Interview & Poems:
Jason Dickson, our May 3rd featured poet.
Jason Dickson is a writer and bookseller from London, Ontario. He has three titles published by BookThug. His latest book (co-authored with Vanessa Brown) London Culture: 150 Moments will be published by Biblioasis this June. His writing has appeared in Quill and Quire, Geist, Maine Antiques Digest, Kotaku, Rue Morgue, Canadian Notes and Queries, Fine Books and Collections, and Open Letter. He also co-owns with Vanessa the antiquarian bookstore Brown & Dickson located on Richmond Street.
It is Easy to Get Lost Near the Thames
It is easy to get lost near the Thames
as it sneaks through the tufts of forests
appearing every acre, near farms
with their own wildness, settlement
but to approach it from the fields,
for a moment, and reach a clearing,
as They never enter the water,
often baptized and clean.
On a moonlit evening, the folk
lining the road with their wagons
watching, as each took their turn
falling in the water, born in the water
learning that the river, not their good farm
is the safest place to be.
How do they call us?
Is there another light inside of us,
in the blind parts of our body?
A light seen only at edges of light,
where the purple light from the sun spreads out.
It is then that we feel it, rising up,
this second body, with purple eyes;
an unknown shape, turning its head,
from side to side quietly.
This shape that can pull us from our beds,
make us climb out of our windows
and shimmy down the porch banister,
Called by the demons that stand in the street.
The beautiful pale and thin demons,
with branches for fingers, bark for eyes,
that taste like maple syrup.
It is a sixth sense. And we know others have it,
because we see them, in the sky.
We see them flying from their houses.
And we all walk into the fields, together,
to the dark streams, to eat the flesh of fish,
and call out, making love, snapping the bones of animals,
We Cannot Pull in the World
And we cannot pull in the weather.
We can’t pull in fog, and rain, and storms.
We can only assemble in a house,
at the edge of town, with our torches,
and stay awake, following the thunder.
We don’t even know if that works.
But still we hear distant animals, eating,
and barely sense something ferocious
doing its dark work in the woods.
What first led you to writing?
My first poem was about my dad and I fishing. Also I was influenced a lot by Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie. Perhaps it starts there.
Describe, if you would, the impetus behind "Mercury, Deposited".
Not sure exactly. I just know that I wanted to write a poem about these sweet small town people leaving their homes at night to visit a Sabbath. That they see themselves do it and poetically write about it ups the horror for me. Calm people talking about scary things is scary and mesmerizing.
The narrators of both "It is Easy to Get Lost Near the Thames" and "We Cannot Pull the World" seem to long for a former era of naïvety and mystery, perhaps for a London long gone. Is this near your experience of London? And, are historians necessarily plagued (or comforted) by a sense of nostalgia?
I think so. I hear it a lot in the shop. Weren't things so much better a long time ago? It's false, of course, although I feel it too. This series of poems is partly about my own family in Middlesex County and the record shows that things were definitely not easier for them back in the day. Perhaps there is something tragic about looking back for solace when life is tough. I think it is a bad idea, of course. But I do it. It seems like a very natural thing to do.
You've written that one thing you like a lot "is a character who has come to the edge of their ability to explain things." Would you offer a few words about how this interest informs your writing?
These days I like ordinary language, and an ordinary sense of the world, challenged to break open and reach for other means of understanding things. In these poems it is folks from London and Thorndale, Ontario facing some extraordinary events. Demons and ghosts. In their case they write poems, not all of them good, but all of them touching I hope in their earnest effort to make their weird lives beautiful. There's something there that interests me.
If you would, offer a few words about the importance of humour and irony in your work and in what you like to read.
Tragedy without humour is violence.
Is humour without tragedy ineffectual?
It's less funny, that's for sure.
What are you reading now?
Vanessa and I just about done final edits on our book on culture in London, Ontario (coming out this summer from Biblioasis) so sadly that's all I have time to read really. Lots of fact-checking. Lots of little things to get wrong. So I'm obsessing.
In your and Vanessa’s research for your forthcoming book, which one or two discoveries about London, Ontario have most surprised you?
Jon Kapelos, the janitor from The Breakfast Club, was from London. Also Honeymoon Suite's breakout hit "New Girl" was written in a kitchen near Fanshawe College.
