that all poetry is perishable anyway. We'll have to see what the response is.
The reading itself was fine, not earth shattering, but not boring either. Due to the poor sound quality the first few poets were hard to hear. I enjoyed hearing Anita Lahey read a long Diana Brebner poem called Port about the pain of dealing with cancer, doctors etc. This poem affected me.
Other works that stood out were
David O'Meara's The War Against Television: to introduce the poem he commented that there is a difference between staring blankly due to attention and staring blankly due to inattention, or something like that...anyway, I liked what he said and the poem that followed, especially these opening lines: I know about the time, as a child, you'd stare/beyond far-off cottages on the opposite lakeside/wondering how it would feel to die..."
To introduce his poem, Nomad, David told an interesting story about taking a louage, a kind of five-person taxi in Tunisa to get from one place to another. David is good at in between poetry banter.
The other reader who made an impression on me was Geoffrey Cook. His poem The Seals At Green Rock was gorgeous, full of sound play and double entendre. Out of everyone who read, he was the one who seemed to still pay a lot of attention to sound and diction. I'll have to read thru the anthology more.
I am old fashioned in my need for poems to still sound like poems, to have cadence, strong diction and strong imagery, but that's what I like. As an exercise sometime, I'm going to do a list of current poems and poets, I'd include in my own anthology....nah, but wouldn't it be fun? Then I could write a really long introduction, and at launches talk longer than the poets.