Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Something Out of Nothing

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One of the great joys of poetry is that much of the time it is made up of nothing at all. Like physics or good conversation, that which is most elegant, intelligent and entertaining in a poem depends as much on what is missing as what is actually there. The ambiguity of empty space defines what must occupy that space, while the silences embracing our words create questions and teach us the luxury and balance of knowing little while assuming much more. Inside a poem, the illusion of space is created in the arrangement of the words. That syntactical arrangement is as important as the words, always bringing us either closer or further away from the satisfaction or disappointment of understanding. Poetry emerges as a kind of practical optical illusion. Its words are laced with unintended interpretations, and, as a result, produce unintended consequences and directions for the poem as a whole.

At its heart, any poem is a reflection of the inherent structures and disruptive patterns of language, as well as the emergent nature and exploratory processes of thought itself. The persuasive structural process of thinking in poetry involves variously, and in no particular order: proposal, description, contention, illumination, projection – with “projection” being defined not in terms of a simple conclusion, solution or resolution, but rather a complex emergence into a philosophic place beyond the poem’s limits, a departure as well as suspension invoking meditation, intuition, or belief. All parts of this process function as intricate, intimate and multifaceted sequences of sometimes unintended but integrated linkages. Thinking like this, poetry is a conversation or explanation that gives a lot for a little, sometimes from nothing at all.

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