What ratio of anticipated popularity to personal taste do you employ when acquiring new books at Brown and Dickson?
Hard to say. We're fortunate in that our specialty is mainly things we like ourselves. So when we're looking at a book or collection we are blessed in that anticipated popularity (will someone buy this) is answered by ourselves first (well we'd buy it if we were in a shop). There's exceptions, of course.
If you were to characterize your writing in terms of the tones and textures of musical instruments or colour palettes, which would you choose?
I honestly don't know. I want each poem to ring like a tuning fork, so perhaps musical instruments. But then I want to smear them all with garbage and confusion. So perhaps colour too.
Maybe the art in it is somehow having it both ways.
Have any particular maxims or proverbs stuck with you? If so, what are they, and why’d they stick?
"No one cares." That was said to me when I was young and at a poetry reading. I had just given it my all and this guy said that as I walked off the stage. That stuck. But it was also very helpful.
I also remember an old friend saying that he hated guitar players who always played at a 10. That's all you got, he said? The idea that 10 removed 1-9 has stuck with me too.
I've become very tired trying to write at a maximum capacity for significance. There's something liberating at looking for the beauty of 1-3.
If you were to ask one question of a contemporary writer, what and who would it be?
Wanna make out? Just kidding. I'd only ask you that Kevin.
Am I to take that as tongue-in-cheek?
I refuse to answer.
WHERE: Mykonos Restaurant at 572 Adelaide St. North, London, Ontario. The restaurant has a large, covered terrace just behind the main restaurant, which comfortably holds 60 poetry lovers. Mediterranean food and drinks are available. Overflow parking is available across the side street and in the large lot one block north, in front of Trad’s Furniture.
WHEN: May 3rd, 2017.
FEATURED POET: Jason Dickson will read at 7pm.
OPEN MIC: Following the featured poet, 15 open mic poets will read until 9:30 at the latest, with an intermission at about 8:00. Each poet has five minutes (which is about two good pages of poetry, but it should be timed at home). Sign up on the reader`s list, which is on the book table at the back. It's first come, first served.
COVER: Pay What You Can (in jar on back table, or use Donate Button on website Donate Page). Donations are our only source of income to cover expenses.
RAFFLE PRIZES: Anyone who donates at the event receives a ticket for a raffle prize, three of which will be picked after the intermission. The prizes consist of poetry books donated by The Ontario Poetry Society.
Perhaps you recognize the lead actor: Kevin Heslop, our interviewer!
The Taming of the Shrew
Presented by Funeral Pyre Theatre in association with Squirrel Suit Productions
April 26 to May 6, 2017
Director: Liam Grunté
Stage Manager Julia McCarthy
Producers Liam Grunté and Carlyn Rhamey
Starring Kevin Heslop and Ashley Fage
Also featuring Neva Gunther, Tristan Watts, Irene Paibulsirijit, Andrea Avila, Mya Matos, Gareth Ross, Holly Holden, Lyndsey Burns, Olivia Little and Kendall Robertson
“The Taming of the Shrew” is renowned as Shakespeare's most controversial play. It is a tale of mistaken identity, deception and complicated love triangles. The plot thickens as suitors of the fair Bianca convince a visiting stranger to marry her older sister Katherina in order to allow Bianca to be eligible to be wed. However, Katherina is not a willing participant in their plans.
Reversing the roles in this production brings a fresh perspective to an old yarn, allowing the audience to experience the story from alternative points of view.
FP Theatre is proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds from this production are being donated in support of the London Abused Women's Centre #ShinetheLight on Women's Abuse campaign.
Recommended for ages 14+
VIDEOS of Apr. 5 open mic
including featured poets James Deahl & Norma West Linder and some of the 15 open mic readers:
Debbie Okun Hill,
Paul Branton (with Mykonos owner Heidi),
See the videos.
Help us keep videotaping our poets
Sebastian is volunteering his invaluable services videotaping our poets. Please help keep him with us. If you or anyone you know can use his videography or any other tech work he does, which is extensive and detailed in the video below, by all means contact him.
