Featured Poet David W. Janzen
When Martin read this poem at London Open Mic (June 7th, 2017), it was intended as a tribute to me for founding the open mic and keeping it going these five seasons. But during that time Martin has come to know me so well--and is such a good poet--that listening to him read it was an astonishing experience for me, a bit like looking in a mirror, but much deeper, because what was being reflected wasn't the superficial me (which we introverts hardly notice anyway) but the inner me that I actually think of as myself. And it was so accurate! Here it is. --- Stan
Dreaming in science, he watches the brainwaves of REM sleep lining
the royal road to the subconscious, brighter with the logic filters off,
but from the eleventh floor balcony, he farms the nature of existence
in gardens of language, plowing through pages, his eyes lifting from
there to the sky, to gauge the rainfall, hoping for a harvest of poetry.
He shuffles through leaves, among the five pillars of wisdom reading
the trees, when his eyes stray to the discovery channel, where human
settlements line the tunnels of Mars, in computer-generated imagery.
Since his solitary pilgrimmages across Canada, exploring the foreign
parts of himself, since camping out rough in closed parks, wintering
in his own worst fear, and waiting for that wilderness inside to thaw,
still finding himself just shy of man, the dreaming scientist had found
instead the perrenial seeds of poetry, fielding memories into a prairie
with radiant horizons rushing out, taking him far from the farmhouse
his father built blind, to a tent and a book of poems read by flashlight.
And poetry became a kind of crop circle: he gathers people inside
the mystery of its existence, spiralling in its language, translating
the alien brought to earth, through poems tunneling, like black holes
filling with light: reasons here, for the readings on the event horizon,
and gradually shedding the husk of fear, he climbs storeys of stairs
to wonder again at the night sky, touching down in the dream state,
more accepting now of being, his apparent solidity, despite knowing
we're all just centres of gravity, where atoms constellate, with so much
space between, we could think ourselves alien, even unto ourselves
if we thought too obviously. Despite this, he hears what he listens to,
sees what he looks at, absorbs more of life now, keeping the ink wet
he once left drying in the distance, out of hearing of others who called
from so far away, he didn’t believe, and feared to believe, that they
were calling to him, until he circled back to claim his calling among us,
standing at the microphone, on the patio behind Mikonos, right here
the first Wednesday each month, for London Open Mic Poetry night:
his brainchild spoken for here. The farmer calls on the seasons of life
in generations of voices he announces by name, to a room in the world
his heart's made room for, marking his place in the leaves of grass.
No longer foreign on this mutual pilgrimmage to the podium, he reads
with humans he now stands among, paging the unknown, and moving
inward through prairies of poetry. Where we plant our feet can seem
a barren and solitary place of silence, but entering together, we bloom.
This is a photo of courage.
Linda didn’t have to introduce me at my featured reading at London Open Mic on June 7th, 2017. I didn’t ask her to. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to ask her, as she’s very shy, and I knew how much stress it would have caused her. I tortured myself that way when I hosted the open mic in its first year, and it nearly killed me. And Linda is even shyer than I was then.
No, I was only thinking aloud one day about who I should ask and she suddenly stood in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I want to introduce you.” I was shocked. It had caused her enough stress these five seasons to man the book table at the back, something she didn’t have to do either. But she wanted to support me, and that was her way. She did get something out of it for herself, however: she got to know the regular open mic readers to some degree, and began to look forward to each event as if it were a big family she was part of. But standing up on a stage in front of a crowd of nearly fifty, reading five minutes of introduction! That was extremely stressful. She got through it though! I was very proud of her.
---Stan Burfield, founder and now-retired organizer of London Open Mic Poetry.
Read the interview & 3 poems
Don Gutteridge, who is currently Professor Emeritus at Western and was our Nov. 2016 featured poet, and who has over 20 volumes of poetry to his credit, sent me a letter last week as follows:
“Stan: When I read your biography about your upbringing in Alberta, your years in the flower shop, and your lifelong battle with shyness (and its torture), I was moved to write a little poem about your defiance and persistence and the role that poetry played.”
For Stan Burfield
For more than a dozen years
you were surrounded by blooms
in your shop, a long way
from Alberta’s unlyrical
land, and when you tried
your hand at verse, were
your first poems for poppies
and their roaring red, sonnets
for sunflowers a-burst
in lavish light, lyrics
for larkspur and their passionate
purple, or pentameters
for peonies and their kissing cousins?
Did you let them speak
for you, go soaring through the
petrified petal of your fear?
For poetry is both bliss
and consolation, a way of speaking
to the world that subsumes
both shy and defy.
And only one day earlier, Don had sent me this message:
“Stan: I went onto your facebook page and saw that beautiful poem there. Gorgeous imagery and wonderful pace. … Anyway, poetry begets poetry. I sat right down and penned the attached poem, inspired by yours. I am looking forward to hearing you read on the YouTube video of your performance.”
Whenever I think of death,
I take a deep breath
and congratulate myself
on being alive, ever
since that day
long ago when I wished
my way out of the womb and uttered
my first articulate cry
and wondered how many
had come before me
in humanity’s slow bloom
all the way back to the
great apes and their generous
genes and the dinosaurs who groomed
the ancient foliage of the Earth
and finally the fish-churned
sea where something
grew anew, a birth
with no antecedent,
a blip in God’s thought,
and here I am against
the odds still living,
waiting patiently for my turn.
This is the poem Mr. Gutteridge had read:
CONCERNING OUR GLORIOUS FUTURE
As I lift the spoon
from this morning’s coffee
I feel the same long pull of time
that my father did
that their parents did
a chain rattling down
into the well so far
I cannot imagine.
And up, out of that darkness
into this present,
all of it--
the slow ages of our reptilian forebears,
our fearful hominid ancestors,
the entire charging ascent of Man--
comes to a juddering halt
at this drop of coffee
We are stranded here
at the endpoint
of time, banging
on the ceiling.
Suffice it to say, I feel honoured. Thanks, Don!
Don has a new book of poetry out, Sands of Canatara, of which he is donating 19 copies to London Open Mic. If any of you who received one of his books from his feature reading would like one of these, gratis, email me and you can pick it up Wednesday. The remaining copies will be given away first-come first-served.
BIO: Don Gutteridge is the author of more than fifty books, including poetry, fiction and scholarly works in educational theory and practice. In 1972 he won the President’s Medal at The University of Western Ontario for his poem "Death At Quebec". Among his best-known poems are the mythic tetralogy: Riel: A Poem For Voices, Coppermine: The Quest For North, Borderlands, and Tecumseh. Gutteridge is best known across Canada for his historical fiction. He has also recently produced a series of mystery novels, The Marc Edwards Mysteries.
Don Gutteridge was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1937, and was raised in the nearby village of Point Edward, Ontario. His high schooling took place in Sarnia and Chatham, Ontario. He attended the University of Western Ontario (UWO), where he graduated with a BA Honours in English in 1960. Gutteridge then taught high school English for seven years before joining the Faculty of Education at UWO in 1969. He is currently Professor Emeritus. He lives in London, Ontario with his wife Anne. He has two children, John and Kate, and six grandchildren.
Read our interview with Don Gutteridge, & three poems.
Read our interview with Stan Burfield, & three poems.