CoCoPoPro: "I'm just you in funny clothes": Remembering John Newlove
Canadian lyric poet John Newlove (1938-2003) has been called a "powerfully influential presence" in the Canadian poetry scene, and is respected for the scrupulous honestly of his bare-bones poetics. And although Newlove lived in BC and Ontario for much of his life, he was always considered a Saskatchewan poet. A Long Continual Argument: the Selected Poems of John Newlove was published by Chaudiere Books in 2008, five years after Newlove's death. Steve Noyes says that the collection is "probably the best summation of John Newlove's inimitable poems that we are likely to get.See more details below
Canadian lyric poet John Newlove (1938–2003) has been called a "powerfully influential presence" in the Canadian poetry scene, and is respected for the "scrupulous honestly of his bare-bones poetics." And although Newlove lived in BC and Ontario for much of his life, he was always considered a Saskatchewan poet.
A Long Continual Argument: the Selected Poems of John Newlove was published by Chaudiere Books in 2008, five years after Newlove's death. Steve Noyes says that the collection is "probably the best summation of John Newlove’s inimitable poems that we are likely to get."
This hefty book of poems spans Newlove's career: 256 pages contain all the poems Newlove self-selected for a previous edition of selected poems, his later poetry, critically acclaimed works, and many of the cynically lyric poems that established his early reputation as a "black romantic." The poem featured here, "God Bless the Bear," first appeared in Apology for Absence (Porcupine's Quill, 1993), which is no longer in print.
Scroll down to read an excerpt from (and a link to) a talk John Newlove gave in 1988.
The piece below is excerpted from "Love and Other Affairs" by John Newlove, a talk originally delivered to the Saskatchewan Writer's Guild in 1988. This talk was aired on the CBC and later printed in Canadian Notes & Queries.
I was born in Regina and I was brought up in various Saskatchewan towns. My mother was a teacher who seemed to stay only a year in each place. My parents were separated, which, I think, must have been more unusual than it is now―or less openly done―though I don’t think they didn’t love each other. I cannot recall having seen my father, except for two or three instances, one fairly long. I do not feel I had seen my father. There were sudden appearances and disappearances of a stranger who must have been him, I think.
I don’t know if any of this is true. I don’t know how any of this affects what one becomes. I don’t know if we act upon the world or if it acts upon us. I am made exactly like everyone I have ever met.
Everything, even love, begins in curiosity. But I feel a reluctance to indulge in much curiosity about myself, as if learning could kill lore. I prefer my inventions. Sometimes I prefer your inventions.
Still, the question remains, What makes someone write poetry? I use the word 'makes' deliberately. I think that in this case there are two types of people: those who would and those who must. This has nothing to do with talent―it may take as much labour and care and love to write a bad book as to write a good one―although I do believe that intention governs result. That is, I believe, technical ability aside, that the difference between poetry and verse is the deepest intention of the maker, that a piece about trees by Joyce Kilmer is only verse while one by William Butler Yeats is poetry. You see my prejudice, when I say 'only verse'. I am not against verse. I merely dislike frivolity of intention.
And, God knows, I am frivolous.
Edited from the original post, published on the LPG blog
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