Thursday, July 5, 2018

TtD supplement #109: seven questions for Victor Coleman

Victor Coleman was born and still lives in Toronto. Please take his books out from your local public libraries to help increase his PLR.

An excerpt from his poem “Suite Sixteen” appears in the seventeenth issue of Touch the Donkey.

Q: Tell me about “Suite Sixteen.”

A: “Suite Sixteen” is an Oulipian exercise in, or examination of, the “truncated sonnet”

It started while I was participating in the bpNichol Writing Group that formed a few years ago at the Coach House Press and continues, although informally, today.

I simply missed a syllable when attempting to write a 17 syllable stanza and, as is my wont, continued apace, at least until someone told me to stop.

It is also a somewhat playful exercise in rhyme.

Q: How does this project relate to some of the other work you’ve been doing lately?

A: It doesn’t.

Q: You’ve worked on longer projects for some time now: suites, sequences or otherwise connected poems constructed through a series of what Bowering called ‘baffles.’ What is it about these exercises composing linked poems that appeals? What do you feel you can accomplish through such structures that might not be possible otherwise?

A: The Serial Poem, as defined and practiced by a group of poets from California’s Bay Area (San Francisco, Berkeley, etc.) including Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer, was a further investigation of the more traditional poem sequence practiced by poets in many languages over an unspecified period of writing. At its lowest manifestation it’s the typical minor poems repeated endlessly with large and/or small variations. Higher up the chain it’s a book-length poem with a common “theme” – or “the me” as I like to point out to potential student/practitioners of the art.

“I like to describe this in Ovidian terms, as a carmen perpetuum, a continuous song in which the fragmented subject matter is only apparently disconnected.” – Robin Blaser, “The Fire”.

Q: What is the bpNichol Lane Writing Group, and what effect, if any, has it had upon you work?

A: The bpNichol Lane Writers’ Group started a few years ago as a writing seminar organized by me and Mike Boughn to accommodate some of Mike’s University of Toronto students who were either actively writing or beginning to lean in that direction. We met, if I remember correctly, every two weeks at The Coach House Press, which is located on what is now called bpNichol Lane, after it was christened that by my sister Liz Amer, who was a Toronto City Councillor at the time.
The group has evolved over the years – even starting a periodical called COUGH (three issues published to date), and performing large group readings, etc. The group no longer meets regularly – but it still exists as an informal infrequent get together.

Q: Has your participation in the group altered your considerations of writing at all? And is there a difference between engaging with emerging writers now than, say, forty or fifty years ago?

A:  Forty of 50 years ago I was an emerging writer, so I’m not prepared to expound on that. My engagement with younger writers is extremely important in what I consider to be my continuing development.

Q: Who are the writers among these contemporaries are you most excited about, and think deserve more attention?

A:  To date I’d say the writers who have actually managed to put together publishable manuscripts, such as Emily Izsak, David Peter Clark, Michael Harman, Zach Buck & Andrew McEwan. The amount of attention they deserve is not something I seriously consider.

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A:  Currently I like to dip into the collected works of William Carlos Williams, Wyndham Lewis, Douglas Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, Lorine Niedecker and Edward Dorn.

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