Charles Mountford is a poet who lives in Stratford, Ontario and, part time, in Quebec City. Mountford has an MA in English from Western and an MA in Librarianship from the University of London.
He has had nine books published and has been reading his work across Canada for the last ten years.
He won first prize in the Alberta Poetry Contest and was shortlisted for the Bridport UK Poetry Prize in 2008 and 2010. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Carolyn Kizer, has written that Mountford’s “poems are rich and fine” and awarded him a workshop prize at the Indiana International Poetry Conference.
He is the founder and artistic director of Poetry Stratford and is the librettist in residence at Orpheus Productions, Stratford. Orpheus has produced four operas so far using Mountford’s poetry as librettos.
Mountford writes: "Governor General’s Prize winning poet, Stephanie Bolster, has written that I am one of the few Canadian poets at home in the dramatic monologue. I’m not sure exactly what that means but i do love that particular type of poetry. One of my favourite poets has always been Browning for his dramatic monologues. I really like the solo show in poetry, theatre, music, etc. I don’t like team sports as much as Iike singles in tennis. As far as writers are concerned, I like Samuel Beckett, Cavafy, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Lydia Davis, Borges and tons of others.
I feel that poetry should be read aloud and I am founder and artistic director of Poetry Stratford which is a poetry reading series. We have had a lot of the great Canadian poets reading here in Stratford because of Poetry Stratford.
I also am librettist in residence for Orpheus Productions, Stratford, which is a small chamber opera production company here. I write librettos for one-person modern chamber operas in the cabaret tradition. A new one is opening in Stratford on Sunday, November 15 at 7:30pm. The location is St. John’s United Church, 175 Waterloo St. South, Stratford. Admission is by donation. The opera is about the assassination of D’Arcy McGee and is a kind of ghost story. Vanya Abrahams, a tenor with the Canadian Opera Company, will be singing the role of D’Arcy. There may be people in your group who would be interested in coming. They should feel welcome to do so."
A KILKENNY NUN LEAPS INTO LOVE DIVINE
Orca! Orca! I screamed. My beloved!
Well, of course you know what happened.
I leapt I leapt into the air with him.
We coupled and the salt smoking brine
tasted in our mouths like poetry.
Oh, God, I prayed.
Poetry salted my mouth
and my tongue swelled
and my eyes blazed bright
as the shield
of the archangel Michael
who guards forever and ever
the slammed shut and forbidden
Gates of Paradise.
I scrambled over the convent wall
and I was free.
Mentally, I was free from their walls
long ago, of course, but that final
leap of faith my body would not
could not do. Until now.
Then we swam together
man and wife
deep in the streams
that nourish the earth
beating and our blood coursed
in our crystal veins
to its rhythm.
His fins cut the clean flesh
of the water like holy knives.
We swam forever and forever.
I thought the music
would never stop.
I’m from Kilkenny.
I feel that I have inherited
from generations of Kenneally’s
from Kilkenny a genetic penchant
for divine relationships.
My grandmother was a saint of a woman.
I had an uncle who saw St. Patrick
with his open eyes
not once but thirteen times in all
and each time clear as day.
He could see every hair
in St. Patrick’s beard
the same as I can see
every nail in every board
on that church across the way.
Another uncle went to Rome
and saw the Pope
and was all the better for it
and came home a changed man.
I walked the innocent air
of Parry Sound for years
my youthful shape howling
like a soul in agony
at the strictures of virginity
while my friends huddled
in dark automobiles and eased
their spirits in a way natural
to the birds and beasts
of the fields.
I waited for love.
Love was sacred to me then.
Sacred love is sacred to me now.
I know my limitations.
If I was to dig an onion field
these days I’d bring
the proper shovel.
And the drum drum drums
fall on my deaf ears
in holy cadences of love divine.
O, Orca! Orca! My beloved!
Of course ,you’re not so thick
you don’t know what happened.
