Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poetry N boots

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The recent assassination of Somali poet Warsame Shire Awale in Mogadishu, last Monday, although shocking, is a continuation of a long tradition of poets being murdered. Warsame Shire Awale, advocated non-violence and young people to resist Militant Islamic groups in the countryside. His death harkens back to a continuing recurrence in history that saw the murder of Guineas poet and politician Keita Fodeba, in 1969, and the list of poets who’ve died in Stalin’s gulag is too long to mention here, but I’ll give a try, Osip Mandelstam d. 1938 Peretz Markish d.1952 David Hofstein d.1952 Itzik Feffer d.1952 and Spain’s Garcia Lorca d. 1936 during the civil war there. English/Catholic poet Chidiock Tichborne d. 1586 (executed for conspiring to assassinate Queen Elizabeth). Patrick Henry Pearse d.1916, Ireland, (executed for his part in the Irish Easter rising of that same year.) Even here in boring Canada we have the political poetry of Louis Riel. The might be a few names to mention, when it comes to political poetry in Canada Ken Babstock’s Caledonia or Gary Geddes’ Sandra Lee Scheuer. Why is there so little political poetry in this country? Well because, poetry in this country has been taken from the people, from the urban streets and from the rural farming communities and mining towns. Its been kidnapped by the academics and relegated to the death row that is academia, a death of something that once was alive. Its safe there, where students talk about rhyme, meter and metrical patterns and very little else. Universities have become the mausoleum of poetry and the cemetery of poets. The places where you eviscerate language until it becomes meaningless.

Poets in Canada have become like Pavlov’s dog that they may build Maslow’s pyramid. Where are the poems of labour, politics, abortion, prison, war. Poetry has become meaningless because we’ve let it become meaningless and become more concerned with grants (and who gets them) and the lecture circus. Don’t piss anybody off, you might miss out on that WIR invitation to the graveyard.

Even in n Afghanistan poetry is a form of rebellion here it is choking under the boot of institutions of higher education.

Shane Neilson said some time ago that I write protest poetry and pointed out the fact that I was of aboriginal descent, why he thought to point out my ethnicity and nobody else’s is a curiosity. There were at least 19 other participants at the event. I write what I know, a reality that is far different from upper middle class kids studying the poetry of the dominant society cloistered in ivory halls like parrots singing for crackers (Cracker). For some of us simply writing in English is a political act, a form of protest.
I can identify with Paul Celan, when he said, “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German.” I wonder if any Canadian poets would relate.

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.

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David Groulx

Award-winning poet David Groulx's most recent poetry collection, Rising with a Distant Dawn, is published by BookLand Press. David’s poetry has also appeared in over a hundred periodicals in Canada, England, Australia, Germany, Austria, Turkey and the USA. He lives in Ottawa.

Go to David Groulx’s Author Page