How it went:
April 5th, featuring James Deahl & Norma West Linder:
See the slide show
London Open Mic Poetry was proud to host two of Southwest Ontario's poetry legends, Sarnia-based poets Norma West Linder and James Deahl, at our National Poetry Month reading on April 5th.
James and Norma were introduced by fellow Sarnia poet Debbie Okun Hill, who was featured at London Open Mic in its third season (of five so far).
Following the readings, James and Norma fielded questions about their work and their lives, including their long marriage and what prompted them to begin writing poetry:
Norma: I started writing poetry in the 70s when I was conducting weekly creative writing classes at Lambton College where I taught English. I wanted to cover all aspects of writing, so I gave my students an assignment to write a sonnet. Unwilling to ask them to do something I wouldn't do, I wrote a sonnet myself.
James: I started writing when I was 8 or 9 years old. I had been greatly impressed by the work of Robert Louis Stevenson and thought I could do likewise. Easier said than done! About that time I also discovered the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.
James Deahl was asked about People’s Poetry, which he has supported and promoted all his life of poetry. He response was one of regret and disappointment. From our interview with him:
“In general, people’s culture has been based on two key concepts:
1. That progress can be clearly seen in the human universe. In terms of social physics, this means that society moves from disorder to order.
Thus, society improves, becomes more fair and less governed by social Darwinism.
2. That humanity is perfectible within history. That is, humans play a (if not the) major role in personal and collective salvation.
It therefore follows that:
3. People’s culture promotes peace, equality, and human goodness.
4. People’s culture opposes racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.
5. People’s culture opposes classism. It is art made for the people, not the elite.
6. People’s culture works to preserve the natural and human environment.
6 a. People’s poetry includes almost all nature poetry.
6 b. People’s poetry can also be a very urban poetry.
In practice, people’s culture tends to:
7. Be committed to Modernist concepts while retaining key Romantic ideals;
8. Support Socialist / Social Democratic political movements;
9. Oppose large-scale Capitalism and the “business culture”;
10. Encourage all people to participate in building their culture.
“The enemy, if you will, of People’s Culture (poetry, prose, theatre, art, and music) is Post-modernism. Strange as it may seem, while most Canadian poets claim to be working within the People’s Poetry tradition, they are not. Most poetry today is either Confessional or Post-modern. Few will admit to it, though.”
On a lighter note, his bio had included something culled from other sources: “Deahl is best know for his 1987 collaboration with Milton Acorn, A Stand of Jackpine.” When asked about this in the Q&A, James expressed surprised that he is known for this, but was happy to talk about it. James explained that his friend Milton Acorn created a form he called the Jackpine sonnet. James Deahl enjoyed the form as well, and at the time became known as a writer of Jackpine sonnets. Here is Acorn's beautiful description of what he envisioned a Jackpine sonnet to be: http://www.geist.com/contests/jackpine-sonnet-contest/jackpine-sonnet-campaign/
"Unlike other conifers it grows at opportunity, having no set form. Thus with its solid-looking needle-foliage, it makes all sorts of evocative shapes.
If it looks like nothing on Earth - not even a Jackpine. It must be a Jackpine . . . Or a Canadian."
"The Jackpine is resilient. It has a basic form, yes, but grows to any shape that suits the light, suits the winds, suits itself." --Milton Acorn
Read the full interview & poems
Reading this, it occurred to me that a Jackpine (and the Jackpine Sonnet) in many ways shares the characteristics of our series, London Open Mic! It follows no fixed rules; rather, it flows and morphs and is shaped by its environment and the environmental forces and energies with which it interacts. It's all about flow! London Open Mic is so much like that.
After brief announcements and a short intermission, the first open mic session of Spring 2017 commenced. Spring, of course, is a time of new beginnings and this open mic session mirrored that, with a number of first-timers in attendance, some sharing poems at the mic. Wind and torrential spring rain pounded the canvas terrace roof occasionally while the venue filled with supportive warmth and camaraderie, welcoming the newcomers, their youthful energy and (re)generative spark. Through years of hard work and dedication, Stan Burfield has created and built London's open mic institution, which is now in a time of transition. The evening's open mic session suggests that as he retires, Stan leaves us with an entity that is thriving, growing and filled with so much life.
--Mary Dowds, LOMP Internet Manager