01 April 2009

National Poetry Month

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.
– T.S. Eliot

Well, Tom, say what you wish about April, but here at Gaspereau Press it’s a month that gets us all shook up. Not only is there water running in the brooks and birds singing in the trees, warm sun coaxing grass to green and trees to blossom – there are also the spring poetry books, the fruits of our winter’s labours, ready for readers.

Poetry? I hear you saying. But don’t go making the mistake of thinking that poetry is all delicate frou-frou about lovers, obscure flowers and Greek goddesses. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of my best friends are Greek goddesses.) Poetry is tough stuff. Made right, poetry is the very sinew which holds language together, making communication and understanding possible. It allows us to temporarily hold impossibilities in place and examine them, to consider one thing through the lens of another, as Shakespeare does with his beloved and a red rose. Simply put, the limber, metaphorical language of poetry makes it possible to express things about our experience in this world which might otherwise lie beyond expression. Where there is meaning, there is likely some form of poetry giving it voice; where there is poetry, meaning is possible.

King Oedipus, frustrated by his inability to procure an executive summary of an oracle from the prophet Teiresias, grumbles How needlessly your riddles darken everything. Sophocles has his wry prophet respond that in riddle answering you are strongest. Is it any surprise that a writer faced with the complex tensions and contradictions present in a figure like Oedipus – a figure at once guiltless in his ignorance of his crime and guilty of a great offence against order – would advocate for a limber, metaphoric language strong enough to convey difficult, dangerous truths? And how could a language that wily, that full of tensile strength, do anything other than get you excited about April? … Tom?

In Canada, April is National Poetry Month, and we’ve decided to celebrate by reaching into our poetry backlist and posting a poem on our blog every day for the rest of the month. Most of the poems we will feature are from books published by Gaspereau Press, but we’re also planning a few surprises.

We'll kick things off with a poem by the west coast poet Tim Bowling, who is presently living in Edmonton. The poem appeared in Fathom, which was published by Gaspereau Press in 2006 and won the 2007 Alberta Book Award for poetry. It also appears in the 10th anniversary anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1. – AS

Sixteen Wild Cherry Trees
Tim Bowling

In a pair of cut-off jeans and nothing else
I go back to raid them.

They’re gone. If I want to stain myself
I’ll have to cut and bleed.

Eight samurai
thick thighs planted
girded our town.

When they cried
I walked in their tears.

After battle
I was a crow
at their guts.

Sixteen lookouts—

now who watches
the high mountain passes
for the man who must raid
what he loves
to survive?

Copyright © Tim Bowling, 2006

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