UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LINKS
Poems have to hit me on the head for me to write them. Poems wander around telling me to write them until I do something about them. There has to be some element of discomfort needing worked through.
I live in a society where the language is raw and the emotions often violent. Let anyone who has watched an evening of tv try to pretend otherwise. I don't see anything bad in certain words just as I don't see anything good in others. It's how they are used.
My muse--to use a really pompous term--is that which is dysfunctional, something not quite right, something saying look at me, look at how ugly I am or even how beautiful I am in this garbage dump. Look at me and the way I hold myself, look at me and the way I weep or laugh.
I attempt to use the form of the people of today. I try to find the rhythms and descants and music in their words.
Unlike Plath I think fiction is more fun than poetry. It is easier. I can wrap myself into a short story or a novel. I can circle myself in it and swing with it.
At present I am sweating with a novel which is in it's two hundredth rewrite I think. It has been on the go for twelve years and is just about there. This is nice.
How do I see the Canadian Literary Scene. Scared. Petrified. We are so scared of being influenced. We are so scared of being marginalised. So much of what we see is all the same. Look at the results of most poetry competitions--is there a sameness?
Language is not Canadian or American or UK. It is universal but very specific at the same time. I want to be contaminated. I want to contaminate. I want to be a river flowing into a sea into which other rivers empty their waters. I do not want to be shut up in my little ivory tower thinking I am something special because I say so or the Canada Council says so or because I belong to this or that organization or because I am Canadian.
We are hung up on the Canon. To hell with the Canon. Of course we have to study and to read but what is important is that our material speaks our own language. I met a young poet from Harlem a couple of years ago at a conference and he showed me a poem written as ninety percent of poems in our lit journals are written and then he showed me a poem written in his own language of Harlem--both by him. He said that the Harlem poem was considered not to be in English. He said the Shakespeare had about as much to do with his English of today as his Harlem had. Both Harlem and Shakespeare needed someone to do some work. Diane Wakoski said, when she was accused of being elitist, no you just have to do some work.
I consider myself a people's poet whatever that is. I don't consider myself to be in any ivory tower jotting bell mots for literati.
If poetry doesn't start with passion it is nothing. I often ask at workshops why someone wrote this or that. There is not usually a clear answer. If that poem isn't the most important thing in your lift at that second don't write a poem about it.
Poetry is about love. It is about love of your fellow man. It is about compassion and observation.
It is about letting someone else see that love.
Jennifer Footman's works copyright © to the author.