How did you
come to poetry in your life and when did you start writing poetry?
From the beginning. When I went to school we had to learn things -
know them by heart. I was at sea during the war and much of the time
I had nothing to do. I read poetry. Pastoral stuff 'Just now the lilac
is in bloom /all before my little room.' It was an antidote. At that
time I was a reader. I did not become a writer until much later when
I was in a college that was a major centre for poetry. It was then
I started to write.
What is 'poetry'
It is a constant challenge There is too much to say and too little
time to say it.
you describe your work?
I can more easily say what it is not. It is not, or rarely has been
confessional. I frequently tell a story and if it was somebody else's
work I would say that it often had a wry turn. Narrative poetry
went out of fashion long ago - with Tennyson, but I like it. I do
also have work that is simply reflective or lyrical. I have been
called an ironist. That is not necessarily a compliment, because
it often goes with being uncommitted.
your thoughts on prose poetry?
I'm not quite sure how to answer that. The style of poetry is never
still. Old English poetry had alliteration and no rhyme, regular
rhyme came later and that has declined. Now we have free verse which
has both irregular metre and irregular rhyme and also blank verse
which has regular metre and no rhyme. Prose poetry is like free
verse and if you are just listening you wouldn't know the difference.
It is in the layout. A prose poem is printed like prose with a right
hand margin instead of line breaks. I like all forms. I think free
verse, and hence pose poetry, offers the best chance to change the
pace in a reading. It makes listening easier. I generally use regular
rhyme only when I'm having fun.
Who are your
favourite Canadian poets?
I would once have said B.P. Nichol, P.K. Page, and Richard Outram
but I hear so many good young poets at our Thursday meetings that
I can't say I have favourites any more. After all favouritism takes
some time to mature.
And, of course,
other than Canadian?
Again I can't say I do have any. I like bits of so many; The overwhelming
majority however are in the English language from Langland to Larkin
and Lowell .
been the greatest influence on your poetry?
As I said in the beginning I found myself among poets and something
rubbed off. But that might not be what you want. The greatest influence
is the need to do something that is without utility. Like the paintings
in Altamira it is a way of reflecting on life. There's only so much
reflection one can do alone. One needs an audience. It can be a
sophisticated or naive audience and the poetry responds accordingly.
I mean audience in general terms. I don't just mean as poets. Poetry
is just a special way of talking, anybody can do it and, like talking,
it needs a listener.
If you read
in July, will it include any new work?
Certainly there will be work that is new to the listener and, with
luck, there will be work that is also new to me.
As one of
the founders of the CPW, and having brought many new members to
it, how do you feel about its growth and its role in Cobourg and
If I had slogan for my term it would have been 'Poetry for Cobourg.'
If I have a slogan for the future with Jill Battson it would be
'Cobourg for Poetry.' That's a good progression . My interests were
purposely parochial and, by the way, I was certainly not alone in
keeping the workshop alive. At the best I might have been primus
How do you
see its future?
Very Promising: a new laureate and good management at the CPW. James
Pickersgill has got both energy and enthusiasm and he's is getting
good support from the group.
are you reading these days?
At the moment they happen to be eighteenth and nineteenth century
writers. Zola, Stendahl, Rousseau and Sam Johnson. No Poets.
Anything you'd like to add?
Not much, though I think poetry, like any art, suggests something
other than itself. Even agitprop does that though it doesn't mean