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Factory Series, Talking Poetics Lectures

A lot of readings have people present new work. Dusty Owl occasionally and Tree’s Schroedinger poet spot, have the chance for people to read what poems they like that are not by the rader.

rob PB156211
rob hosted and MCed a third set of Factory reading series, talking poetics, on Nov 15th. It was a fundraiser for VerseFest held at Mercury Lounge.

This series can go deeper into the how and why of what makes poetry. The talks have essay components that go to the annual online magazine of poetics, 17 seconds. As I mentioned previous to the talks, issue 5 with the essay from Barry McKinnon – When “I” left the stage: A realm of Attention/Intention is up now.

In this instalment Cameron Anstee talked about the life, times, works and influence of Raymond Souster. (The 2011 Purdyfest was a tribute to Souster with a series of papers presented on him, which unfortunately I missed.)

Cameron talked about what CanLit was in the 40s-60s. Souster was known as a poet of content but he started crystalline structures that are still growing in our literary solutions.

He started magazines and Contact reading series at a time when there wasn’t much infrastructure. He was a first publisher of Nolan, Purdy, Newlove, Wah, Buckle (now Marlatt). Contact lost money on everything they made but if they didn’t continue regardless, where would we be? He brought to town (to Toronto) out-of-towners, like Olsen and Zukofski as well as French writers, to cross-pollinate and interconnect those interested. French writers read in French and he made handouts of translations of the poems for the event. This sort of dual-language is like what Max Middle is trying to facilitate thru A B Series.

Contact inspired other people to come together. As a group when there is some rallying point, more people can explore and speak. After Souster other presses sprung up including Coach House and Fireweed.

Instead of buying into the dismissal of that day and this that there is no one writing and there are no readers, Souster made events “to prove poet and audience exist”.

Brian took a photo of me as I spoke. I was talking about creativity, publishing and the lizard brain, about perceived risk vs. actual risk. One point I raised that a few people mentioned had struck them was around this:

For optimization we need risk and safety in proper ratios. For self-preservation we migrate to ideal conditions and we make ideal conditions. Poetry is terra-forming.

Poetry is something of a mechanism for survival, for physical and mental health, not in the sense of therapy (necessarily). In order to find tribe, in order to find like-minds that will protect and who make sense to you and who you make sense to, you create safety and well-being. Once you have some time within tribe, you don’t have to be the lone meercat who is vigilant constantly.

I think by moments I went somewhat sermonic. Here’s another bit

Betsy Lerner wrote in Forest for the Trees that as soon as she opens a manuscript, and I paraphrase, she can tell uh-oh, this is writing by a good girl who is well-trained and will probably not push any boundaries. She will be more rutted than rooted and branching out to grow.

If you’re writing to yourself, if it was just for yourself, you can keep it in your diary to reinforce your image of self. you wouldn’t need to line the walls of your house with 200 or 2000 copies of it in print form. to publish is to risk not being heard, or to risk being heard. it’s to throw at the wall and see if the wall resists it or if it sticks

The essay will go to 17 seconds early next year.

Stephen Brockwell spoke on topics of poetry as a network, and as exploration, “poetry as a perpetual unknown”. People sometime consider poets as being nomadic among ideas but to be a nomad you travel land charted for generations. Migrants are more accurately explorers. A migrant in words does not know what’s coming. Poets seek to surprise themselves.

He mentioned “sounding” had as its original sense boats who didn’t cross open water. They traced along the shore with a metal ball dragging on a hemp rope. The sound of scraping kept them safely close to shore. How far from shore are we getting with our sounds, images, words and ideas?

How information travels is a mark of an era. Initially information went long distance by voice and as distances of possibility got larger, by water, then by rail, then air, now by light via digital fibre optics. However we are connected, by ears, feet or fingers, we are connected by language.

The idea that we write a personal story, a singular definitive arrangement of a text, is irrelevant. We create in the act of sharing past towards the future. Language and ideas can not exist in a solitary brain. Language can only exist in a network of brains. When we make poetry we are trying to make a node brighter, to activate more strongly a node in the collective neural network.

The Q&A that followed was lively with half a dozen or so questions.

Overall it was a fascinating night with good energy in the room. I look forward to each of the next ones.

Related posts:

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  2. Factory Reading In my haste to rush out of town last week [not pursued, just eager to go 😉 ] I didn’t mention the Factory reading series Feb 28. Roland Prevost read...
  3. Factory Reading Aug 23 at the Ottawa Art gallery housed the the Factory reading. It was the 14th anniversary of above/ground press and the launch of 3 new chapbooks. [You can buy...

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