Tuesday, 24 April 2018

rob mclennan : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

For years, my go-to was George Bowering, a poet I’d first encountered during my high school years. Influences were multiple during my twenties, from John Newlove, Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood and Barry McKinnon to bpNichol, Artie Gold, Robert Kroetsch and Judith Fitzgerald, among so many, many others, but Bowering was always my anchor. From him, I learned a consideration of writing my local, and the importance of reading (and supporting) my contemporaries. Every time I read any of his essays, or picked up an anthology he’d edited, it sent me off into dozens of other directions in my reading, which I’ve very much appreciated. Through him, I discovered TISH, the Kootenay School of Writing, the Vehicule Poets, Coach House, Talon, Quebec writers in translation, etcetera. The field was ever-expanding, and seemingly had no limits.

Some of my staples over the past decade or so include Pattie McCarthy, Rosmarie Waldrop, Margaret Christakos, Sawako Nakayasu, Alice Notley, Julie Carr, Susan Howe, Jennifer Kronovet, Marcus McCann, Kate Greenstreet, Anna Gurton-Wachter, Erín Moure, Jordan Abel, derek beaulieu, Ryan Murphy, Cole Swensen, Gil McElroy, and pretty much anything translated by Norma Cole. Amelia Martins had a first book I couldn’t put down for a very long time. Layli Long Soldier should have won every award going for her first collection. There are far more names to list, but I suspect we haven’t infinite space.

Really, the way one thinks about writing is constantly mutable, and evolving, or at least should be. Just about anything can change the way one thinks about writing, even a poem I might not necessarily find terribly interesting, discovered in the middle of some literary journal, might have some small kernel of “oh, what’s that?” in it; something I might want to consider including in whatever I end up doing next.

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