Cobourg Poetry Workshop
feature poet

roz bound

Midnight Sailing

Red blinking lights:
a VCR across the room
becomes a lighthouse
warning ships of rocks
beneath the waves.

Dogs sleep across my feet,
cement blocks
that hold me down, ensuring
I stay anchored,
still aware
of dangers out at sea.


We were wondering, who is Roz Bound ... you were born in England, live in Ontario's Prince Edward County, received your BA from the University of Alabama, an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, you've taught in South America and the Caribbean, returned to your childhood summer place in Dorset, England for a year ... and you visit annually the "the green grass of home" to present a writing workshop in Glastonbury ... does this make you an English poet, a Canadian poet, or a poet of wherever you happen to be at the time?

Everywhere! As a young woman I called myself a 'child of the world' when I was living in tropical countries that had no idea of the 60's revolutions or consciousness-raising - I thought I'd created the title! I found out years later that I was resonating with millions of others and was not alone - I still feel that way, especially as I know so much more now about being a cell on the one big body of Mother Earth which its actually very comforting. I don't like labels or boxes so I'm Roz and one of the roles I play is that of poet, which weaves its web into many more spaces and places beyond words on paper.

What started this itinerant life?

I left my UK birthplace when I was 16 and my family moved to Canada but my life began another chapter 10 years later when, as a 'corporate wife,' I moved to the Dominican Republic. Company politics moved us around like chessmen, so I lived in five countries in the tropics and South America before I came back to Canada in '82 as a single mother of four. After 15 years as an ex-pat, I was to begin a third chapter in my life. Then a journey back to the UK in '96 after nearly 40 years absence, resurrected such strong feelings of 'home' that every year the landscape pulls me back.

What was your first connection with poetry and when did you first start writing?

I wrote stories and poems when very young - in clearing out my parents' house I found books of little pieces I'd written. My mother taught me to read and write at 3; I was an only child and lived in books and my imagination. My little poem about my kitten was printed in the local paper when I was 6 - and I won poetry prizes in high school and teachers college ......

.... and evolved into the poet we know today.

I didn't write much after that - life got so very full and chaotic - but when I picked up my BA studies (which, with lots of gaps, took me 33 years to complete!!) I would stay up all night writing essays and reviews and loved just writing. A memoir came out of the '96 journey to UK, and after that I drifted gently back into poetry as, the sandwich generation over, I had more time. Poetry kept calling me. But when I took my MFA, my chosen genre was essay-writing in memoir for some reason and I had to write poems 'on the side.' I have never studied poetry on an academic basis, am mostly self-taught with the help of some good mentors - my sense of poetry comes from my gut. My first poem at that time was printed in Sagewoman magazine which encouraged me.

Some of your poems touch, very much, on personal, difficult moments in your life. You mentioned that 'it seems sadness and loss is my trigger.' Sharing lifetime experiences through verse is often seen as a form of therapy (some call it confessional poetry), but is it more a way of saying to readers, listeners, other poets, that it's okay to delve into those experiences, to explore them, to understand them better?

The 'personal moments' mostly come from another place deep in my soul - I could be writing a poem about a tree or a storm, and then something else will emerge and the poem will almost write itself. I believe that the personal is universal so we see ourselves in other people's words. No feeling belongs to me alone - it's shared. As Sri Aurobindo writes: "the words are only the clothing of the something that vibrates." And there's a universal recognition of that vibration. I find it hard to write and keep out the personal. Sometimes I get bored with 'me' but there I am!!

But, to quote you again, 'I guess I've been happy for far too long', suggesting it might be rationed.

I may have said that in explaining my stuckness in writing much poetry for a while!! In this, the fourth chapter in my life, I'm in a fulfilling relationship and am quite at peace. Poems I have written of late come from loss: moving from a well-loved house, clearing out memories, friends passing away, etc. I have been working on a Doctorate since '06 which involves more papers and I find my writing style has become quite poetic. But the state of the planet concerns me and provides a stern edge to happiness (difficult word to define) - the huge field for poetry is itching at me right now. More than ever, art is needed to speak for the soul which is getting lost in all the collapse.

For many years, Wellington has been your home and is where you created the In-Formed Poets group. How did that come about and evolve?

After completing my MFA I retired from teaching and scribbled a lot. I moved to the UK for 15 months and while there, took part in many workshops and classes with some amazing groups - there's so much access to writing and poetry over there! - where we sometimes worked with form. I loved the challenge of working within a framework. So after I returned to the County, I advertised for a few months for anyone who was interested in writing in form and lo, our group evolved. We met every 2 weeks, critiquing and choosing a form for the next time. It worked well.

Many poets (I suspect, mainly older poets) troll through early life-experience, not only as a way of understanding where they came from but, perhaps, as a way of exploring, in the safety of older years, what shaped them; as a way of examining choices made, decisions taken. How did your 2003 book 'Spirit of Lyme' - returning for a year to Lyme Regis in England, where you spent 16 summers of your growing up years - develop?

One of my goals there was to write poetry. I wrote all the time, it was like a long retreat. I had excellent critiquing from some of the people I wrote with and I had little to distract me. I wanted to leave behind a gift for Lyme Regis, so I put some of the poems together - my book still sells in the bookshop there, 10 years later! I take a few copies every year, pick up a few pounds! Ready for a third printing! But I don't troll. Memories I write about come at me through other means - image, word, phrase, dreams. If I write to understand something - as my father's childhood poems - it becomes a narrative of imagination built around a few facts. I'm 70 now, I am who I am because of it all and I'm grateful. I've had enough therapy, I've moved on. I am often completely surprised at what shows up on the page.

