Some days I want to tear chunks off the alphabet, chop up syllables, sink my teeth into the gristle of grammar. I discovered a ferruginous hawk up a tree in my backyard the other day with the peeled pink of a dead rabbit in its talons. It stayed there for hours, tugging shreds of flesh, dropping them down its beak. Am I the hawk in this image, or the rabbit? Is writing an act of being devoured, or devouring?
There are times when everything I write feels horribly generic. It feels like the muse has been tied up, gagged and thrown into the trunk of a black car. Together, the muse and I roll forward when the car brakes, then roll back again when the gas pedal is gunned.
Misery loving company, I looked for traces of other poets’ limitations in the recent issue of The Malahat Review, but the poems were smooth and startling. Monty Reid uttering birth cries in “Meditatio Placentae.” Michael Kenyon’s lyric chats about “guilt and duende and happenstance.”The “sop, slip and tuck” from Darryl Whetter’s lips. Poets definitely in the grip of inspiration.
During office hours, the muse reassures me that disappointment can be the path that leads to excellence. So even when the muse is “tied up” with other things, I continue to write. And every now and again, I hear the crack of beak against bone, or bone snapping free.
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.