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Rolled cuffs—

Four and Twenty just posted their March 2011 issue (that links to their link to it, but here’s a direct link to the pdf). My poem “Summer in Tennessee” is on the penultimate page before the bios. For those of you interested in genesis, it’s a failed haiku. I couldn’t compress it enough to make it a haiku without losing something, so I just went with it.

 

In other news, I went to hear Jan Zwicky read from her poetry at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities last night with my friend Declan and her guy.

Zwicky is a Canadian poet (and philosopher and editor and probably a bunch of other things, but I know her as a poet). She’s been writing as long as I’ve been paying attention, but I first really noticed her work when Songs for Relinquishing the Earth was nominated for the GG alongside my friend and colleague Sue Goyette’s The True Names of Birds, and Sue recommended it to me (and then it beat her book for the prize). I forgot to bring my copy with me in the rush to get to work yesterday morning, and so missed out on getting it signed, which I’m a little sad about.

The reading was wonderful—I was interested to hear her really emphasize some of her line breaks and kind of breathlessly rush through some others. She had a very melodic approach to the reading (and I don’t mean “poet voice”), which was really lovely and also apt, since she chose (being in Nashville) to concentrate on poems relating to music (I don’t think she read this one, but it’s a reasonably representative example of her work and the only one I can find that isn’t reproduced on somebody’s blog evidently without permission).

After the reading, she answered some questions, and the first one, put to her by the organizer for the event, who I gathered was a philosophy professor or otherwise some sort of philosophy bigwig at Vanderbilt, asked if she considered herself a “Canadian poet.” These identity questions are always interesting (I’m still struggling with the “are you a feminist poet?” question, since I’m demonstrably both feminist and a poet but don’t think they connect terribly often), but I think it’s a question that a Canadian probably wouldn’t have asked her, since she is working in—and celebrated in—very much the mainstream of contemporary Canadian poetry, so it’s sort of self-evident that she’s a “Canadian poet” in the CanLit sense we generally mean.

I’m paraphrasing here, because I didn’t take notes, but she started out her answer by saying that she was certainly a poet of place, but she doesn’t know if that’s enough to make her a Canadian poet. There was quite a lot of back-and-forth on the whole topic of identity, and colonialism and English Canada, and somewhere in there I made some sort of involuntary movement which she interpreted to mean I wanted to ask a question, and called on me, so I commented (after introducing myself as a Canadian, to which she replied, “Oh! What part?” and I said, “Nova Scotia,” and explained about having gotten into her work because of the GG & Sue etc and she said, “I just had dinner with her!” which… of course she knows Sue, since Sue knows everybody, but was still funny) … let’s start over: so I commented what I’d been thinking, which was that the original question was probably in part problematic because Canadians as a rule don’t have any idea what it means to be Canadian whereas Americans seem to have this certainty about what being American means—and several Americans in the room were all, “Really?!” because this was news to them. Somebody in the audience, who she evidently knew, threw down that wonderful “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” quote (which I thought was something Pierre Trudeau or somebody like that had said, but Google tells me it’s a Gilles Vigneault lyric).

Anyway, I spoke with her briefly afterwards, and she was warmly sympathetic and funny, and encouraged me to take some philosophy courses when I go back for my Masters (I haven’t talked about it here, but I’m applying to Vanderbilt’s MLAS program, which is an interdisciplinary part-time graduate degree program with courses at night, so it won’t interfere with work), and I believe I will.

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2 Comments

  1. anne wrote:

    Exciting. Good luck with your studies 🙂

    Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks, Annee!

    Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink