braced to take in the full force

When I encounter a poem that engages the mind over the senses I really have to force myself to pay attention and work my way through it, even if it’s a brilliant piece of writing (and thinking). I need to feel a thing I’m reading to really become involved with it, and in that way I sometimes have the sense that others would consider me rather old-fashioned, or traditional, or, I don’t know, soft. That needing or wanting to “feel” is a kind of weakness in our post-post-modern era, or whatever this is. But it doesn’t feel soft to me. When I read, I’m braced to take in the full force of the mysteries of our existence. I want to be kicked in the gut, and when I write, that’s what I’m aiming to hit. Not the mind, not the heart: the gut. That doesn’t mean the mind and heart aren’t involved; they’re entwined, actually, rather than one or the other dominating. When I read something really powerful, the sensation is physical, like being bruised.

- Anita Lahey, in conversation with Susan Gillis on Susan's Concrete & River blog. You can read the whole thing here.


the same words everything else used

I remember, in my early teens, encountering the voltage in a good poem. I can still recall how startled I was by how the words in a poem relayed a kind of intensity and vitality and I was curious about that. I’d read a lot of novels and short stories but began to read poems to figure out how they were pulling off what they were with the same words everything else used. This intensity, vitality was one of the things that convinced me that there was something going on besides the dailiness and challenges of my own life. That there was a conversation apart from but still somehow fiercely connected to my own experiences and, at first, I was shocked by being addressed in that manner, so directly, then, later, I wanted to respond and add my voice to the conversation.

- Sue Goyette, in interview with Susan Gillis over at her Concrete & River blog. You can read the whole thing here.


UFV Reading - This Thursday!

You know how you always have all that free time on Thursday afternoons? And how badly you've been wanting an excuse to zip on out to Abbotsford? Well, there's no need to wait until the Airshow to check off both boxes at once!

Myself, Renee Saklikar and Rajnish Dhawan will be reading at the Universtiy of the Fraser Valley this Thursday. The details:

Canadian Writers Series at UFV
Thursday, March 13th, 12:30 - 2:00 PM
University of the Fraser Valley Bookstore, Abbostford Campus
33844 King Road, Abbotsford
Featuring: Renee Saklikar, Rajnish Dhawan and me!

It's been a long time since I last read more than a poem or two in the Lower Mainland, so I'm pretty excited to try out some new stuff. And I'm looking forward to reading with both Renee and Rajnish - I'm completely prepared for Renee to, as usual, steal the show.

This event is an extension of UFV's writer-in-residency program, and is organized by current WiR and friend of silaron, Daniela Elza (Thanks, Daniela!), whose reward for organizing the readings is to have a giant photo of herself featured on all the posters. Not bad, eh?

Will Daniela make a cameo appearance during the reading? Will Renee and I get lost trying to find UFV for the first time? Will anyone come to a poetry reading in Abbotsford at 12:30 on a Thursday? You'll have to come to find out!

p.s. Speaking of Renee, she's got a great new interview with Jordan Abel and Daniel Zomparelli up now at Lemonhound. Check it out!


to align myself appropriately with the world

I’ve sometimes felt compelled to demystify the writing process, to deny the romantic view of the inspired writer, which belies the sheer labour that goes into making a poem, hides the all-important editorial blood-sweat-and-tears, the enlivening but sometimes endless-seeming work of fine-tuning. But for me there’s also a dimension of the writing process that is effortless — even the sometimes excruciating effort of fine-tuning can feel effortless. A real paradox.

I think what I mean when I say that the effort feels effortless is that I’m responding to a call from something in the world. Something, some situation, presents itself to me as imbued with lyric intensity, and to respond is second nature. An urge to respond just “flowers forth.” I don’t think poets are the only people to be called by aspects of the world and who feel the urge to respond; that’s just part of what it is to be human - we’re responsive, susceptible, if sometimes more so than at other times. And response can take many forms. But for me, to respond is often to make a poem, i.e. to work to build an instrument that helps me — and, if I manage to do it well enough, possibly others — to align myself appropriately with the world.

- Sue Sinclair, in conversation with Susan Gillis over on her blog Concrete & River. You can read the whole interview here.

I'm thrilled to see that Susan has started publishing interviews on her blog. You can read more of Susan's interviews with poets here.