David has two chapbooks: Locomotive and Tender (Jamie Hamilton’s Pikadilly Press, 1977) and Spilling the Beans (Clarke Leverette’s Killaly Press, 1979). His one full-length book, Trapped Moonlight, was published in 2005 by Sheila Martindale and South Western Ontario Poetry.
On the fifth of June, David hopes to read more than a baker’s dozen’s worth of poems about dogs, birds, news events, writers and desire—a little Eros and Thanatos at Mykonos.
(The interviewer is D`vorah Elias, who was our featured poet on Feb. 6th, 2013.)
DE: How old were you when you first started writing poetry and what was the impetus for that?
DJP: My first poem, a short descriptive piece about the dented metal garbage cans that I put out in front of my parents’ house in Kitchener, was written when I was 17. I must have felt some kinship with them; I saw character in them; I gave them names.
DE: What poets have influenced you the most over the course of your writing career? Do you have any favourites?
DJP: Raymond Souster’s Ten Elephants on Yonge Street was discovered in the Kitchener Public Library. I loved that book. I have a copy of it now. Other influences would be Earle Birney, the haiku poets, William Carlos Williams, the concrete poets, the Imagists, Christopher Reid and Craig Raine, and many Canadians, Al Purdy and Don McKay foremost among them.
DE: Your first love seems to have been science. What led you to move more into English literature as a professional pursuit?
DJP: I started out in Natural Sciences at Western, but after struggling with Physics and Chemistry, I chose English as my major. Ironically, it was my lowest mark. I was happier with the study of language because I’d written a journal through most of my high school years. Blame that on my English grandmothers who used to send me Lett’s Schoolboy Diaries every Christmas.
DE: Have you travelled much during your lifetime? If so, have any of 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
DJP: I love England. I was born there and I have been over there nine times. When I’m in England, ideas for poems come to me. Poems are my inner photographs. As far as imagery is concerned, I do recall a fixation with the railway and the loneliness inherent in the sound of the locomotive’s horn. There might be some animal imagery in my poetry, but other than that vague perception, someone else is going to have to point out the imagery I use.
DE: What have been the biggest influences on your poetry through the course of your life?
DJP: Graduate school at the University of Waterloo, the reading of poetry (I have hundreds of books of poetry) and a certain unnamed London poetry group that I used to be a member of.
DE: How do you think your poetry has evolved during your writing career and what has especially influenced that evolution?
DJP: I don’t know if I’ve had a writing career. I write because I have to, because I want to, because it’s a record of my thought. It calls me and I answer. My poetry has grown in length from the short lyric to the longer lyric which is more focused on rhythm and shape. The concrete possibilities of a poem interest me. Upsetting items in the newspaper can sometimes generate poems: the bombings in London, England; the earthquakes in Turkey and Haiti; the senseless shooting of Jane Creba in Toronto. Then there are other subjects: birds, dogs, nature, desire, love and death.
DE: I know that you worked as a teacher for many years. How did your students influence your creative writing? I also know that you love your dog and many poems feature your dog. Can you tell me a little bit more about that special relationship?
DJP: I taught high school English for thirty years and I’d sit down in a spare student desk and write my journal along with my students. I loved that—but they had to be quiet. And sometimes I’d write a poem about an incident in the school, a bad class or a particular student who was a misfit, a survivor—a weed.
Bev and I have looked after two black Labrador retrievers. The first one, Bronte, was big and stoic; the second one, Jackie, is smaller and more energetic. Jackie gets me out of the house, into the neighbourhood and down into the river valley where she sniffs around and eats grass--dog salad. I look for birds or I write a poem in my head. The challenge there is to remember what I said to myself and to write the lines down on paper soon after we arrive home.
DE: What is the future for you in terms of poetry?
DJP: I just want to keep on writing poems. Ambition and organization are not strong with me and so I do not send poems out to litmags anymore. Of course, I wish I did, but wishes are not actions. Idea: a book containing 100 poems?
DE: I have a question about your poem: Someone Went Before. Obviously this poem was inspired by a walk in the snow but would you please share a little bit more about its inspiration? I think it's a lovely poem. I'm wondering how you came to write it, though.
DJP: I wrote the poem “Someone Went Before” many years ago, a result of realizing I owed someone for helping me make my way across a schoolyard of deep snow. But I also realized I owed thousands of unknown people for all the things I have. We all do. The expression “a self-made man” always makes me laugh—as if such a man had no mother, no culture, no language and no luck. I thought of other titles for the poem, “Inheritance” and “Democracy”, but I wanted to keep the title closer to the original experience. Someone had gone before--and maybe there’s a little elegy in that as well.
Read Four Poems by David J. Paul
(Interviewer D’vorah Elias was the featured poet at London Open Mic Poetry Night’s Feb. 6th, 2013 event.
See Interview with D’vorah Elias
See Seven Poems by D’vorah Elias
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 musician/vocalist Dennis Siren.
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). Names are selected at random.
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. Donations are our only source of income.
Second Season: begins Sept. 4th, featuring Frank Beltrano, and continues Oct. 2nd with Jan Figurski. (In June I will start organizing further into the second season, after a short break to catch my breath.)