When the Globe and Mail stopped publishing HPW a number of years ago, I stopped buying the Globe. Point final. I was very pleased when Ottawa’s Arc Magazine decided to host the feature on its site about five years ago.
Contributors submit short essays on a particular poem by someone else; usually the contributor writes a couple of essays, one per poem. The essay writers are both emerging and well known Canadian poets, many with published poetry collections, but not always. How Poems Work appears monthly on Arc’s site. You can either pop over to the site or become a subscriber and you will receive an e-mail with the HPW feature summary in your in box. Some of the poems discussed are very recent work by writers such as Lisa Robertson and some are older, such as John Newlove’s Death of the Hired Man by rob mclennan or Richard Outram’s Story by Amanda Jernigan.
Reading HPW (both the Globe and Mail and the ARC editions) has contributed to discoveries of poets I knew little or nothing about or has made me think about some of my favourites in a new way. I believe HPW is another tool that contributes to our ongoing conversation about poetry and I’m very glad that Arc keeps it going.
You’ll read essays concerned with the following (and the classifications are mine, not meant to generalize, just to touch upon and tempt...):
FORM, such as the ghazal (Yvonne Blomer’s on John Thompson’s Ghazal XXI, March 2004)
PUNCTUATION (Blomer’s essay on Phyllis Webb’s “Proposition” April, 2004
ENDINGS (Alden Nolan’s “In the Operating Room,” essay by Shane Neilson, May 2004)
THEME & EPIPHANY (Esta Spaulding’s “Notorious,” essay by Aislinn Hunter, August 2004)
METAPHOR and the role of language as the basis of myth (Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “The Mirage”, essay by Barbara Myers, November, 2004)
SYMBOLISM (Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “Dark Pines Under Water,” essay by Barbara Myers, December, 2004) In Barbara’s essays, I particularly like her technique of posting questions and doesn’t necessarily try to explain everything about the poem, leaving some musing room for the reader
POPULAR CULTURE (David McGimpsey’s “KoKo,” essay by Alessandro Porco, April, 2005)
the SHORT POEM (Richard Outram’s “Story,” essay by Amanda Jernigan, September, 2005)
VISUAL POETRY (bpNichol’s “Doors 1,” essay by Chris Jennings, May, 2006); on this one there was a bit of debate between Zachariah Wells and the author of the essay, which is always fun to see...a discussion about what constitutes a poem, about pushing boundaries and some info on Nichol)
the CONTEMPORARY SONNET (Peter Van Toorn’s “Mountain Leaf,” essay by Zachariah Wells, September, 2006)
RESISTANCE OF FORM (Robert Kroetsch’s “Sounding the Name-Sonnet 1,” essay by Shane Rhodes, January, 2007)
ON PUSHING LIMITS & RISKING (Lisa Robertson’s excerpt from “Thursday,” essay by Shane Rhodes, March, 2007)
i notice that the last of these is in January, 2008. i hope we’ll see more soon. do take a look at this wonderful resource, if you haven’t already or if you have, revisit. another of my favourite Arc features is the weblinks concept of Portage with its numerous routes. Paddle thru to find some great resources that are regularly updated.