Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pausing with Poetry

After an intensive few weeks of writing about robots (a new kids' book) I took a short break yesterday afternoon and spent the afternoon with my writing group at a workshop given by one of my favourite poets, Kate Braid. Kate has an endowed "chair" at SFU for the year that allows her to do outreach, so we were thrilled she agreed to come to us. It was a beautiful day, the sun stream into our workspace and we looked out onto the mudflats, the flocks of shorebirds providing diversion. We did a few writing exercises, but what I enjoyed most was the discussion of "form poetry." As opposed to free verse, form poetry is anything that (obviously) follows a form, so sonnets, ballands, haiku, etc. I found it very interesting and there were so many that I'd never heard of -- ghazals, palindromes (I know what the word means, but had never encountered it with poetry), glosa, pantoum, and more. I suprised myself by getting excited about this discussion. Not being one who finds writing about poetry easy, I liked the idea of using a particular form as a starting point. In many ways, I think the structure forces you into more creativity, rather than just being free to go wherever you want, as you can in free verse. I walked away with Kate's new book: In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry.

Here is one of my favourite poems of Kate's, from her book To This Cedar Fountain. (In this book she writes poems in response to Emily Carr's paintings.)


Her trees are Michelangelo's sculptures
not born to Italy but conceived
in the passionate heart
of British Columbia
by a self-confessed old spinster.

Buttocks and thighs, muscle and flesh
rise from canvas so clear
that hands lift, fingers twitch

No wonder she wants
to be alone
in the woods
with the trees.

by Kate Braid

Other books by Kate: Covering Rough Ground and Inward to the Bone: Georgia O'Keefe's Journey with Emily Carr. Check them out!