Those years, dormant for so long, had a huge impact on you.

As with everyone, one way or another. I remembered my childhood as lonely, sad, and over-protected and I didn't begin growing up in many ways until much later in life,. But in re-visiting the actual places of my childhood, I was able to remember love and laughter. Had I not physically returned and walked the walks, I would never have remembered the loving times.

In many ways, the poems in Spirit of Lyme are variations on a theme of love ....

Everything is a variation of love. It's really the only thing that matters. It's either love or fear. What's the choice?

... and yet, it's also, it's a restless book ... that, even though that's where you wanted to be for a year, you drifted to other places; teasingly to Venezuela, wistfully to Wellington "... my house waiting for me by the lake."

Child of the world!! Of course! Everything reminds me of something, everything is a sign, a symbol, a metaphor. I moved so much in my life (16 times!) that I've always been not only creating a new home but also yearning for the old one. It was particularly hard in the tropics where I had a great life in one country and then in the space of three weeks I had to leave it behind and start again, new language, new maps etc, finding schools etc, missing what was left but having to evolve. I'm in that space now in a way, having sold my house by the lake and not finding another one, in a rented furnished flat - the "in-between" place. Wistful, yes. Hopeful, restless to move on, yes.

Since its publication, have you returned to it, perhaps wishing, in hindsight, that you'd added more, or taken a slightly different approach?

Only the war poems - while there, war broke out with Iraq and I wrote a collection of poems as a way to understand it by inviting it into my life - I chose two very simple poems to put in the book, I wish I had chosen a different one instead. That's all!

Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again has been reconfigured to suggest, having broadened one's life and outlook, one can't return 'home'.

I was told that before I went. I did and it worked out exceedingly well - both times, the '96 journey and the 15 months. But both were on my terms, with certain goals, and definitely with not many expectations. I'll never forget it.

You've mentioned that you've been planning and talking about another collection for 9 years (since returning from Lyme Regis?) Can you tell us more about it?

Oh my goodness, this collection has been brewing for so long I dare not mention it any more!! I wrote some of the poems while I was there, some after, and they all circle around my relationship with my father. Writing them was my tribute to him in a way because by then I had found out a lot about his life and knew more about why he did what he did, and found compassion for him. But I do have to get it out there to help me move on to something else. It's in my way. The time though has bought me the decision to add a long prose poem rewritten from an essay - it's an added risk. I brought everything here to this temporary home to get it together but life always seems more important. This year he would be 100 on 12/12/12 so this is the year to do it. I need a kick!!

What process do you go through in writing a poem, from the initial idea or inspiration, to the final work?

When I was writing 'all the time,' when I had time, I would wake almost every morning with a word or a phrase or an image and write immediately, often still in the dark, not daring to move - long-hand in pen or pencil. I'd work on a piece by re-writing many times, before I'd transfer it to the computer - that was always a sacred moment for some reason, putting it into the computer - I'd anticipate it, looking forward to that stage. It was quite special, almost celebratory. I'd always edit, fine-tune, last thing at night, before turning off the computer. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night and change a comma, then wake up again and change it back! And I'd write on the bus, on the street, wherever the inspiration came. That was then. Now, when a word or phrase comes, it's not so often. I grab it before I lose it, and the same process happens but mostly directly onto the computer. The day we moved from our house by the lake, I saw the house from a whole new angle, for the first time from a window across the road, and a line flooded into my mind that I could not ignore - "as a girl awaiting a new lover." It burned a hole in my head for a few weeks until the poem just poured out. It came from somewhere else. When I have to write a poem for a submission or request, I still have to wait for that phrase or image, then let it germinate during day-to-day happenings, until it erupts, and then I'm off and running. I cannot write to order.

Any thoughts on the varying directions of poetry .... Performance, Slam, Prose, compared with the more traditional approaches?

I love performance etc because it has lent new energy to poetry - anything that moves us on and brings in young people and those who wouldn't have read or listened to poetry otherwise is important. Drew Dellinger's performance poems on our changing world are staggering. I love the image of drawing a bow from the past into the future - we wouldn't be where we are now without the traditionals, but we can't stay back there, we have to evolve into something new, take off from their shoulders and shout 'here we are!'

Who are your favourite poets?

All my books are in storage! So many I love but their names don't come too readily to mind without my beloved library shelves in front of me - Kapka Kassabova for sure, Sharon Olds, Rose Flint (UK), Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua, T.S. Eliot off the top of my head.

You've done a lot for poetry .. What has poetry done for you?

Kind of you to say I've done a lot, thank you - what I absolutely love is seeing the writers in the County coming out to Open Floor and my workshops, some very courageously reading their work for the first time, some launching their own books, responding to calls for submission and wrestling with their piece, all enjoying the company of each other in a writing world for a short time. That brings me so much pleasure. Poetry has allowed me to share my response to life in a creative way and even if my poems go nowhere in our physical world, they are 'out there' in the universe - it's a big responsibility because no thought, word or action goes unheeded.

Anything you'd like to add?

Thank you for these questions - they've forced me to revisit my process and how I got here - and reminded me of the beautiful journey a poem takes and how I can't wait to write again!!
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