The May 3rd London Open Mic featured poet, author and bookseller Jason Dickson, who was introduced by friend and fellow poet Andy Verboom. Verboom posed the most-asked question in London: “Who the hell is Jason Dickson?” It turns out that Dickson, known also by the alias Old Man Book, is co-owner of Brown & Dickson Antiquarian Books in London, has had his work published in various magazine publications as well as three solo titles published by BookThug, and is a strong supporter of the London literary and arts scene.
Dickson kicked off the evening by explaining that what he wants to inspire in his readers are three things: anticipation, apprehension and terror. He then read a spooky selection from his work-in-progress The Demon Book, and followed up with some locally-flavoured morsels published in his book Clearance. A robust and informative Q&A provided biographical context as well as insight into what motivates and inspires this creative London-based poet. Questions posed by members of the rapt audience inspired Dickson to reveal the following:
- When he was a kid, Dickson wanted to write poetry like Leonard Cohen, but found his efforts fell short of his expectations. He decided that instead of attempting to imitate, he would simply write about what he loved. Once he’d made that choice, writing became a liberation rather than a chore. He found that “demon stuff” really interested him. Writing can be a laborious and time-consuming task and he finds that writing about this dark and spooky subject helps him stay engaged.
- The biggest lesson Dickson has learned on his literary journey occurred when he was about 19 years of age. He had just finished reading at a downtown café and had “given it all on stage.” As he left the stage, Dickson heard an audience member say, “Nobody cares, buddy.” Taking this comment to heart means that he is now totally free to write simply to entertain himself.
- Dickson was asked if he has more demon poems in the works and whether there are plots lurking “under the tunnel” (a reference to a proposed rapid transit tunnel in London’s core). Dickson replied, “Perhaps they’ll find something they should have just left alone.”
- Dickson’s publications have sold out and there are no plans to print more. Used copies may be found through AbeBooks and Amazon. In June, a new book on the history of culture in London, Ontario will be released.
- Dickson is fascinated at what happens when ordinary and comfortable language reaches the end of its capacity to explain what’s happening; he likes that edge, which he refers to as “half spaces” such as where city meets country. He says one “can do a lot as a poet in that weird space.” (Perhaps he refers to an ineffable transition point that exists in all liminal spaces. At what point, precisely, does hot become cold? Dark become light? Erotica become smut? Zeitgeist makes the answer fluid; subjectivity, perhaps, makes it undefinable. – MD)
- Dickson was asked if he has had personal connections with death and whether those experiences are in his mind when he writes about demons. He feels almost as though he’s encroaching on pretentiousness when he explains that writing about the sudden death of family members was and experience “like having mercury deposited” in his blood. He always tries to get back to that feeling when he is writing. Delving into the subject of demons allows him to safely explore those experiences.
- Dickson’s work has been influenced heavily by Canadian writers, including James Reaney and Michael Ondaatje, who have spent significant amounts of time in the London area. Dickson states that one of his greatest personal discoveries was learning that, just as London influences his own work, great writers such as these were likewise influenced by this place. He explained that Canadian literature has enough dour work and he strives intentionally to make his characters funny. He stated, tongue-in-cheek, “Afterall, it’s hard to take Thorndale seriously.”
A sample of Dickson’s poetry as well as our interview
Jason Dickson’s reading was followed by the evening’s open mic segment which featured an array of veteran and first-time readers and touched on subjects from swimming pigs to bubble baths to the simplicity and beauty of breath.
This May 3rd event was Stan Burfield’s last as host. Next month, he will be the London Open Mic featured poet. We look forward to celebrating Stan and giving thanks for his vision and tireless efforts in creating and building London Open Mic Poetry.