Question: Why do you write poetry?
Answer: Poetry moves me to a kind of reverence - not all of it, but much of the best of it. When I engage with poetry, I become contemplative and mystically transported to a deeper awareness, to a kind of enlivened, prayerful consciousness; and to gratitude. I've always had a gift for it, but thought poetry too frivolous a knack to employ me fully. It was only when I was in my late thirties that I came to see this talent as God-given, i.e. what I was born to do. Before that, it had seemed almost a vice (for which I stole time from duties, and which I practised with such intense pleasure that I thought it, quite probably, immoral).
Poetry soothes and heals me, as I am constantly overwhelmed and often undone by feelings and perceptions. The images and phrases present themselves. I jot them down as a secretary would dictation, and then delight to tinker until they seem perfect. I never could untangle my religious practice of prayerful consciousness, from the articulations themselves. All I am any good at is poems. I have cried to the silent unmoved, unmoving heart of the void: "o Pivot of all, invisible, inviolable Lord, I am lost. Describe my wayward footsteps, in some figure of your dance; guide my track of agitation, in this cycle of distress. And bless my black unknowing: Christ make sense of this stammered evidence I suffer from, the wound of consciousness".
In poetry I am always talking to 'the Other' with a kind of certainty that I am heard; and reporting on present things, however distressing they be.
-- appeared in Poetry and Spiritual Practice (Selections from Contemporary Canadian Poets), edited by Susan McCaslin for the St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2002
Question: How did you come to poetry?
Answer: One cloudy morning in October when I was eight or so, a sudden weariness struck and I lay down on the floor by the vent from the space-heater in the corner of the living room and didn't get up. There my Mother found me burning with fever, a damp heap of delirium evidently poxed and put me to bed. It was a nasty case. At his spells by the bedside, my Dad dealt with my miserably vacant apathy and intermittent hot distress by reading me poems: On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, The Tyger, The Song of the Jellicles, The Owl and the Pussy-cat, Ozymnandias, 0 Captain! My Captain!, The Raven, Kubla Khan, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, The Destruction of Sennacherib, Sir Patrick Spens, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Tarantella, Auguries of Innocence, Eldorado, etc. In my hot brain all this beauty fused in a strange vision of paradise, a perfection for high romance, an empyrean of perfect language and lofty sentiment. I remember the wallpaper whereon thrushes and warblers perched among the chains of twining ivy; I remember the green gauze curtain and my Father reading, on and on, and I too weak to do anything but listen. To this day the rims of my ears are somewhat ragged from the broken pustules. And I write poems.
-- appeared in (muse)Letters, spring 1996