Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Jonathan Bennett

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Jonathan Bennett

Open Book is celebrating National Poetry Month with daily profiles of today's "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Find out what inspires, confounds and delights the poets behind this spring's new releases by following our series.

Civil and Civic (ECW Press) is Jonathan Bennett's second collection of poetry. The poems negotiate the blendings and the boundaries between the private and the public realms through the lens of medicine, the military, science, public relations, social justice, media, business and the environmental movement.

"As accomplished as Jonathan Bennett is at using language, he’s never fussy or precious about it," says David O'Meara. "With his exacting, contemporary voice, part colourful reporter, part reluctant witness, his lines gain their effect by serving experience in the most necessary way possible, via clear-eyed attention and vivid diction. The result is an immediacy often lacking in other poetry. Civil and Civic’s nimble narratives will crackle in your ear.”

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Jonathan Bennett:

My route to writing and publishing poems was circuitous. While I began writing poems and fiction twenty-off years ago, the direction from those around me at the time was to pursue fiction. Which I did. But following the publication of my first novel, as a kind of intellectual and emotional recovery process, I began to write poems. Eventually there were enough of them for a book. So, the experience I would cite that contributed to my having become a poet was, counter-intuitively, writing fiction.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

JB:

As a child, A.A Milne was often read aloud to us. When I read them to my own children now, they still have an effect on me, the rhythms — that disappearing Edwardian linguistic list, and fading Victorian innocence, such as,

In a corner of the bedroom is a great big curtain,
Someone lives behind it, but I don't know who;
I think it is a Brownie, but I'm not quite certain.
(Nanny isn't certain, too.)

“Swiper the Fox” from Dora the Explorer, Brownie is not.

OB:

What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?

JB:

(As I taxi past my handful of all-time favourites, and impose the name, Bennett, instead of, say, Auden or Yeats, I keep hearing the loudspeaker blasting: You, sir, are a thief, a liar, an imposter!) If I must, I choose Thomas Hardy’s “Neutral Tones."

OB:

What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?

JB:

A roadside hording advertising “Bungalofts in Bobcaygeon.”

OB:

What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?

JB:

Turn it into a novel. Don’t laugh, I’ve done it twice.

OB:

What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?

JB:

Don Paterson’s Rain (Faber & Faber, 2011) I thought was brilliant.

OB:

What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?

JB:

Most people just glaze over if you say “I write poetry.” (They either think you are a flake or a wanker.) Hoping to be thought of as neither, I rarely talk about it as I go about my day-to-day work and life. Because of this, I like, and perhaps protect, that I have a private refuge in poetry. The worst? How few people ultimately read one’s work.

Jonathan Bennett is the author of the poetry collection Here is my street, this tree I planted (ECW Press), as well as two novels and a collection of short stories. He is a winner of the K.M. Hunter Artists’ Award in Literature. His poems have appeared in journals and magazines including The Walrus, Descant, and the Literary Review of Canada. Born in Vancouver, raised in Sydney, Australia, Bennett lives near Peterborough in the village of Keene, Ontario. Find out more at www.jonathanbennett.com.

For more information about Civil and Civic please visit the ECW Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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