The CBC broadcast exerpts of poetry winners tonight -- gave them eight minutes each -- and no, the poets did not read, but rather prim, polished actresses. I still think it would have been more interesting to hear the poets themselves, at least (well, especially) on the awards program. The reader of 1st prize winner Moira Cook's Walker in the City sounded like she was practicing for an elocution competition, all those precious syllables so loud and crystal-clear and gushily dramatic. Cook's writing, though, suggests a breathless delivery: it expresses a raw, exuberant delight in words, beginning with some very vivid weather images very Canadian. I transcribe from a tape, using // for caesuras in the actress' delivery:
a stringent day in early April when all the angels have been let out of their cages//the wet blue beak of morning, sky skidding on ahead, or flying, the sky//flying laundry// shunting cirrus back and forth//sky swirving its tracks, boing, boing, rubber as a ball // highing// the bluish bit of hash (?*) at the centre of a jaunty girl's jaunty eye//"kaloo kalay" arias she out // but soft, awayArresting and fun... but boing, boing, rubber as a ball? I had the impression after this that the narrative got bogged down with a lot of similarly extraneous detail, verging on incoherence. (Forgiveable vice, perhaps...) All those gloves & mittens... one "numbered five and a half", and "gathering in all the world's soiled places where she's too long stared herself down." Another line brings back the unifying motif: "A walker in the city stoops and strides, blush, blush, away". Is the Walker one of those metal supports old people use? Clearly not! Anyway, it's got some quirky, intense, & interesting language. I'll give it that. I would have to read the whole thing to see how it how it hangs together.
The selection read of the 2nd place winner, Kelly Norah Drukker, was a more sombre affair about silk weavers of Leon. A few lines, at random from the tape:
the merchants eyes, round as black sous take in the redness of my hands, the darkness of the room in which we work and live, the slow fire of the loom, burning our thoughts to crimson ends. Our children learn the spectrum slide from red to mauve before they know words. We pluck patterns like birds from the air, and fasten them with strings.I like a number of images here which leap, as it were, from the darkness: especially those patterns "plucked... like birds from the air".
Neither of these is exactly everyman verse, the kind of plain n' simple Kooser-ish writing one might expect from a public broadcaster competition. Actually my own writing was not that far away, in some respects, from these. And this competition, it should be noted, has never really gone for that. I suppose I should give them credit there. It would have been interesting though to see total contrast in style: one cryptic-elliptic-hypercomplex, the other the extreme of plain & simple. Perhaps I ask too much.
*yes, the actor pronounced hash, not ash, which would seem to make more sense. Unless the girl is smoking dope -- very un-CBC!