An Interview with Rob Taylor

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Rob doing the heavy lifting! (with Marta Taylor and my son Leith)

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.”

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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.

Read the rest here, and other great stuff at his blog

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.

Word on the Street

I got the chance to do some writing “mini-consults” at Vancouver’s somewhat weather-damaged Word on the Street Festival today. At first sad that I would only be doing two, I ended up doing five, due to some late signing up / clerical confusion. The writers I got to talk with were great; so varied in style, it really gave me a workout in terms of attentive listening/reading and providing useful feedback. 3 of the 5 I did were ‘cold readings’  i.e. I didn’t get anything to read in advance. Super fun. I don’t know how well I did, but I was impressed by the writers and their ability to share their work with a complete stranger, let alone a moustached poet.

After that, trying to escape the rain, sat myself down with some hot tea in the poetry bus. Caught my boy Rob Taylor breaking hearts in his usual style, and Garry Thomas Morse who delivered an awesome maniacal performance.

Among the many booths, came across this cool thing that’s been started up called The Writers’ Room a literary program that provides one-on-one tutoring for at-risk kids, in a similar vein to what goes on at Dave Egger’s famous 826 Valencia  (but without the pirate shop.) They’re looking for volunteers and I am very much considering being a part of that. I’ve totally missed working with kids since the art class drop-ins I used to do a long long time ago, and have wanted to do some volunteering that means something to me. We’ll see how that goes.

And then, very much like a surprise dessert at the end of a good meal, I came home to find that two of my poems have been accepted into the  poetry friendly Contemporary Verse 2 magazine for their upcoming animism-themed issue. Nice. Thanks CV2!