Guest Post by Kevin Spenst
No matter how quiet, every good poem has a gregarious underside where it kvetches, confers, and canoodles with a great many other poems. Lifting any solid piece of poetry, we’ll hear other poems and it behooves us as writers who hope to have an audience beyond our partners and pets to write with a heartfelt understanding of poetry in its many relations. Certainly, we need to bring the world as we have witnessed and understood it to the page, but our work is strengthened all the more by extending our poetic attention to the work of others.
From other points of view, reading is to writing what the moon is to the sun, what boiling water is to butterfly pasta, an arrow to a bow, ingredients to a waffle-maker, even at times what the right foot is to the left foot in a skip around the loch, and the cut- to the up in the upsy-daisy bundles of lines we raise to poetry. A recent anthology focuses on these very daisychains of historic makings: Denise Levertov responds to Wordsworth, Randall Jarrell to Auden, Ogden Nash to Byron, Donald Justice to César Vallejo … and on and on. Was it Wallace Stevens who wrote that poems are written in response to other poems or was he simply rewording something he read in someone else’s poem? So yeah, there’s a huge tradition of riffing in response to the rafting of others.
For my last workshop at the Joy Kogawa House (P.S. thank you everyone for coming out to the last one which was a lovely afternoon of crafty chapbook making and lyricizing with the fun and lovely art support from Shauna Kaendo), I’m going to be bringing some lines of poetry packed with promptability from the work of Kate Braid, Patricia Young, Mallory Tater, Jennifer Zilm (yo, Surrey!), David Zieroth, Al Rempel, Curtis Leblanc, Heidi Greco, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Wanda John-Kehewin, and other people with maybe even more than three names, hidden in places we’d never imagine. We’ve got some madlibs to play, ideas to explore, and longer writing exercises based on form and other features. It’s also my last night in the house, so all of this may just devolve after an hour or two into a party!
Come and play. Seriously.