amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Puddle Jump thru Poetics.ca

If you’re a reader or student of contemporary poetry, I highly recommend you take a gander at http://www.poetics.ca/. Edited by Ottawa-based writers Stephen Brockwell and rob mclennan and managing editor Roland Prevost, the site is jam packed with eight issues worth of interviews, essays, reviews, recollections and musings. Here are just a few of the articles that have tickled my synapses since poetics.ca began in November, 2002; what particularly excites me about the writing published on poetics.ca is when poets offer insight into their work. It is such an inspiring thing. Conversation and dialog between writers and between writers and readers can only lead to more dialog and more poetry. That is what Poetics.ca does, it leads to dialog.


David McGimpsey, Sweet Poetry or Mystery Meat (Issue 1 )
an amusing musing on the popularity of poetry, the seriousness of it all:
“But, isn't the idea of a people's poetry just a sad will-o'-the-wisp? An externalizing of the shame about poetry's sensitive complexity and lack of commercial value? Why is it that nobody ever demands there be a people's trigonometry? There's thousands of wonderful, immediately accessible, uncomplicated, straight-to-the-heart, plain-speaking poems, and these poems are just as ignored by the people as the complicated ones that habitually refer to Antigone and Creon.”

Ken Norris and Stephen Brockwell , Spontaneous Speech Maps: A Discussion on Poetics (Issue 2)
musings on postmodernism and where poetry is going in the 21st century and Norris’ own poetics:
“I think a poet should learn everything they can about craft, in order to forget it. The knowledge of craft is more important than the demonstration of craft. If a free-form sonnet is haunted by the spirit of a highly formal sonnet, then it stands to become a somewhat interesting poem. More interesting than a sonnet written by someone who doesn't know what a sonnet is, or by someone who tries too slavishly to fulfil the dictates of the form.”


Susan Elmslie, Trailing Nadja: On Writing I Nadja, and Other Poems (Issue 3)
thoughts on how Elmslie’s book I, Nadja and Other Poems (Brick Books, 2006), the poems based on Andre Bréton’s lover and muse and the coincidences of how she ended up writing the book.
“Trailing the woman about whom so few details are known (not even her surname), I have become concerned with some of the implications that stem from the question, “Qui parle?” This question has developed into a preoccupation with voice and silence, and the difficulty of speaking for others.”

Steven J. Stewart, The Appropriation of Frank O'Hara (Issue 4)
Discussion of Frank O’Hara’s work and poetics with comparisons to mainstream free verse poetry and language poetry:
“I am mainly preoccupied with the world as I experience it" (page 500). O'Hara's is not the epiphany-laden experience exalted by today's poetic mainstream. The key to his work is its commitment to experience as it occurs, immediate and unadulterated, in the moment – its deflation of pretense. Later in the statement, O'Hara elaborates, saying "I don't think my experiences are clarified or made beautiful for myself or anyone else, they are just there in whatever form I can find them" (page 500).” [Stewart is quoting Frank O’Hara’s “Statement in Poetics.”

Gregory Betts, Plunderverse: A Cartographic Manifesto (Issue 5)
thoughts on the borrowing and appropriation of one another’s language and the way in which writers incorporate other’s texts and played with removing the overflow, extracting the buried poem, from Shakespeare to McCaffery and the creation of a type of poetry called Plunderverse:
“Plunderverse makes use of the wealth and waste of language by exploiting the unattended information in a source text. It makes connections and variations of a previous author’s words to create a different poem from the original piece. But, whereas found poetry and the like celebrate the random connections discovered by abstract rules or unconventional readings of source texts, delighting in the dissolution of communication and the disjunctive semantic fragments that survive, plunderverse celebrates the possibilities of speaking through source texts.”

Soraya Peerbaye, Interview with Souvankham Thammavongsa (Issue 6)
a discussion of the book Small Arguments (Pedlar Press, 2003); the role of minimalism and violence in her poems:
“I was taught that a good writer is one who uses a lot of description or difficult long words. I thought language was just text and that it should be arranged in the shape of a box. But I learned in writing Small Arguments it doesn't have to be that way. It took a long time to see that it was all right not to do what I was taught because what I was taught can be found in every important book of poetry, in every literary magazine across the country, and it's what gets awarded in grant money and prizes. But this is how I saw my work and when I tried be like everyone else, it just didn't look or feel right.” Souvankham Thammavongsa

John Newlove, Love, and other affairs (Issue 7)
this is a reprint of a talk John Newlove gave for the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild in 1988; it’s a gem of an essay which talks about his motivations or not for writing poetry; he incorporates his poems in the talk:
“Still, the question remains, What makes someone write poetry? I use the word 'makes' deliberately. I think that in this case there are two types of people: those who would and those who must. This has nothing to do with talent ― it may take as much labour and care and love to write a bad book as to write a good one ― although I do believe that intention governs result. That is, I believe, technical ability aside, that the difference between poetry and verse is the deepest intention of the maker, that a piece about trees by Joyce Kilmer is only verse while one by William Butler Yeats is poetry. You see my prejudice, when I say 'only verse'. I am not against verse. I merely dislike frivolity of intention.”

So many other interesting articles to read in poetics.ca and I’ve only landed on a few. I revisit the issues again and again for reference when I’m working on poems, for inspiration for the poems and for dialog with others on poetry. I have so much reading to do that resources like Poetics.ca help me to discover what more I need to read. I find resources such as Poetics.ca to be rare. I am very glad it exists.

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