read this afternoon at Plan 99 at the Manx. Adam Getty, a Hamilton poet, read from his newest poetry collection, “Repose” (Nightwood Editions, 2008).
He introduced his poems by talking about the role of form and structure in our lives today, referencing an essay of Ezra Pound’s on form. Getty said that the forms and structures we are living in today are changing, but that his work with form in this collection is about recognizing that we do have to live in some way with structure.
He said that his work is sometimes seen as bleak, but I didn’t really find that from the poems he read .I was excited by the sensuality and the unpretentiousness of his work. Getty, like former Hamiltonian, Matthew Firth, who writes prose, deals with real life situations, with factories and with work in his writing. There’s nothing lofty about it, but it is also very lyrical. The rhymes are there but aren’t forced; for example, end rhymes for an a b scheme are distrupted.
I enjoyed how he made use of paradox, making use of lyric in poems like "Comment on Blake’s Garden" to talk about the Hamilton steel mills. Adam mentioned at one point that he came to a reading with blood running down his arm and had to be told about it. David O’Meara, Plan 99’s host [don't forget to go see David's play, "Disaster" taking place from June 18-29 at the Natalie Stern Studio, OSSD294 Picton Ave], mentioned that Adam had been working at a slaughterhouse at the time. Apparently CNQ will publish his essay, Poetry in the Slaughterhause, sometime soon. I’m looking forward to reading it very much. I liked the mix of blood with form. I found Adam's work, like the man himself, when I spoke to him after the reading, to be quite approachable. At the same time there were inspirations from writers such as Derrida.
I hadn’t really thought before about working too much with form in response to today’s conventional societal constraints. I found Adam’s poetry and his thoughts very inspiring and provocative.
What I liked about Adam’s writing was that his connections between real life and nature weren’t full of reverence or some kind of attempt to have a poetic voice coming down from on high, yet his writing was intelligent and the man is well-read.
The last in the Plan 99 series for this spring will be Nova Scotia poet & novelist, John Stiles, reading from his novel, “Taking the Stairs” (Nightwood Editions, soon) on May 24. I am partial to this reading series, not just because of the diversity of writers who participate, but also because David makes sure that anyone who comes is there for the reading or is aware of the reading and won’t just chat thru it.
I leave you with one of my favourites of the poems that Adam read to give you a hint of what you missed if you didn’t make it out and perhaps to tempt you to buy this wonderful book.
LYRIC AND ELEGY
One morning I wake in a new city. The wet crackle
of butter frying, clattering plates, steady beat of knives
and forks pressed to the table like angry cries falling
in rhythm. Over it all, over the buttermilk smell, two
voices: one a lilt, a gently rising inflection, coo-coo
of a mother soothing her child; the second voice wary
of song in a slow time, the didgeridoo lament
of a funeral hymn. They sang the stagger of brown glass,
the shatter of their men’s reddening bodies whose hands
careened through acquiescing air to somehow rain acid
over their recoiling bodies. The voices scaled over
each other, stamping and clawing to prove their song closer
to their husband’s fury. I remembered another morning,
waking up, the grey storm of smoke burning my eyes and he
bore me to the window, pushed my head out into the wide world
and said: breathe! And she already there, sucking the air
like a cigarette, like the suffocating fire; he’d saved
her first. As the voices spiralled even higher, I turned
in bed to the blank wall, thinking there was no one voice:
the world musician laid its song one track at a time.
--Adam Getty Repose (Nightwood Editions, 2008)