Eric Winter - Interview

What are your thoughts about reading your poetry in Cobourg at the 3rd annual POW! Festival?

Mixed, unless I have something good and new I would prefer to to sit it out.

Please tell us about your most recently published book and also a little about any other books you've had that "saw print."

My books for the most part have been texts on things and places but I once lived among poets and something rubbed off.

I haven't published anything since "The Man In The Hat" but I am being constantly nagged by my wife Dorothy to put together another collection.

"Twelve Days of the Infanta" which is a short ballad-opera will be published this year.

At POW!, do you plan to read pieces from your book (or books)? Do you plan to read new, unpublished work?

I'm working on something at the moment, just started and I hope it will be ready in time.

How would you describe your poetry?

A mixed bag, rarely solemn, sometimes quite funny and when I read it, I laugh
at my own stories. I like telling myself funny stories.

A person who has never composed a poem is likely to think of that as something of a magical or mysterious process. Is it possible to explain that process of creation?

I'm just going through that right now. You live with the idea, trying out one thing after another.

That process with me takes a few days but once it is done the rest is quite technical, finding the right word getting the rhythm right. I think with free verse, rhythm is what distinguishes poetry from prose.

Years ago in a poetry workshopping group, I was witness to the following exchange:

A novice poet breathlessly proclaimed, "I don't know how to write formal poetry. All I know is -- my poetry comes from deep inside me, it shows how I'm feeling at the time, it comes pouring out of me unexpectedly, once it starts I couldn't stop it, even if I wanted to, and when I see what I've produced in front of me, I can hardly believe it came out of me but it's colourful and it's something that has never been seen before!"

Without a moment's hesitation, a woman I had not greatly admired until that very moment said, "You know, everything you just said also applies to vomit."

In my opinion, her retort captured something in a simply perfect way. Nonetheless it is true that sometimes a poem just pours out of the poet and when the initial product is viewed, the surprising conclusion is, "That's it. Amazing. I don't have to re-work that at all. Even if I did, I would not make it better." Can you tell us about one of those moments happening for you?

Although, I would rather say 'the cry of a child,' it can be true that the poem pours out of the poet. If he or she is a good poet, it would be a good pouring.

However, we must remember "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings" poureth forth wisdom.

It sometimes happens but not everybody has the gift.

However, what I describe above is rare. More commonly, any piece that a poet initially scratches out needs work. There will be re-writes, scrunched up pieces of paper, polishing, editing, moments when the poet recoils in horror at how weak this creation is and sets about strengthening it. Can you tell us about those moments?

Absolutely, this year's person is a different person from last year's person and sometimes what was right for last year it's not right for this year and there are times when, having changed last years to this year's, we might change again to the year before. I have some poems that I doubt if I would ever change except perhaps a single word here and there.

It is said that all artists create their art in part for themselves and it is born of a deep inner howl that cannot be denied expression but, whether one chooses to admit it or not, such creation is also in part for an audience. Do you think our audience influences what we create, even if it is only a sub-conscious tailoring we do to make things fit?

Those who say they do not write for an audience must remember that they have forfeited the right to tell us that.
Returning to the assertion from years ago by that breathless novice I recounted above, would you say it is true that poets should know various set-forms of poetry and have a conscious awareness of poetic device, even if they then choose not to follow them or employ them? Is that an archaic ploy to ensure that writing poetry remains an elite activity?

If you want to babble, babble on. You might even be interesting but if you like poetry, you can't avoid liking poetry and that comes in all shapes and sizes, like shoes.Try 'em on.

The POW! Festival rides along from year to year on the notion that poetry should not be relegated to an existence as "a niche art form" which an average person doesn't care about and never will care about. Some poets think that notion is so idealistic as to be silly. They might be correct. Others agree with us. How do you respond to that?

As I have said earlier, it is important to have an audience. The size of the audience doesn't matter very much. Poetry for me is like conversations with friends, the more the merrier but we are not all on the same wavelength and I'm not a proselytizer. The changing of people's minds can be a laudable activity but it is different from writing.

Read Eric Winter's Bio