Western's Writer-in-Residence, Gary Barwin, our Feb. 4th feature: Interview and Poems
Gary Barwin, Western's current Writer-in-Residence, is a writer, composer, multimedia artist, and the author of 18 books of poetry and fiction as well as books for kids. His most recent collection is Moon Baboon Canoe (poetry, Mansfield Press, 2014.) Forthcoming books include Yiddish for Pirates (novel, Random House Canada, 2016), I, Dr Greenblatt, Orthdontist, 251-1457 (fiction, Anvil 2015) and Sonosyntactics: Selected and New Poetry of Paul Dutton (WLUP, 2015).
Other recent books include Franzlations (with Hugh Thomas; New Star), The Obvious Flap (with Gregory Betts; BookThug) and The Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House.) He was Young Voices eWriter-in-Residence at the Toronto Public Library in Fall of 2013 and he will be Writer-in-Residence at Western University in 2014-2015. Barwin received a PhD (music composition) from SUNY at Buffalo.
Barwin is winner of the 2013 City of Hamilton Arts Award (Writing), the Hamilton Poetry Book of the Year 2011, and co-winner of 2011 Harbourfront Poetry NOW competition, the 2010 bpNichol chapbook award, the KM Hunter Artist Award, and the President’s Prize for Poetry (York University). His young adult fiction has been shortlisted for both the Canadian Library Association YA Book of the Year and the Arthur Ellis Award. He has received major grants from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council for his work.
He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at garybarwin.com.
Interview with Gary
(Interview by Kevin Heslop for London Open Mic Poetry Night)
KH: As Burgess has his Cervantes say: “God is a comedian. God does not suffer the tragic consequences of a flawed essence. Tragedy is all too human. Comedy is divine.”
This collection has been noted for containing your “trademark humour”; the words “goofiness” and “witty” also find the back cover. Any response to Burgess’ Cervantes quotation? What, in your opinion, is unique to humour, and of what importance is it to the human condition?
GB: Look how I’m windmilling my arms around while Burgess charges at me with his “Take all of creation…Please!” It’s because I disagree with his Cervantes. I believe comedy is inherently human exactly because tragedy is inherently human. After consciousness—and an awareness that we have ‘lives’ and ‘feeling’, comedy is one of the great existential technologies that we humans have discovered. And we needed to, exactly because of this consciousness.
This existential comedy includes the inherent comedy of communication. We’re mimes on a telephone. Underwater. But this comedy is deeply, darkly beautiful. It speaks of our affection, our connection to our experience, to our sorrow, our joy, ourselves.
The traditional Jewish line is that “we laugh to keep from crying.” And as David Foster Wallace puts it about Kafka, “the deeper alchemy by which Kafka's comedy is always also tragedy, and this tragedy [is] always also an immense and reverent joy.” This suffering, this joy, this ungainly staggering in uncertainty, contingency, and conflict is ridiculous and is ours, is our comedy and tragedy, and so, without being able to help it, we can’t but love it. It not only helps us keep going, but is a tool of understanding and knowledge. It unpacks. It questions. It wonders.
Click here to read Gary's poems, the rest of the interview, and event info
New Poems by our Bloggers
It seems you just have to be still
Today I threw myself around, lunging
from one little job
finally staggered out, rubbing wooden eyes, past
Linda lying softly on the couch
saying soothingly as I passed
why don’t you take a cloth and put it in
hot water and lay it on your eyes.
It will relax them. Read More
i haven't heard anyone
use that word
in ages Read more
I wanted to check my privilege at the door
I wanted to check my privilege at the door
but when I realized
the door had been hung by male hands,
complications, needless to say, arose. Read More
Open Mics will be quieter from now on.
Having live music at the open mic is a nice idea, but it has a negative side effect: It tends to be too loud for easy, enjoyable conversation amongst audience members. And we've noticed that most people try to talk during the music. Few are listening to it.
So we've decided that, beginning at the next event, on Dec. 3rd, we will only use musicians who don't mind just providing accompaniment to the conversation, and on those times we can't find any we'll just go with the restaurant's piped-in music.
We understand that many of the readings in Toronto have no music at all, just the buzz of conversation. After two seasons, we also have reached the point of not having to provide entertainment to get people to come to our events.
UPCOMING POETRY EVENTS
IN THE LONDON AREA:
(See the page, Upcoming Poetry Events, for more details.)
Plus, for the coming week: All TORONTO poetry events
Plus, for all performance poetry, including SLAM, events in London
Wed. Feb. 4th: LONDON OPEN MIC POETRY NIGHT
FEATURED POET: Gary Barwin, the current Writer in Residence at UWO.
WHERE: The Mykonos Restaurant at 572 Adelaide St. North, London,
WHEN: 6:30-9:00 PM Poetry begins at 7:00.
OPEN MIC: Following the featured poet, at least 15 open mic poets will read for about 1.5 hours. Each poet has five minutes. Sign up on the reader`s list, which is on the book table at the back, first come, first served.
RAFFLE PRIZES: Anyone who donates to London Open Mic Poetry Night receives a ticket for a raffle prize, three of which will be picked after the intermission.
More events coming: Email me any poetry-related event, any kind of poetry, it all goes here. firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to know what this is all about,
check out this Yodeller interview with organizer Stan Burfield
Interview for The London Yodeller (Jan. 31, 2014 issue) by Jason Dickson, writer, novelist (three novels published to date), and bookseller at Attic Books.
J.D. What inspired you to start a reading series?
S.B. Shyness! That may sound contradictory, but it’s not. My wife and I sold our flower shop and moved to London in 2008. I decided it was finally time to do something about my shyness, which had caused me endless problems all my life. I had tried to deal with it before by going on extremely difficult adventures by myself, to toughen up, so to speak, but I eventually realized that did more harm than good. So now, being semi-retired and having more time, I started going in a social direction. I joined a poetry workshop, then tried to read my poems in front of others when I had the chance, which wasn’t easy, to say the least. Anyway, I accumulated a couple poetry friends and we went to an open mic reading in Sarnia. On the way home I wondered why they could have a monthly open mic in the town of Sarnia and there wasn’t one in London, which is so much larger. The answer was simply that someone had to organize it. My two friends didn’t have the time, And I thought there was no way I could do it because of my shyness. But then, on second thought, what the heck, if I don’t do something drastic now, at 61 years of age, I never will. So I took the bit between my teeth. How did it work out for me as therapy? Well, now, after our first one and a half seasons, I can get in the elevator in our building and CALMLY chat with people as we go up. For the first time in my life.
J.D. Where was the first night held?
S.B. They’ve always been at Mykonos Restaurant. A local poet, Frank Beltrano, showed it to me as a possible venue. I had been searching through dingy bars and so on, and as soon as I saw this place I knew it was perfect. It couldn’t be improved upon. In good weather it’s a large square terrace open to the outside at the back. In winter it’s enclosed and well-heated. Beautiful Greek atmosphere. The tables hold up to 65. (We’ve been averaging about 45 lately.) Read more....
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From Frank Davey Blog: