amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Citizen’s Robert Sibley Hasn’t Read Contemporary Poetry That Causes Neck Hair Erections

I’m really tired of Citizen columnists who opine/pine away about the great poetry of the old daze and complain about contemporary poetry when I’ve never seen signs that they even read it, since there are few reviews done by them in the paper, and I don’t see them attending or covering readings. This Sunday, as the incredible and poetry filled Ottawa International Writers Festival drew to a close, Sibley’s column on The Power of Verse appeared in the Citizen. He talked with fond memories of the poets he learned in school, Robert Service, T.S. Eliot et al. These are the folk that made Sibley want to be a poet. Is he one now?

He goes on to say: “I’m no scholar of poetry either, so I can’t offer a critical judgment. I use a more primitive standard: Does the poem make the hair on my neck stand up? I cannot think of a contemporary poet who amazes me.”

Would someone, anyone or a bunch of ones who read this blog please send a letter to the editor listing at least five contemporary poets whose work amazes them? Please! I doubt they’ll publish me yet again on this subject. Do we have to send the columnists a poetry book a month a la Yann Martel with the PM?

Here’s my own list of poets whose work I discovered at the writers festival that we just had. Was Mr. Sibley there? I doubt it. I find that detractors of current poetry are usually people who haven’t attended a single reading since 1962 or haven’t even cracked the spines of poetry written in this millennium. Yes the writers below were able to amaze me and yes they are still alive. Here’s the list of the poets who awed me in just the last week...with a few observations on their ability to give me poem-shiver:

1. Dennis Lee, Yes/No (House of Anansi Press, 2007)
He twists his tongue, he twists my mind.

2. Nicholas Lea, Everything is Movies (Chaudière Books, 2007)
as meditative, flexible and muscular as a yoga pose

3. Erin Mouré, O Cadoiro (House of Anansi Press, 2007)
Angels and ghosts from the Middle Ages find their way back.

4. Jean-Paul Daoust in Seminal, The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007)
Egypt is reborn in modern eroticism

5. rob mclennan, The Ottawa City Project (Chaudière Books, 2007)
Revelations in small, spare packages.

6. Barbara Nickel, Domain (House of Anansi, 2007)
cobwebs, circles, a crown of sonnets and the moon

7. George Murray, the rush to here (Nightwood Editions, 2007)
tumbling out of constraints and spilling from convention

8. Simon Armitage, Tyrannosaurus Rex versus the Corduroy Kid (House of Anansi Press, 2007)
music, spellbinding rhythm, sound traveling speed of light

Two Poets Who Appeared at the Plan 99 Reading Series, just before the Writers Festival

9. Steven Ross Smith, fluttertongue 4: adagio for the pressured sound (NeWest Press, 2007)
the art of silence and an audience's awe

10. Shane Rhodes, The Bindery (NeWest Press, 2007)
here is the beauty of the deliberate.

I challenge Mr. Sibley or any other Citizen columnist who yearns for ye olden days of poetry to devote as much time and study to contemporary poetry as they studied in school. They'll see that the comparisons are not fair. They haven't really studied the current poets like they did in school. Take a poetry workshop, Mr. Sibley et al, read a few pounds of contemporary poetry books, come out to some of our local readings, then come back and talk to me about your neck hairs.


Stephen Rowntree said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Amanda: there's nothing more insufferable than a journalist who writes about stuff he or he has never read, experienced for that matter.

One thing I find a wee bit disconcerting, however, is the shift away, way away, from lyrical, or what Bruno Schulz called mythological poetry; all these language and syntax games remind me too much of Wittgenstein on a crack bender (I should know, I've written the stuff all too much myself).

Amanda Earl said...

then you might like Erin Moure's book I mentioned. She focuses and plays with the lyrical. I find all kinds of poetry amazes me and try not to let my imagination be limited by labels.

Anonymous said...

Craig Poile is on my list of new discoveries from the festival. Must find more by him, like First Crack.

Already bought the deliciousnesses of #4, #5 and #8 works on your list.

Letter to editor, s'pose that isn't such a long reach from blogging. Hm.