Her poems ``are addressed to `those who feel in each bright stream, the pull of an underground river`. Willing readers are drawn from personal crossroads into subtly strange lands where skies may be truly falling but the play of imagination endures. Each poem tells its own tale.``
See Eight Poems by Christine Thorpe.
(The interviewer is D'vorah Elias, our featured poet on Feb. 6th, 2013.
Interview with D'vorah Elias ...... Seven Poems by D'vorah Elias)
DE: How old were you when you first starting writing poetry and what was the impetus for that?
DE: What poets have influenced you the most over the course of your writing career? Do you have any specific favourites?
CT: Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Don McKay, Jane Hirschfield, W.H.Auden, the Psalmist. Lately I’ve been spending time with the ancient Chinese wilderness poetry. This inspires me in a curiously indirect fashion.
DE:. Your first love seems to have been science. What led you to move more into English literature as a professional pursuit?
CT: Easy answer there: I had to work, and the job interfered with my ability to take three-hour sections of the day to do lab work. English courses I could fit into lunch hours and then apply myself to the material in the evenings. Studying English literature has always been a delight to me and I had been busy reading in the "canon" even as a science student.
For awhile I thought I would be a mathematician and write brilliant computer programs. Unfortunately I love math only when it is completely abstract and found that I have little interest in practical applications. Besides, I was only a mediocre student there. So I returned to do graduate work in English.
DE: You’ve mentioned to me that you have travelled quite a bit. How have those different journeys influenced your poetry? Is there any particular type of imagery that comes back to you again and again and is used in your poems?
CT: Each place inspires me in different ways and these are pretty random. But birds, usually the birds or any other wildlife I encounter. Also the smells and sounds and general feel of a place. Tromping about in a crowd of tourists simply tires me out. The experience of sitting on my Brazilian cousin's verandah overlooking the garden and seeing a flock of parrots fly over and tiny monkeys swing through the canopy is more precious than anything I can hold in my hand or catch with a camera. I come home with an altered consciousness. Only one Brazil poem, though. Did I mention that I don't really like to travel? I need a lot of persuasion--and luckily I get that.
DE: What have been the biggest influences on your poetry through the course of your life?
CT: To be honest, it has most often been taking good advice from other poets and learning to discern and disregard the fashionable trends in verse.
DE: How do you think your poetry has evolved during your writing career and what has especially influenced that evolution?
CT: Somebody wise said that sentimentality is unearned emotion. I also think it a mark of emotional immaturity. So I have needed to avoid taking the short-cut of sentimentality and to be willing to both earn and own the genuine emotions capable of powering a more mature poetry. Beyond that, it is a matter of practice and imitation; practice in the writing but also practice at observation and catching inspiration on the fly. (It flies like a bird.)
DE: I love the fact that your book has been paired with drawings by James Wood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful kind of poetry book like this before. What inspired you to do this? What was the collaboration like for the two of you?
CT: It began when I had all these tiny poems, none substantial enough to hold down a page. I gave them to James to see if any inspired him. His responses involve quite a lateral shift and this delights me. So both books have these poem-drawing combinations. I think only one of them has worked in reverse--where I respond to a drawing by James. Collaboration can be tricky because there is always the possibility of hurt feelings and these are especially painful in a loving relationship.
DE: What is in the future for you in terms of poetry?
CT: To be quietly persistent, open to new directions and to become a better poet/person. My more recent poems are populated by animals of various sorts. Perhaps it’s a return to biology for me. These poems come very close to my heart for reasons obscure to me.
DE: Loved your poem, 'Dustward'! (See Poem #5) Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process you went through to write that poem?
CT: I think it began with buying an old house. I had never lived in a such home before, and after the first few surprises it began to feel as though all the house wanted to do was subside into the hole dug for its foundation. The old car was needing careful maintenance too. Moreover, I have gotten to the age where one accepts that the body isn't going to improve, that all the excersising and eating well only defers inevitable decline. The poem came from that consciousness. And then I rather liked it; it was new and shiny and quite cheered me up!
DE: Many of your poems contain imagery of birds. Why do you think that is and what is your attraction to birds -- or is this merely coincidence?
CT: When I was four the orchard where we lived was sprayed with an insecticide called Parathion. The birds dropped dead from the sky. I remember holding a limp robin in my hand. This was a horrific experience for me and for my parents. Ever since I have had nearly unbearable feelings of tenderness toward birds. They are seemingly insubstantial; they don't share with us the heaviness of flesh; one can see how they've come to represent spirit. So often we are neglectful of or callous toward the spirit. As an adult I began noticing birds in New Zealand really. James was working long days at Weta Studios and I had lots of time to go exploring Wellington and area. New Zealand has a lot of birds you won't find elsewhere, many of which need protection. I've retained the habit of appreciating birds.
Read samples of Christine's poetry.
WHERE: Mykonos Restaurant terrace, 572 Adelaide St. N., London. Cover is by donation. Overflow parking available across the side street and in the large lot one block north, in front of Trad’s Furniture.
Live Music: will open the event at 6:30, featuring local pianist Don Baker.
Open Mic: Following the featured poet, there will be about 1.5 hours of open mic, ending at 9:00 pm. Each poet has five minutes (which is about two good pages of poetry - but time yourself at home).
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. The prizes consist of poetry books donated by Brick Books, copies of Tendered Arms by Christine Thorpe, and one other special something donated by Christine Thorpe.
The terrace is enclosed and well-heated from above, but in cold weather there can be cool air at floor level so WEAR WARM FOOTWEAR.