Friday, May 25, 2007

The Biblioasis Flash Interview : One : Eric Ormsby

(interviewed via email by Carmine Starnino)

This is technically your second selected, though the first with a
Canadian publisher
(For a Modest God was published with New York's
Grove in 1999). Can you speak briefly
about the process of
selection (or reselection, as it were) and the differences between

the two books?

This selection proved to be quite different as I had five books,
instead of three, to choose from. I was surprised to find that some
of the poems I'd omitted from the earlier selection held up better
than some I'd included; or at least, I liked them better now.
The Grove volume also showed the influence of George Bradley,
the editor, whose tastes are a bit more "classical" than mine;
he excluded some of the weirder pieces. But I found poems, some
of them among the more recent ones, that I now disliked rather
intensely. Others struck me as quite flawed and I rewrote or
revised them.

What's your sense of the new poems in the book? Do they
represent new territory for

The "new" poems aren't all so new. I've always kept poems back
for ten or even fifteen years before publishing them. But the
previously unpublished or uncollected poems do seem to me
substantially different; they deal with human situations more
than my earlier poems which tended to be about objects,
especially plants and animals. I also use different formal
devices in these poems.

You’ve been living in London for nearly two years now. What are
your impressions of the
city and its literary community?

I don't know that "community" is the proper word! The London
poetry scene is bigger and more varied than that in Canada, and
inevitably so; you have the Welsh, the Irish, the Scots, as well,
and that complicates the situation, usually for the better.
I've kept my distance by and large from that scene, partly out
of diffidence, partly out of a certain sense of deja vu. In
London, the same log-rolling goes on as everywhere else; there's
a distinct chumminess that prevails. I avoid the poets who move
in packs anyway; they remind me of feral poodles on the prowl,
feisty but toothless.

Any good UK poets Canadian readers should know about?

I've been glad to find some excellent poets whose work I hadn't
known before. Among the "older" generation, I'd mention Alan
Brownjohn and Peter Porter. I admire some of John Burnside's work.
And I think Mimi Khalvati is a brilliant poet, too little
appreciated, here or elsewhere. "Fetch," the new book by Tamar
Yoseloff, a transplanted American poet, is excellent and
impressive. I tend to prefer the poets who stand apart; in this
respect, the hermit-poet Aidan Andrew Dun, whose "Vale Royal" is
a quirky masterpiece, seems exemplary. And of course I admire
expatriate poets, like the wonderful Marius Kociejowski, ignored
in Canada but appreciated -- though not adequately -- here.

For many of the younger Canadian poets, independent music --
especially its lyrics --
has had a big impact. How important is
music as an influence on your work? Do you listen
to contemporary

Yes, music is essential to me. But I don't listen to much
contemporary classical music, about which I'm ignorant. I prefer
rock, blues and country-western, especially Emmie Lou Harris,
Patti Griffin and Lucinda Williams. And of course, the classical

Music is a prime inspiration for me; like a lot of other poets,
I wish I could capture some of its tonalities in words.

Where would I go to find a decent bow-tie?

Yes, bow ties are essential to the writing of poetry; knotting the
tie is at once delicate and decisive, like the final couplet of a
good Shakespearean sonnet. You can find nice ones at Turnbull and
Asser on Jermyn Street in London; or, the best of all, the company
known as Beau Ties in Middlebury, Vermont.

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