Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sask Poetry

"Nothing but poems about death and love," said one student, leaving the classroom yesterday. She'd heard/seen 7 presentations of Sask. poems:

love as diseases, love as cure (and probably back to disease again) in "Heal" (Randy Lundy)

the four windows through which a man looks from his vantage point at the very edge of where his body meets the (ever-continuing) world in "Four Windows" (Michael Trussler)

Louise Halfe's "Der Poop", in which a voice calls down the Pope, his Church, his various colonial manisfestations, the Queen's English, and several other hierarchies from her perch on the shitter

a sister who lost her twin in what seems to have been a summer incident in the prairie bush in the kind of day you'd love to spend berry-picking (Judith Krause's poem of that name)

a love poem, the lover wanting ("Orange", Elizabeth Philips)

a poem set in a dance hall--another man, another aging body ("Polka Suicide", William Robertson)

And a couple of others I can't remember right now.

I guess it's commonplace by now to say all poems write to or from birth or death.

I love the Al Purdy story I heard him tell one afternoon at U of A in the early 90s. As a young man I had this manuscript that had everything I could give it (Purdy said). A famous Canadian publisher read it over and rejected it, commenting "This manuscript is nothing but sex and death".

A few years later I realized that there IS nothing else but sex and death.

End of story. You can read Purdy's own telling of that story in the Preface of his Sex and Death, which M&S (I believe) published in 1973.

And I'm dedicating my book to the lover.


Amy said...

The late Barbara Powell used to tell her students the same thing: "Literature is all about sex and death. You can watch as I blush while I talk about the sex."

Gerald Hill said...

My blush: when one student picked the Lorna Crozier poem in which a woman and her husband come home to find his son engaged in oral sex with the young woman from next door, or something like that. I had to run it by my Dean (thinking that some of my students might object). Bless his heart, he said, "If you think the poem has merit, go ahead."