Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Background & Foreground (The Future Isn't What it Used to Be)

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Background & Foreground (The Future Isn't What it Used to Be)

Over thirty years ago, Porcupine’s Quill accepted for publication my first book of poetry, Scenes. In that period, I was publishing quite regularly in several literary periodicals, and was working on my doctorate. By the late 70s I began work as a junior editor in book publishing, eventually rising to the role of publisher. I was fortunate to be able to work closely with dozens of new and established authors, including Carol Shields, Dennis Lee, Marilyn Bowering, John Irving, D.G. Jones, Keith Maillard, Julian Barnes, John Ralston Saul, Barry Lopez, Robert Kroetsch, Eli Mandel, and Janice Kulyk Keefer. I learned a lot about writing from them. They kept me sane.

But for over 25 years I found myself unable to write. Then, suddenly in 2006, my block lifted and I’ve been writing ever since. I completed a new poetry book of linked poems, Taking Shape, which Porcupine’s Quill once again accepted for publication in Spring 2008. And another book, Birds Flock Fish School, has just been submitted to my publisher.

The structure of Taking Shape as a poem cycle is based in part upon the five parts of rhetoric, and includes five sections made up of five poems each. The rhetorical five-part/five-poem structure also has its counterpoint in the dialectic of the two-line stanzas. The use of the two-line stanza within a poem enacts an intellectual and emotional debate or dialectic whose purpose is to test the words, juxtapose and force them together in ways that will give birth to new shades and shapes of meaning and understanding, not unlike the enticing, alchemic process that occurs in metaphor. The poems grow out of a series of internal repetitions that simultaneously tangle and untangle themselves, each time trying to recognize things that suddenly change again in the second you think you know them.

I believe that at the heart of poetry is a philosophical discourse, enacted and ignited by both author and reader alike, that is both a flow and an act of persuasion. Flow is like the engine or momentum of a poem that can be simultaneously ordered and organic, rational and intuitive. Persuasion is like the poem’s GPS – that which is being described, given context or demonstrated, but which also is something of a two-way mirror that constantly reflects, as in memory, or sees through itself to another side. Together, these elements conspire to create an ongoing reality or sense of being, an organic process of becoming that is never quite complete, and that changes everything with the experience of every poem.

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.

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Edward Carson

Edward Carson is twice winner of the E. J. Pratt Poetry Award in Canada and is the author of three books of poetry — Scenes, Taking Shape and Birds Flock Fish School.

Go to Edward Carson’s Author Page