PLAYIN’ IT FOR CANDY
Look at him giving me the fish eye, that director over
there. Steve’s his name but he calls himself Pablo. He
thinks he’s my boyfriend. What in hell does that mean?
I call it an arrangement.
We’re in the first ten minutes of the first day
of rehearsal of his so-called punk version
of so-called Hamlet.
The reason he’s giving me the fish eye
is because he’s picking up something
from me that he doesn’t like.
He’ll find out what it is soon enough.
Oh, I don’t mean it’s a disease.
Nothing physical, anyways. It’s just
he’s in for a shock. Candy rules.
Now he wants me to come over.
I’m ignoring him.
He’s going to have to walk over
O feel ya’, baby.
Shit, he’s skinny.
How can I take direction
from a guy with no ass?
Just two toothpicks for legs
with a bolt through them
for an ass.
He’s trying to grow a beard.
Seventeen scruffy little hairs
is a beard, right?
In the theatre, maybe.
If you’re a director.
An actor has to grow every kind
of half-ass beard they want.
Even the women. Especially the women,
Because these guys
know dick about women.
Shakespeare knew dick
about women. And Pablo
and his buddies know
I figure he knows
dick about women.
“We don’t need an actress,”
“Shakespeare used boys.”
Shakespeare used boys?
No wonder he didn’t
When we got up this morning
before rehearsal Pablo made breakfast
and I painted my fingernails blood red
the way he likes and I squirted some
red-hot perfume behind my ears
and we listened to some tapes while
we ate and he would have liked
to take me back to bed but
I wouldn’t let him.
“Not right now,” I said.
“It’ll take my edge off.
I need my edge. Or
I can’t act shit.”
He gave me the fish eye right then.
“You can’t act shit, anyways,” he tried to say.
But I was gone. I had my edge.
Now, he’s looking at me again.
Big and bulging and fishy.
“Women!” he shouts.
“No wonder Shakespeare used boys!”
Oh, don’t I know it?
A big, punk, o feel ya’ smile
is gonna’ burst right out
of my face. Any second now.
I got my edge.
I can play it all
for candy bars now.
Whatever I want.
Whatever he doesn’t want.
O.M.: Your work betrays undertones of Beckett, whom you mention you like. Which one or two of his works strikes you as his most important, and why?
C.M.: I am most fond of solo shows so I like Krapp’s Last Tape by Beckett.
O.M.: In an essay on Proust, a young Beckett once wrote that "Art is the apotheosis of solitude." Do you agree?
C.M.: I never have feelings of solitude. I’m always thinking about things I’d like to write.
O.M.: Name, if you would, one or two people outside the arts arena whom you consider to be exceptional, and briefly explain why their work contributes so positively to the contemporary world.
C.M.: I am most impressed by people who show determination and perseverance. I admire these qualities.
O.M.: Which question do you feel would be most appropriate in this context, and how would you answer it?
C.M.: It’s difficult for me to apply any kind of theories to my work. Other people are welcome to do so, of course. So, I don’t think in terms of questions. I just write.
WHERE: The Mykonos Restaurant at 572 Adelaide St. North, London, Ontario. The restaurant has a large, enclosed terrace just behind the main restaurant, which comfortably holds 60 poetry lovers. Mediterranean food and drinks are available. The terrace is open to the parking lot behind. Overflow parking is available across the side street and in the large lot one block north, in front of Trad’s Furniture.
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 4th, 2015. Doors: 6:00 to 6:30 (It's a restaurant.) Event begins at 7:00
THE FEATURED POET: Charles Mountford will open the poetry portion of the event at 7:00, followed by a Q&A.
OPEN MIC: Following the featured poet, and an intermission at 8:00 pm, open mic poets will read to as late as 10:30. 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: By donation (in donation jar on back table, or use Donate Button on website Donate Page). Donations are our only source of income to cover expenses.
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 Brick Books and The Ontario Poetry Society.