Lion/Lamb

The last time there was a big gap between posts here, I used the excuse of it being due to the Big Life Change of getting married. This time, another Big Life Change: I have a new son. There’s a lot I can say about this startling fact, but this is a blog that’s primarily writing-related so I’ll stubbornly keep it that way. If you want super adorable babyphotos you can just email me. Oh, I will say that his middle name “Ilya” is partly inspired by the wonderful young poet Ilya Kaminsky (We wanted a Russian name to represent his mother’s part-Russian heritage).

Somehow finding time to write and edit. Not as much as I want, but knowing that I have much less time, makes me a bit more focused. And sometimes the task of holding a sleeping baby in your arms is a fine time to read complicated essays on poetics and listen to podcasts. I will post links to favourites in upcoming entries.

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Meanwhile, it’s great to see a local poet I admire having his first book out soon. Daniel Zomparelli, the energy behind Poetry is Dead magazine, and vital life force in Vancouver’s poetry community will be launching his debut collection “Davie Street Translations” (Talon Books) this Sunday April 1st at the Cobalt. In the few readings by Daniel I’ve heard, the poems are powerful, playful, and unabashedly local. I’m sure that very soon after it being out, the book will seem like it was always a part of the make up of this city, or at least, the famous street that it positions itself in.

This is what poet Nikki Reimer had to say about it:

“These poems pay respectful albeit cheeky homage to a host of queer writers and queer icons in Vancouver, in the process redefining the possibilities for what it might mean to write young, queer, pop culture/literate, smart and alive on these crowded rain-sodden streets. Here glosas, palindromes, alphabet, palimpsest, concrete graffiti poems, pop music anthems and erasure abut a ragged lyricism, hell bent on obliterating every last stereotype and polymer partition.” – Nikki Reimer

Read a great interview with Daniel Zomparelli over at Rob Taylor’s blog.

The World of 10,000 Things

Reading tonight at the monthly Spoken Ink Series in Burnaby. They are allowing me a good chunk of time, which makes me more inclined to throw in at least one “cover” poem. I decided yesterday that I will read a Dean Young poem, one of my favorite poets of the playful “associative” (yet still emotionally generous) school of poetry. Looking him up online today, I came across a feature on NPR which was a great listen, and includes Young reading some of his poems.  At that time he was still recovering from a successful heart transplant for his failing heart and talks about that too, and facing mortality in poems, in general.

“I think that’s one of the jobs of poets: They stare at their own death and through it they still see the world — the world of 10,000 things. Poetry is about time running out, to some extent. You can think of that purely formally — the line ends, the stanza ends and the poem itself ends. And I think one of the things that’s pleasurable about reading poetry rather than hearing it, is that you immediately know where the poem is going to end. You can see it, just glancing at it. And there’s something maybe reassuring about that.”

Listen and read the feature and poems here.

I only have one collection of poems by Young, “Elegy for a Toy Piano” and a fantastic essay/book “The Art of Recklessness” on writing poetry but I’m looking forward to his newer stuff. There’s one poem written post-surgery that’s featured at the NPR link and it’s clear from that that nothing has been lost of his sense of wonder and startling humour and emotion.

Ok, enough procrastination, back to warming up for the reading tonight. I’ll leave you with a bonus link: Dean Young’s letter to a young poet (his nephew), which as is profoundly moving and insightful as anything in that Rilke book.

 

Matthew Zapruder on the Scottish Poetry Library podcast

“I think people have this misconception about poets that we sit down and figure out everything we’re going to say before we say it and then, because we have this “Great Command Of Words,” we can force language into saying whatever it is we want to say … but that’s not how most poets work. They have an instinct for language, they study language, they live with it, they feel it, they are attentive to it, so that when something comes up that seems resonant or has potentiality, poets will be able to activate those words, and make things more resonant. That’s what I think it’s all about. Not getting some message across. I mean, what’s the message? It’s scary to be alive? We’re mortal? We live in vulnerable bodies? Death is terrifying? Love is good? Don’t be cruel? Don’t take other people stuff? I mean, we’re not moralists, we’re trying to work with our materials.”

Matthew Zapruder

Listen to the whole podcast here, in which Zapruder reads a few of his poems and discusses poetry, including his poem on occupywriters.com

They Will Take My Island

Came across this cool blog by Paul Vermeersch, where he has invited a number of poets to respond to a work of art by Armenian-born painter Arshile Gorky called “They Will Take My Island.”  Each poem on the blog shares that same title and takes off from there in a kind of group ekphrasis (a dramatic or poetic description of a visual artwork.) I like that he chose a piece which is fairly abstract, offering a wide possibility of interpretation, but the evocative title has enough charge to bring out some great poems.

Here is the original poem by Vermeersch and below is another by Adam Sol. I met Adam in Toronto and just got his Jeremiah, Ohio in the mail and am super excited about it.

They Will Take My Island

by Adam Sol

You taught me language, and my profit on’t
            Is I know how to curse.

They will take my island
if I don’t scorch it to the bones, though
to speak truly,

I did not know it was an island
until they said so.
I thought it was the world.

The river-fish would drift
into my clasp and I would gnaw
on their flesh while the gills still

gasped.  It had edges and pleasures
and dangers.
What more is a world?

(Read the full poem here)