Poetry. What is it for, what does it do, what is the use of it? In Canada, poetry reflects and foreshadows both country and people. It is the voice of reason, the voice of humanity, the voice that says “I am me.” It allows us to know each other; like the CBC, it connects with all parts of the country. It says the little village of Ameliasburgh in Ontario has some relevance to, say, Granville Ferry in Nova Scotia. Above all, poetry says you are us and we are citizens of here and now, this space, this air, and this time.
- “Disconnections,” Essays on Canadian Writing, No. 49 [Summer 1993], p.187
To my mind, what a poem ought to do is cause the reader to feel and think, balanced on nearly the same moment as myself when I wrote it. And I’d prefer to be understood with a minimum of mental strain by people as intelligent or more so than myself. I’d like them to hear the poem aloud when they read it on the page, which some people can do with poems they like.
Ideally, I’d like to say a thing so well that if the reader encounters a passage in a poem which has much the same rhythm and ordinariness as this prose passage he or she is reading now: that that passage would suddenly glow like coloured glass in a black and white world. Which is probably a hopeless ambition.
-Bursting into Song, p.11