is retired and lives in the quiet town of Cobourg Ontario. Mark went
to highschool in Cornwall Ontario and in 1958 had his first poem published
in the St. Lawrence highschool yearbook. Following highschool, Mark
attended what is now called a 'community college' and he became a
technocrat in the field of electronics. Work and family life overtook
poetry and Mark didn't begin writing again until the mid '70s. Since
that time, he has become increasingly active in the world of poetry
and after retirement poetry changed from an avocation to an almost
full-time job. Today, Mark has non-paying jobs as webmaster and doing
the layout of chapbooks and anthologies for The Ontario Poetry Society.
In between, he manages to write a poem or two and participate in the
local Cobourg Poetry Workshop.
On Line with
been a part of your life for a long time. When and how did it all
I started writing poetry while still in high school and was lucky
enough to get one published in the 1958 high school yearbook. Why
did I start writing
? Don't know and still don't really know
to this day. When I look back I see moments in my life or an observation
reflected in a poem. One could say that poetry is a form of personal
One recurring theme in your poetry is the outdoors, a strong connection
Yes and that persists to this day. Again, why is that? I have never
lived in the country. As a youngster I do recall wandering in a
nearby forest on my own and probably daydreaming about adventure
in the wilderness. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that humanity
is deeply bound by the natural world. It seems that many have lost
that connection having only experienced the mechanics of a large
You designed the Cobourg Poetry Workshop's website and you also
design the posters and announcement cards for the Workshop's 3rd
Thursday Readings and, quietly dropped in all of these, are Haiku.
Not simply Haiku, but linked with photographs providing an extra
link with nature.
Yes, Haiku is a favourite expression as its fundamental form calls
for a seasonal reference and it is short. (17 syllables) The brevity
of haiku intrigues me as it requires the capture of a small moment
or observation and isolates it from the larger picture. Much of
this detail is lost in our busy lives.
you describe your work?
This is a difficult question as I don't think much about the style
I use unless of course I'm writing a fixed form poem like a sonnet,
sestina or haiku. Most of my poetry is 'free verse' which of course
is not 'free' as it requires thought about line breaks, beats per
line and word choices. On subject matter it is fairly broad ranging
from personal introspection, observation of the daily scene to social
comment. At a very basic level I would like to quote how I see poetry
by quoting from Aristotle's book Poetic.
in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying
deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted
in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals
being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through
imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is
the pleasure felt in things imitated."
In a substantial
way, this is how I see my poetry and in fact poetry generally. It
is a reproduction of my experience and the hope is that a reader,
even if never having had that experience, will be able, through
the poem, to have that experience despite the fact that it is an
do you go through, from the original idea to completed poem?
This varies from a workshop exercise to a contemplative moment to
an observation or a phrase that enters my mind and won't go away
until it is expanded into a poem. Once I get started, I generally
complete the poem in one sitting with ideas flowing quickly from
the initial impetus. Having written a complete poem does not mean
it is finished. I will set the poem aside and a few days later read
it over and make edits. In fact, I edit poems that are years old
even if they have been published so one could say that, for me,
a poem is never finished.
On top of
all this, you design chapbooks and perfect bound books for The Ontario
Poetry Society and, closer to home, the Cobourg Poetry Workshop.
Could you expand on this?
I Started designing chapbooks for myself as it was the easiest way
to get my poetry published in a traditional book form. After I joined
The Ontario Poetry Society I got involved doing chapbooks for them
and honed my layout and book design skills. Since I'm a bit of a
techie and computer buff, it wasn't too hard to assemble the tools
to create books. After joining the Cobourg Poetry Workshop I realized
that this group needed to be published and so today I am working
on their fourth annual anthology.
poetry is Wordsworth, Keats; for others, Layton, Cohen - there is
performance poetry, prose poetry, Slam poetry. How would you define
poetry in 2010?
This is an impossible question but here goes. I don't think the
purpose of poetry has really changed over time. What has changed
is the use of modern language, new forms of expression and perhaps
more importantly the participation in and availability of poetry
from around the world via the internet. The broad perspective on
poetry afforded by the internet clearly shows that styles are generated
from environment and to judge any style as good or bad from any
one perspective is to miss the basic purpose of poetry. There is
no doubt that within any given style of poetry there are good and
bad examples. The important point is that poetry is alive and that
anyone can participate as a writer or reader. This can only enhance
the human experience.
Who are your
I don't really have any favourite poets. I just like poetry.
This website will be a year old in, what?, January 2011? It clearly
has your imprint, right from the Home page. How do you feel about
it at this stage?
Actually, this is the second generation website for the CPW. The
first website was put up in 2008 under my personal domain name and
by late 2009 we got our own domain name "poetrycobourg.ca"
and this is what visitors see today. With more than 1600 visits
so far, I think the new website is achieving its purpose and that
is to let poetry enthusiasts see what we are up to. With the addition
of "Poet of the Month" (your suggestion Grahame) it gives
visitors a glimpse of the people involved in poetry in Cobourg.
In this era of the internet, it is essential for groups such as
the CPW to have a public face and thus participate in the larger
world of poetry.
I was going to ask, What are you reading these days. I suspect
you don't have much time for that.
You're right about that, I don't have much time for reading books
but I do read a lot of poetry. Mostly it is on the internet and
the poems of those I do books for. I am currently in the process
of judging a contest with over 150 poems, now that's a lot of close
reading. And of course I always enjoy reading, and listening to,
poems presented by CPW members at our monthly gathering.
on the Cobourg Poetry Workshop and its impact on the local (and
beyond) poetry scene?
The CPW is a unique group that exists without any formal organizational
structure and its members consistently step up to the plate to help
individuals accomplish their poetic goals. The outstanding example
of this is James Pickersgill who organizes the monthly public readings,
gathering poets from around the province, and beyond, to come to
Cobourg and enhance our communal experience of poetry. These readings
have a loyal local audience and provide a stage for members to present
their poetry to the public. The monthly public reading series is
a well known event amongst poets around the province and there is
keen competition to get scheduled for a reading in Cobourg.
The CPW, in
my opinion, exemplifies how interest groups should function. It
encourages participation by being non-judgemental about the style
or craft of poetry, respects every member and provides a learning
environment where an individual's poetry can grow and flourish simply
by the act of participation.
Anything you'd like to add?
I think I've said enough.