Well, yesterday was World Poetry Day. It always strikes me as funny when I see it posted on Facebook because I often see April as the most divine month of the year. None of this T.S. Eliot-y “April is the cruellest month” stuff. It’s National Poetry Month in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For poets, it’s an important month. I think of it as a creative month, time to celebrate the richness and diversity that is poetry, historically and presently, looking forward to the future of younger poets, too. The other thing that strikes me is that, for me, every day is a poetry day. Sounds cliché and corny, I know, but it’s true. If you’re a poet at heart, you know what I’m talking about, how you see light in new ways at different points in the day, how a shadow shifts, how freezing rain sounds itself out when wind pushes at it in new directions. It’s like non-stop sensory awareness and (sometimes) overload. Maybe that’s why quiet and solitude is such a part of writing….
So, here’s the thing: I have mostly always thought of myself as only a poet. I’m proud to be a poet, am certainly sure now in my craft and study. I love reading it, thinking about it, writing it, and then performing it in public. It’s intrinsic to who I am. I’ve always written short stories, too, and was blessed to have worked with Timothy Findley as my mentor back in the late 1990s through the Humber School for Writers. We worked on my stories. I was uncertain, he was supportive and kind. As with Seamus Heaney, I miss knowing he’s no longer on this planet. He’s around, as is Heaney, I’m sure, in some etheric realm. These two are my guiding stars in poetry and prose. I feel them with me whenever I write. Mr. Findley always encouraged me to continue with my prose work, but I’ve let it slide into the background for the past fourteen or fifteen years. Lately, though, it’s re-emerged. He’s sort of re-emerged, too, in my mind and heart, in new ways. (Funny how that works…as we get older).
I’ve begun a novel, set in Creighton Mine, near to Sudbury, and born of a family story that I’m completely changing and fictionalizing. I’m imagining people and conversations….it’s all very exciting and new for me as a writer. It’s also very different from writing poetry; with poems, I can focus on the kernel of an idea and twist it round, as if I’m looking at the sky through a prism of crystal. This novel writing thing is more of a flowing river of ideas and images. When I sit to write, I may not rise for a few hours, so that my two dogs look at me impatiently for a walk. I know where I’m going, but I don’t map it out too closely. I use the GPS, I guess you could say, when I feel like I’m a bit lost, referring to my novel premise notes and brief point-form outline. But, mostly, I like to let the story tell itself to me. It’s pretty amazing. If I stop to think too closely about the process, as with writing poems, well, it sort of freaks me out. Where does all of this come from? Muses? The ether? A mixture of mind and spirit? Who knows….all I know is that it is all a wondrous melange of language and that I’ll marinate in it for a while, keeping the reality of a sometimes harsh world at bay for a few more hours.
I was also really privileged to have worked with Matthew Heiti at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in the fall, through a four-week intro to writing plays in Playwrights Junction 2. I met other local writers and thought a lot about my creative process as a writer. It was an attempt to see if I could create life-like dialogues between characters. I learned a lot, and it’s helping me to actually write through my novel right now. The play sits there, and I fiddle with it, feeling out of my element, just as I do with this novel writing wave. I also have a novel-writing guide in the person of Marnie Woodrow, who is an excellent mentor. She sees my strengths when I often do not. That, too, is something that Tiff did for me, and I’m thankful yet again to be working with great teachers and writers. I think back to my time at Sage Hill last summer, working with Ken Babstock as my poetry mentor, and then getting to have great and inspiring conversations about writing (and ticks!) with Larry Hill and Helen Humphreys. I was also blessed to meet so many writers, of different ilks, and have stayed in touch with them via Facebook. They are my friends and ‘family’ now….and I kind of hope they feel the same way, too. That’s how deeply that experience in Saskatchewan touched me, changed me as a writer.
My self-as-poet is evolving, becoming a writer self, broader, stronger, more aware of different dimensions of creativity. The world of words is bigger than I ever imagined and my creative self is on fire. It’s life affirming, joyous, and divinely inspired. I feel blessed and I thank God, the universe, and whomever else might be involved in this writerly evolution of mine. It’s pretty amazing to be ‘awake’ and aware of the growth in creative process….and to learn more and more about yourself as a writer, and as a person. My year has been one filled with words, new friends, and thought provoking teachers. I’m feeling blessed.
While I sometimes feel I’m cheating on poetry, I want also to say that the love affair continues. I’m one of the judges in the Northern Intiative for Social Action (NISA) Brainstorm Poetry Contest for the Open Minds Quarterly journal this month and I’ve spent a day or two of my March Break sifting through some amazing poems. The journal is an important one in my mind, as someone who has survived depression, and as a writer, as its mandate is “built on the premise that consumer/survivors of the mental health services are intelligent, creative, and can make valuable contributions to society if given the opportunity to do so.” It’s also got a fabulous editor in the person of Dinah Laprairie, a leader in our local community who cultivates creativity. The work she does is so important, and I’m reminded again, reading all of these poems, that poetry can express so much, and that it can lift up spirit and heal. It has a wonder and power about it. If you’re interested in reading some wonderful work, and in seeing a fantastic journal, you should check out the website at: http://www.openmindsquarterly.com You may even want to submit work! I’m honoured to have been asked to be a judge. :)
Finally for today, with sun shining in windows and dogs asleep and snoring at my feet, just a little note to ‘save the date’ for what will be an amazing evening of poetry. The (W)rites of Spring last took place here in Sudbury in the late 1990s, shepherded by local poet Roger Nash. I sussed out the notion of reviving it this year, to celebrate National Poetry Month, and it is being revived! There will be five poets reading, thanks to sponsorship from the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts. I’ll be reading, alongside Roger, who was the first official Poet Laureate of Sudbury, Tom Leduc (current Poet Laureate), Susan McMaster (a brilliant poet from Ottawa) and Tanya Neumeyer (a fantastic performance poet friend of mine from Toronto). It’ll be held on Friday, April 17th at 7pm at Marymount Academy. CBC’s Morning North host, Markus Schwabe, will be there as our Master of Ceremonies, so we’re all pretty (and poetically) excited! There’s plenty of free parking, so we’re hoping that we see a lot of people come out to hear our poems. Why not celebrate National Poetry Month in true poetic fashion?! If you follow me on Facebook, I’ll put more notices up to remind you! :) Hope to see some of you there! :)
So, perhaps I’m not cheating on poetry. I’m still in love with poetry, after all is said and done. In fact, upon reflection, if poetry were a man, I’d marry him! :)
peace, friends. k.