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
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.
Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, is the author of fourteen poetry collections, two novels, The Ascension of Jesse Rapture and The Outside World, two volumes of short stories and a children’s book. His collection The Burning Alphabet won the Canadian Authors’ Association Chalmers Award for Poetry in 2005. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Ontario Premiers Award for Excellence in the Arts. He is also Acquisitions Editor for Brick Books.
For more information about Invisible Dogs please visit the Bricks Books website.