Wednesday, September 25, 2013



A few days ago I received a terse, mindful comment about my last post. I’m disappointed that it was signed by Anonymous. I have a policy whereby I usually don’t post comments from Anonymous because frankly, I see the use of that mask to be a huge part of the problem with this wonderful communication medium we have at our disposal. Just try reading a few of the comments on any news article. Watch how the level of discourse quickly dissolves to something worthy of schoolyard banter when there’s a disagreement. The name-calling begins, the tone dissolves to snarkiness—or worse—and pretty soon I’m out of there, having always been one to avoid conflict if at all possible.

When I was notified of a new comment by Anonymous that required moderation I expected to find one of those cute comments that goes something like “You’re blog is interesting and I will definitely bookmark it and come back. You’ll love my site someridiculousnon-writing-relatedthinglikesellingpowderpuffstogorillas.xx", where xx is one of those suffix places you don’t ever want to get involved with.

So, Nony, if I may call you that, I’m going to make an exception in your case because I really appreciate your close reading of my little dash-off poem and your strong defense of Jennifer Maiden’s work. I was not familiar with her myself before getting my hands on the Griffin Anthology. I’ve just dug into my iPhone where lodges a copy of The Best Australian Poems 2012, and of course there’s a poem by Maiden within: George Jeffreys: 11: George Jeffreys Woke Up in Langley which is another of her Liquid Nitrogen poems. I confess I don’t recall reading it when I was going through the anthology, mostly picking poems to read by their title. (Just typing that gives me a revelatory moment; I tend to dash off titles for my own work; maybe, just maybe I should be giving them more attention.)  I have Best Australian Poems on my phone because a friend told me about it when we were in Mexico and I wanted to read a certain poem and ordering a hardcopy of the book was out of the question. While I really dislike reading on a four inch screen, especially poetry, I was sufficiently taken by the poems in Best Australian that I read a lot of them. I shall do my homework now (something I resisted doing in Mr. Crawford’s New Math class where I was first introduced to the concept of binaries and I still don’t get it, I’m sorry, that’s just me and math) and get ahold of a copy of Liquid Nitrogen (in book form) as this whole conversation has become very interesting and I quite liked Maiden’s other poems in the book, especially Hillary and Eleanor 9: The Pearl Roundabout.

Now, as far as my poems on the cards go, I’ve been doing this exercise since 2007. The idea is to write the poem directly onto the card, no editing, a somewhat daunting idea to a lot of poets, including me. For the first couple of years of the project I cheated (and freely admitted this to anyone who wondered) and wrote a draft on yellow lined paper, to make sure whatever I was writing would fit on the card and to allow myself a couple of goes at it if I wasn’t happy with my first attempt. By 2009 I was composing the odd one directly onto the card. In 2011 I found a box of cards with Nancy Drew book covers on them and used the image and or title as the jumping off point for my poems which I wrote directly onto the cards.

An interesting aside here, but it does relate to your comments, Nony, so here we go. I chose to read the Nancy Drew poems in front of an audience that was largely unfamiliar with my work, and it was not one of my better readings. Because of the restriction imposed by the size of the writing area on a postcard, it’s challenging to delve deeply into a subject, and my musings on whatever the cover image was, whether in my words on in words attributed to Nancy, were a little too vague. A few months later I read the same work, but this time the audience was treated to projections of the book covers on a screen behind me as I read the relevant poems, and it was a whole different experience.

In 2012 I was back to using disparate cards and writing to the image. I know that another of the suggestions from the head honcho of the postcard poem frenzy is to respond to cards from other participants as they come in, but this hasn’t worked for me so I tend to do my own thing. Take this year, for example. I didn’t actually receive a card from anyone until August 12th. Over the next couple of weeks they trickled in, and then on one single day in the first week of September six cards showed up in the mailbox.

Head honcho has taken to using epigraphs on his cards, and this year I thought I’d try that approach. I had recently acquired a copy of The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology 2013 (in a Facebook-notified draw I entered. Thanks again, Anansi!) and decided to take snippets from each of the seven finalists within as epigraphs to use on my cards this year.

I’d like to tell you I spend hours choosing each epigraph, then the card, then getting the right two elements together, then thoughtfully composing a poem that illustrates both the image on the card and the epigraph in some meaningful way. In actual fact, I look at my list of names, go in order of the 31 names below mine or else pick someone at random, someone I either know in person or have postcarded with in the past, or have had an interaction with on Facebook and therefore want to include, so the recipient plays into the image/epigraph mix as well. So my method, if you can call it that, was to shuffle through cards, decide where it was going, grab the Griffin book (I used each of the seven poets in order, so that determined where I was going to find the epigraph) and comb the relevant poet’s work until something, some concise line or three, jumped out at me.

And that is what happened when I wrote the admittedly flippant verse under Jennifer Maiden’s epigraph. The card was a tad naughty, which called out the naughty word I used. And believe me, I know the recipient of this one. It’s not the sort of card I’d send to a complete stranger!

As to how my grade nine teacher showed up in the poem, and my aversion to math, well, this poetry business is kind of a mystery to me at times.

I’d love it if you outed yourself, Nony. Even just to me. I have a couple of ideas as to who you might be, but that’s all they are. Drop me an email (floose at mac dot com is the one that’s related to this blog, but if you actually know me and my real email, just use that) and we’ll speak of this no more. Seriously, thank you for reading and for bothering to comment. Sometimes it feels like I’m writing into a void. But not this time.


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