Cobourg Poetry Workshop
feature poet

rick webster

my advice, gentlemen,
is to consider the moon gently,
and at great emotional distance.

She's a mad goddess lover,
and won't let you go.


When Rick Webster arrives at the mike for a reading, there's a perceptible shift of attention on the part of the audience - an anticipation that its going to hear something special, not knowing quite what to expect. At first glance at your website, it seems you are very drawn to the elements, with very tactile word-images, of light, every day occurrences that touch the senses and are seen in a different way .... and then there's your series 139 Poems of the Moon. Really, 139?

Yeah, 139 was just a number I pulled out of the air. Then that entire series just completely took over my life and, after a while, it wasn't fun anymore. So the moon poems are on hold, and probably permanently so, although I must admit - I do find myself still checking in with Her Evening Majesty every couple of days.
The recent 'big' full moon in early May must have been irresistible.

The full moon always has my attention. She's always irresistible.
What triggered your journey into poetry?

I'm not sure, exactly. I discovered Ogden Nash when I was about nine and memorized one his poems. I still have it in my head. A creative writing exercise in grade six taught me that I could write poems. I sat at my desk and churned out five or six of them while everyone else was trying to write their first line. I remember finding Leonard Cohen's 'The Energy of Slaves' when I was about twelve or thirteen. I didn't understand it, but just felt sucked into the book. It was pretty much ball game over at that point.
How has your poetry evolved?

I have no idea. Really, no clue. Every once in a while I'll come across something I wrote in high school and wonder if I'm writing anything that good today.
Have there been any particular influences?

Honestly? The biggest influence in my writing my have been the King James Bible. I grew up reading or, more importantly I suppose, hearing it read. I'm not sure it's been an entirely good influence. The poems I trash - which is most of them - get the bin because they sound preachy, or heavy handed. Rumi was the first poet that really took my breath away. What's had the most immediate influence in my writing has been the workshop sessions in Cobourg.
Which, coming almost full circle, led to the recent Word*Up series in Peterborough, for which you've been described as the engine that propels it. How did Word*Up come about?

Word*UP came about after being at a reading in Port Hope put on by the CPW. As we were driving home a buddy and I were talking about how great it would be to have something similar in Peterborough. We looked at each other and said, "How difficult could it be?" Ha! Little did we know!
So, what is 'poetry' today? We have the traditional, academic poetry, Spoken Word, Slam, performance, prose poetry ... the word covers huge territory.

I have no idea what poetry is. No clue. My guess is that it's all of those things you mentioned, and maybe none of them. Maybe whenever anyone speaks with courage about the beauty and pain of being human - maybe that's poetry, whatever form it takes.
And Rick Webster takes it another step forward, as you did recently at a reading in Cobourg, of blending your words with music with Paper Beat Scissors (which can be viewed on YouTube) ... With that kind of reading/performance, is the poem well rehearsed, or is a combination of the written-word and then where your instincts take you, a more spontaneous occurrence, both for you and for the musicians?

In that video Tim just laid down some music and I closed my eyes and listened for a second. The first thing that came to mind was "forest says enter" and I just went from there. It absolutely was not rehearsed, nor should it be. It's the risk that gives it power, it's the risk that makes it worth doing. And, frankly, I'd like to do a lot more of it.
With prose poetry, what determines the crossover point ... when does prose becomes poetry?

I have no clue. No idea. My guess is that's it's point of view. If the reader can identify a point of view other than their own than it ceases to be poetry. For it to be poetry I think the listener or reader has to feel like the poet is describing their own heart. The reader has to feel like it's their point of view, like the poem is coming from inside of them. And maybe we don't have to bridge the gap between prose and poetry. Maybe it's okay to say, hey, I'm a poet, but I wrote this bit of prose here. Maybe that should be okay, too.
What sort of process do you go through, from the initial idea to it's completion (if they are ever really 'completed') when creating a poem?

I sit down at the keyboard, close my eyes and write. Turn all the filters off. Whatever comes out comes out. The rest is editing, chopping and hacking through the undergrowth, trying to see if there's a path there. That's pretty much it.
Do you have a specific audience in mind when constructing a poem? A live audience for the poem to be heard, or for it to be on the printed page or, as you do as well, to be read on your website?

I write just because I have to write. That's about it, really. Don't think of it much more than that.
Are websites the new chapbooks?

No. Yes. I don't know. Maybe. My guess is that they're two very different things; two very different experiences. I'm in favor of anything that gives a poet a voice and a place in a community of like-minded souls.

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