Thursday, 16 October 2014

What is the value of art?

Once, I watched a documentary special on Canadian author and icon Pierre Berton. He was exposing advice for prospective writers.

Having watched the National Dream from start to epic Last "Golden" Spike I was interested in his perspective on the narrative field that I was attempting to break into.

"To become a writer," he started, "Write poetry, loads of poetry and not the nonsensical modern stuff. Crafting with words takes time, so your practice should follow a certain rhythm and rhyme."

He then offered advice on selling books to publishers, which today is equally valuable for those pitching crowd-sourced projects to a discerning audience...

"Number one, never pitch more than the first page of any project to a publisher. Make sure they want it before you put any further work into it. Especially novels."

This is where the size of his voluminous tomes comes to mind and why it seemed wise to take his well-seasoned advice.

We'll get to further methods for pitching products in future articles. For now let's stick to the realms of poetry and oratory. 

To me, a poet laureate is to words what a Lucasian professor is to numbers. (Except that I can generally understand what poets are talking about. Where as arithmetic is definitely not something with which I'm specific.)

As part of a larger event this past summer at the Gore Bay Harbour Centre I had the opportunity to enjoy a performance by just such a rhapsodist; poet Roger Nash.

This coming weekend (October 19th, 2014) he's back from 1 to 4pm in the Donaldson Room for an encore performance in support of his latest title; Upsidoon. 

Thank you Roger Nash for graciously agreeing to answer some strange questions for Diary of a Chainman.

Q. Who are you?

A. Not sure, but hope that I’ll find out more through writing poetry. Answering that question is a life-long task.

Q. Where are you from?

A. I was born in Maidenhead, England, during the blitz, when I was bombed out of my pram, and our house was burned by incendiary bombs. After the war, I grew up in Egypt, Cyprus, Singapore and China, as my Dad moved around the world building airstrips. I came to Canada in 1966, and have lived mainly in Sudbury since, though using it as a hub for travel and work in other places too.

Q. What’s your product, services, etc.?

A. I spend quite a lot of time writing poetry and short fiction. I don’t think of what I write as “products,” but rather as “gifts” to me by what we take talk of the “Muses” to stand for (inspiration etc.). I’m blessed to be open to detecting and receiving these gifts. My latest collection of poems – and 17th book – is Upsidoon (Scrivener Press, November 2014). This is available from Scrivener Press or Amazon.

Q. What makes you laugh?

A. Seeing my wife happy.

Q. What’s your favourite onomatopoeia?

A. John Keats’ “the murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.”

Q. How did you get started, who are your influences?

A. I’d been writing since I was 12 and putting it in desk drawers or losing it. Then, at 40, I met Al Purdy, who encouraged me to submit stuff to literary magazines and journals. He told me: “Don’t worry about getting rejection slips. I’ve got so many, I’ve wallpapered my kitchen with them, and will now have to wallpaper the dog.” Al is one of my influences. Two others are Yannis Ritsos (a Greek poet) and Yehuda Amichai (an Israeli poet). I’m influenced by poets from around the world.

Q. What is the value of art?

A. It keeps us open to many other ways of looking at the world, others and ourselves. And it does this by combating how our culture often separates thought from feeling, making them polar opposites. So art keeps us open to many other ways of “feeling thinkingly” or “thinking feelingly” about the world, others and ourselves. It helps us become more “whole” as persons.

And it celebrates life.

Q. What are the best ways to foster arts and culture?

A. Encourage people of all ages to be active participants in making and performing art; rather than voyeuristic and passive consumers of other people doing it

Q. What advice do you have for anyone who would like to follow in your footsteps?

A. Don’t. Make your own footsteps. And don’t follow those either, or you’ll be going around in circles. Find your own voice, and don’t imitate others. Write only when a potential poem is pushing you very hard to find it.

Thanks again to Roger Nash, we look forward to your new poems this weekend and perhaps a repeat performance or two of the infamous onomatopoeic cricket poem!

Drop a line to if you're interested in your own strange Q & A interview for Diary of a Chainman!

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