Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poet in Preview: Daniel Renton

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BT: Daniel, you're a permanent and vital fixture in both the Toronto and East Coast literary communities, and you're the host of one of Toronto's best reading series, The Common Readings at The Belljar Cafe. You've recently finished a long-anticipated chapbook with Frog Hollow Press that is officially launching early next year. Tell us about Milk Teeth, and give us a glimpse of what readers can look forward to after your chapbook is released.

DR: Milk Teeth is a European name for baby teeth (also called primary or deciduous teeth, which evokes even more curiosity). I discovered this info during one of my nocturnal hyperlink adventures. Many of these poems incubated in the mouth of a master’s thesis called Shucks, where I’d spent time pondering all sorts of ways we violently reject things from ourselves, usually in order to devour more succulent parts. Milk teeth strike me as not only an apt symbol for the psychology of abjection but an essential and primordial one for our species. They also bite mothers’ nipples.

Despite your excessively kind words, I don’t expect we think of milk teeth as permanent or vital. Still, there’s a jar of my own next to WWII medals and sea urchin shells in a cupboard of my father’s house, which was built by my great-grandfather in Dipper Harbour, New Brunswick sometime in the 19th century. These family mementos will exist long after we do, so there’s a bit of ironic hope for the chapbook’s longevity.

I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether these ideas resonate in the poems. I expect they hold influence by osmosis but also insist that I didn’t set out to engineer any particular theme or formal gimmick. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—such strategies can make a collection easier to discuss—but we’ve seen many books work this angle lately. I’m not alone among emerging Canadian poets who are interested in collecting a greatest hits compilation rather than a proggy concept album. If the voice is strong, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t open possibilities. Classically, the Baroque bleeds into the Romantic. So sayeth Saint Nietzsche.

After the chapbook is released? While I work towards a trade-length manuscript, I hope to publish another chapbook. I’ve come to appreciate this shorter format because it can be managed in one sitting, which is less possible with full length books. And there are new small presses in Toronto that are doing such beautiful work, such as Odourless Press or Desert Pets Press. I also plan to organize a few book launches in the new year—Oh! Were you only asking me to share a poem from the chapbook? Okay, here’s one of those:

The Love Song of J. Acer Travelmate

Come. Dressed for a honeymoon. Like a mango
sculpted to a blossom, impaled. Learn to tango

because it's a damn good investment. Be strong
as a rubber. For you, every lover will be wrong.

Don the hubris of a blonde. Cavort like a brunette.
Anticipate the Russian in the spin of chat roulette.

Accept ennui, Bleu Nuit, double Texas hold ‘em.
Give in absolutely to the carpal tunnel syndrome.

Because insomnia isn’t just a marketing strategy.
Buy the decaffeinated bottle of Five-hour Energy.

Forget cyborg, sybian, Berkley Horse and Trojan.
Because one curiously clumsy click hurts no one.

In every phallic object, the symbol is clear-cut:
silicone conifer, hairy hardwood, leather chestnut.

Crave this apotheosis of a plastic prosthesis.
Because. Because. Because. Because. Because.

Because of the wonderful things it does. Follow
the email migration of the chain mail manifesto.

Be a Pay Pal. Pop your Paxil. Spatter melted candle.
Train your brain to feel nerve endings in a pixel.

Stretch your skin on webcam. Be an austere host.
Because you are bound by the mouse to the bedpost.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.