A note written for a Pedlar Press panel held last fall in St. John’s, NFLD, and in tardy response to a query from Robert Kroetsch:
I have a crush on Robert Kroetsch. I’ve had this crush for a very long time, and still do, and I’m disappointed with myself that I couldn’t properly answer the one question he asked me six years ago, in a dark country bar full of writers, in Lumsden, Saskatchewan. He asked if I wrote ‘political poetry’—in part, because I live in Ottawa and have a proximity to a wellspring of material, the politicos themselves, and that it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t bring socio-political issues to my work. I answered him by saying that I thought all poetry is political, that writing itself is an activist act. I’d heard that somewhere. (Hadn’t I?)
His was a hard question, a good question, and I should’ve have had more to say. So, this post responds to him and to Beth Follett’s question below, which touched on EB White’s remark: “I feel no obligation to deal with politics”. (Incidentally, parenthetically, I think Robert Kroetsch may he have forgiven my answer’s brevity and triteness—we waltzed together in that Lumsden bar, before returning to our beer.)
What are a literary writer's responsibilities to her/his culture?
If the question. If questions. If I could answer. If I am a writer. If I am any different than you are. If there are ways we are the same. If we are interlocutors. If we risked. If honest. If given. If each of the lies gave only a different form of the truth. If telling. If taking. For if there is a universal joy. If there is a grief. If there is the particular. If we could feel. If we have a way of knowing. If or and if but. If choice. If courage. If voyeur. If witness. If we knew of a way of speaking. If there is the throat. If there is the voice. If there is the words. If there is one common language. If artifact. If artifice. If curious. If nothing would be lost in translation. If in creation, there is no loss. If old curios. If locked cabinets. If locked doors. If voice behind. If there is a silence that we could not speak of. If cruelty. If ecstasy. If the rock, the water, the tree, the sun. If exposure. If burning. If disruption. If solidarity and opposition. If subversion. If we stay here. If the hidden and the absent. If there is a quickening within this quiet. If there is the body listening. If you told me not to. If to hell with it. If the bloody ringing bells. If I don’t give a damn if I do die do die do. If never. If always. If each possible now. If our earth spins on its axis. If circles, centres, peripheries. If cyphers. If the void and the verge. If the minute hand digs down and down. If these endings. If rescue. If salvage. If we knew what wanted to be found. If there was need. If we had that kind of obsession. If all the kinds of enchantment. If the whole heart’s abandonment. If play. If fancy. If nonsense. If whim. If the dance within the pulse. If we waltz with our crutches. If with our crushes. If that meant there’s a kind of freedom. If we appreciated that transience. If timelessness is. If there is forgiveness. If there is mercy. If there is failure. If that is a kind of revelation. If dirge or incantation. If these recoveries. If not these scars, these flaws. If this means healing. If there is that ecstasy. If that is monstrous. If our monsters weren’t our memories. If our monsters weren’t our loves. If their nightmares and their daydreams. If apocalypse. If our rubble can rouse. If only utopia. If only I didn’t mean that. If I could try again. If I could get it right this time. If conjurer. If fool. If irrepressible. If flawed. If only I was of your good. If we the human animal. If we the beast. If we lived in the world of if. If we worked together towards the better, we could go on.
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.
Sandra Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Also in 2012, Ridley won the international festival Of Authors’ Battle of the Bards and was featured in The University of Toronto’s Influency Salon. Twice a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, Ridley is the author of two chapbooks: Rest Cure, and Lift, for which she was co-recipient of the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her latest book is The Counting House (BookThug 2013). She lives in Ottawa.