Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

SHAKE IT UP

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Range is something to aim for – a poet’s ability to go multiple, whistle one minute, moan the next. Sound like a basset hound, then go for a high-pitched squawk of geese. Try tender, then bold; try nothing at all, the void in all its glory. Find your own voice, by all means, but take Louise Gluck’s advice: once you’ve got it down pat, shake it up, try something new. Get rid of the tics and tricks. Take chances on being oblique. It’s not a bad thing to get lost every now and again.

There’s a spare, mysterious quality to poets who shape shift, a shimmer building to a glow. A great poem can enter a darkness so thick that the poet can’t even see herself. It’s not that the language has to be riddled with bullets; intensity can be light and feathery. The goal is to leave yourself open to what a poem demands, to what it discovers in the writing. A poem worth its sweat and blood knows that if you’re doing it right, metamorphosis is messy.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, is the author of fourteen poetry collections, two novels, two volumes of short stories and a children’s book.

Go to Barry Dempster’s Author Page