Cobourg Poetry Workshop
Feature poet

Jill Battson
- Cobourg's Poet Laureate EMERITUS -


Lightning - as seen from New Mexico
..............................For Jacquie Jacobs

That night, the cloying prussian sky -
sheet of damask hung from the heavens-
we stopped the car and stood along the roadside
watching the Colorado sky erupt and spark
into a white hot electricity that stung the eye
tearing, relentless pursuit of oxygen
and not a sign of rain, or a hint of thunder
just the lemon lightning ripping zigzag spaces
in the sky as easy as
persuading rotten fabric to rip
hint of gas-blue static-ing
the turned on, tuned in radio
positive ion smell sparking our nostrils
sheets of undulating light sliced
by forks and horns, the summer staff
later, on the covered adobe porch
we sit mindful of rolling thunder
lolling north and the full body splash
of surprised rain, gutters falling flood-like
breath iron
our lightsome faces spark over glasses of burgundy.

Jill Battson is an internationally published poet and poetry activist. She was responsible for creating and running the successful poetry reading series The Poets' Refuge and has initiated and produced many poetry events including The Poetry Express - a BYOV at Toronto's Fringe Festival; Liminal Sisters - a language poetry event; The Festival of the Spoken Word - a five day spoken word festival; Fightin' Words - poets in a boxing ring; The Poetburo Slams and the hyper- successful Word Up - a series of interstitial poetry spots airing on MuchMusic and Bravo! which spawned a CD with Virgin Records and an anthology with Key Porter. She was the poetry editor for Insomniac Press from 1999 to 2001.

Jill has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies in North America and the UK. Her first book Hard Candy was received to great acclaim and nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. She has written several plays and solo works, including How I learned to live with obsession as well as Ecce Homo and Hard Candy - enhanced monologues for dance and voice. She has written the libretti for two short operas Netsuke and Ashlike on the Cradle of the Wind produced by Tapestry New Opera Works, and produced an electro acoustic sound art project, LinguaElastic, as part of the Canadian Music Centre's New Music in New Places series. Dark Star Requiem, for which she wrote the libretto, will premiere in Toronto in June 2010. Jill's third book of poems, Dark Star Requiem, is forthcoming with Folded & Gathered Press.

On-line with Jill Battson

What was your first reaction on being selected as Cobourg's second Poet Laureate?
It's a big thrill to have been selected, but daunting at the same time - daunting because I want to make a legacy project that really counts.

How do you see your role?
Firstly, as someone who is going to shake up the community in terms of poetry. "You don't like poetry? Rethink it this way; 'Have you thought about writing a poem? Then write one,'" And, also, to make people aware that poetry can make a difference in their lives. It isn't all about dead white guys that might not resonate with your life; there are plenty of really interesting and valid forms and poets out there. Eric Winter did a great job and laid the groundwork for me to take advantage of his hard work.

Do you see yourself bringing something new to the position?
Yes. Mostly because of my extensive background with inventing and producing unique poetry events, together with my connection to many, many poets and organizers out there.

What brought you to poetry in the first place?
Folly. No, seriously; I've always written, but it wasn't until I had some time to really 'write' that things took off. I was working in the film business in LA and found myself with some time off. I had a small handmade book of not very good poetry with me and I felt I could do better. And in LA at the time one could read at a different poetry event every night of the week, sometimes three a night. I took advantage of that and started to read my work and people seemed to like it. I never looked back.

How would you describe your poetry?
Sometimes gritty, raw. Achingly romantic and unabashedly sentimental.

What sort of creative process do you go through?
Probably the same as many other writers. Usually hellish. I carry a notebook, write fragments, then sit at the computer, and sometimes in longhand, and write the first of several drafts. Before I sit down the house has to be clean, the laundry done - all the things I 'could be doing' out of the way. I refine the poem by reading it aloud and see where it is 'soft' and then revise it. Then I read it to an audience and I can really see where is doesn't work and where it does.

What inspires you, triggers a poem?
Pretty much everything. Sometimes it's beauty, sometimes anger; sometimes a point needs to be made. I can write in a busy coffee shop or on the couch in silence.

Who are your favourite poets?
Sharon Olds, Charles Bukowski, Thom Gunn, August Kleinzahler, Patricia Smith.

What are you reading these days - if you have time to read?
I'm presently reading 'This is your mind on music', 'sleeping it off in rapid city', 'the boy who would be Shakespeare' and 'Raymond Carver - a writer's life.'

Your thoughts on the CPW?
How can I say anything bad? Their good work got me this job. It's a great group of people who are really, really interested in poetry and doing good work to promote it and celebrate it.

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