My good friend and poet Rob Taylor, who was my first reader for Transmitter and Receiver, interviewed me for his blog. As someone who was very familiar with the poems, he didn’t hold back on asking me hard questions on subjects ranging from flowers to commodification to “thingness.”
Rob: With a book called Transmitter and Receiver I expected a lot of technology to have worked its way into your poems. And its certainly there in abundance – video games and YouTube videos, .jpgs and cell phone ring tones. But just as prevalent, perhaps more so, are flowers – in the foreground in poems like “The Tulip Vending Machine” and “Flower Arrangements” and also popping up in little cameos, like the night flowers which “open with ease // in the politician’s garden” or the “soft buzzing” of flowers on an otherwise silent morning. I was wondering if you could speak about these two themes in your book – modern technology and flowers – and how they compliment and contrast one another. What does it mean for you when you put flowers in a poem? Could you imagine writing this book with the tech in but not the flowers?
Raoul: It’s funny, I had absolutely no idea I had put that many flowers in the book until it was too late. It’s like some little imp came in when I was sleeping and pressed them all in. But yes – and let’s say that imp is a subconscious part of me – I have a few explanations. On a purely associative level, I like that sweet note that flowers can play and to use that to disrupt or enhance something in a poem. I have also felt distant or suspicious of something so purely beautiful when I was a moody and dark youth. That skateboarder in “Flower Arrangements” that holds the bouquet at a “precise distance” away from himself? That’s me, in a way. Just overwhelmed and unable to relate to that beauty. I remember a period later when I was reading a lot of Gerald Stern, who has flowers in his poems, and how startling it was to me, somehow. At the time a flower poem to me was the most radical thing. And then of course, I relate them a lot to my wife these days, she’s brought me into a quiet kind of appreciation of them and living green things in general.
In July I was lucky to sit down and talk with Sheryl MacKay on her great North By Northwestshow on CBC Radio. I was very nervous and rambly but Sheryl was very sweet and asked good questions. She also did a great job of editing our conversation so that I sound vaguely coherent. I read my poem “Transmitter and Receiver” at the end. Thanks Sheryl! You can listen to our conversation around the 27 minute mark , but I highly recommend the whole show which has stuff about wooly mammoths, stars, and crosswords.
I sat down a few days later in a slightly different context with the coolest kids Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli on their Can’t Lit podcast. To make it even better, my charming and talented friend Kayla Czaga was a guest as well. We talk about humour in poetry, age-ism, pizza, and play a fun family game. This one is much longer and giggly-er, partly due to Daniel’s awesome raspberry mint cocktails. Thanks Dina and Daniel for inviting me! Big smiles!
All Lit Up is doing this thing for National Poetry Month where they get a well-established poet to talk about an up-n’-coming poet they are excited about. My first Creative Writing professor, from way back in the 90s, Parick Friesen, said some awfully sweet things about my writing. Check it out here, where you can also read my poem “White Noise Generator.” and read a few of my thoughts about writing and writers I love. My next reading will be with Friesen out in Victoria at the lovely Russell Books. Can’t overstate how thrilled I am to read with this fine poet and teacher that has meant so much to me. Fellow Nightwood author, Trisha Cull will also be there, excited to meet her.
The last while has been a bit of a flurry of business-y activity that yours truly is not used to. Things like organizing readings, emailing, actually using a calendar. There is something fun about it, but I’ve also done very little poem writing as a result. Hope the idea of letting fields go fallow sometimes works the same for notebooks.
Also, I’ve updated this thing as you can tell. I’ve made it more like a website than a blog, and this could mean I blog even less than usual, but we’ll see. I heard that blogs are dying? That “what’s the point because Facebook/Twitter?” Anyway for now it’s nice to have some documentation even if no one is reading it.
Probably most significantly there is an Upcoming Readings page where I’ve noted the readings I have lined up for April and May. Excited about all of them really. I’ll have more details soon.
If anyone is reading this do take a look around the site and let me know if there’s any mistakes or suggestions of what I should have here.
The book comes out ridiculously soon! I am in such complete and utter disbelief that I’m actually very calm about it.
Well, here’s what the cover looks like. It was designed by Carleton Wilson (see more of his book covers here) who does a lot of Nightwood’s covers. His great design work was definitely one of the things that made Nightwood Editions appealing to me when I was looking around for a home for the book.
There was a a fair bit of back and forth before we got to this final image. It would be interesting to show the progression, but I’ll save it for another time. Anyway, I really like this image. At first I didn’t think I wanted something so directly related to the title but I really have a fondness for those old antennae. We had them on our houses back in Dubai and they always seemed like weird magical objects. Which is what a book is, too.
While I’m here I’ll note that the page for my book is up at the Nightwood site. Check it out.