Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Michael Boughn

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Michael Boughn (photo credit Ralph Kolewe)

Michael Boughn's City: Book One: Singular Assumptions (BookThug) engages with Charles Olson’s “Poem 143—the festival aspect”, exploring the first of the Three Towns of Olson's poems. Whizzing from Dante to current politics, Book One: Singular Assumptions takes readers through the urban landscape of the city with one eye firmly fixed on the wider world.

Today Michael joins us as part of our Poets in Profile series, where we talk to Canadian poets about their craft, their reading and how poetry first came into their lives.

Michael speaks to us about a library next to a pipe rack, why inspiration is irrelevant and poetry as a lifesaver.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Michael Boughn:

Discovering a collection of Ogden Nash’s poetry in my grandfather’s meagre library next to his pipe rack. I loved those pipes. There were four or five different shaped pipes. They were suspended in the rack which twirled like a lazy Susan. Maybe it wasn’t the book. Maybe it was the pipe rack.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

MB:

“A cow is of the bovine ilk / One end is moo, the other milk.”

OB:

What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?

MB:

A Book of Magazine Verse by Jack Spicer.

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

MB:

I don’t get inspired. Inspiration has nothing to do with poetry. John Keats definitely proved in 1819 that inspiration is for saps. I can’t figure out why people still go on about it. Unless you like palely loitering.

OB:

What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?

MB:

I am not sure what that means. Once I come up with a plan for a book and titles for all the poems in the book, then there is no problem because it all fits and it’s just a question of doing the work. It’s not the poem that doesn’t work. See above comment re: palely loitering.

OB:

What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?

MB:

Parkway—Hammertown Part 3 by Peter Culley.

OB:

What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?

MB:

The best thing about poetry is that saves my life every day. There’s nothing bad about it as long as you avoid creative writing classes and their spawn.


Michael Boughn worked in the Teamsters for nearly ten years before returning to university to ear a PhD in 1986 after studying with poets John Clarke and Robert Creeley. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Iterations of the Diagonal, Dislocations in Crystal, 22 Skiddo/SubTractions, Cosmographia: A Post-Lucreatian Faux Micro-Epic (shortlisted for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry), and most recently, Great Canadian Poems for the Aged Vol. 1 Illus. Ed. (2012). He has also published books for young adults, including the Maple Award nominated Into the World of the Dead, a mystery novel, and a descriptive bibliography of the American poet, H.D. He recently edited (with Victor Coleman) Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book for the University of California Press. He has taught courses at the University of Toronto since 1993, recently focusing primarily on American writing with special emphasis on the innovative writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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