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Gerry Shikatani: Explorer

The more one knows, the more one doesn’t know and the former increases more of less linearly and the latter exponentially.

My dad used to say, I’ve never heard of him, as if that were the final word proving the person’s lack of existence, or lack of merit. Such egocentrism can be a hard confinement to escape. Outward expanding circles always…while there is a crowd of established writers who have worked craft for decades, just counting the English Canada ones, another is always welcome to the brain.

Poet Gerry Shikatani is coming to town June 3rd. He’s also a foodie, having written food columns and the book Passion for Food: Conversations with Canadian Chefs.

Amazon lists him in W.H. New’s A History of Canadian Literature and he’s a benchmark of comparison to others in book reviews. The word humility keeps popping up in reference to his process so that’s promising. What is worse than a pompous poet? I suppose pompous is just another word for insecure and overcompensating the inner sense of walls caving by pushing those walls out onto the street. I wonder how much of “getting” or “feeling” someone’s poetry is personality click?

Anyhew, the library has one collection he edited, Paper Doors and the anthology Another way to Dance which he is in. Aquaduct is a hefty book. He had, as of 2 years ago, seven trade books and five chapbooks.

Described as a diligent practitioner for decades, I’m curious to see how this poetry is that Libby Scheier called “a delicate, intricate verse, cerebral and sensual at the same time”.

As my dad would say, I don’t know either of them from a hole in the ground but I’m intrigued. I’m topped up for poetry that is getting one’s head straight, therapy or stories. He’s done visual, concrete, performance and sound poetry. He does the long poem (“A poem is a small painting, a long poem is a mural.” ~ Sharon Thesen) and short lyric narrative poems that are reflections on identity. He included haiku in his anthology. Now he’s doing essays on cuisine. What’s he up to now, poetry-wise?

Rachel Zolf did an essay [found via West Coast LINE‘s blog] on his Protean Poetics. It’s good to see he practices being rounded as a writer dipping into all kinds of pools.

The title of Shikatani’s most recent book of poetry (inspired by his visit to three gardens in
Andalucía, Spain) is mortar rake glove sausan broom basin sansui. This title is itself a serial or associative list—a list that also presents us with a clue. Perhaps these are the tools we need to read this book.

Over the 11 pages she mentions his interest in Cubism influencing writing, to arrive at the real by the route of non-linear, fragmentary, nonrealist means. He mixes in archival fragments in disconnected bits that are to not be closely read so much as assembled in the head. She explains, Like any good quest, “we come to lose the way” while gleaning what we can.

She also cleared up how it came to be that the 400-pager happened.

he has deliberately challenged the book’s perceived formal boundaries on a number of occasions. For example, Aqueduct could easily have been published as three separate books, but instead Shikatani shepherded an unprecedented collaboration among three Canadian small-press publishers (Mercury, Wolsak and Wynn, and Underwhich) to produce one monumental serial bookwork of over four hundred pages.

He also chose to publish mortar rake… as a special double issue of the west coast journal Capilano Review (also a serial form), in turn distancing himself from the authorial function attached to and promoted with trade book production.

Considered unconventional choices can be indicative of interesting poetry, or independent of. Wonder what I will glean.

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