In Caribou Run (Goose Lane Editions), Richard Kelly Kemick’s debut poetry collection, we glimpse the Porcupine caribou herd of the western Arctic through its annual cycle of migration, exploring what we share with this creature and what remains ineffable. Running the gamut in form and theme, the poems range from lyric studies of the caribou and its environment to personal poems that use the caribou as a metaphor.
This year we feel everyone could see a little more solidarity and community, so we’re getting poetically political with Poets Resist, a series dedicated to poetry as a form of resistance. Every day on the blog we will feature a poet whose work explores one of these topics: colonialism and violence, homophobia and transphobia, environmental destruction, and/or the !@#$% patriarchy.In Caribou Run (Goose Lane Editions), Richard Kelly Kemick’s debut poetry collection, we glimpse the Porcupine caribou herd of the western Arctic through its annual cycle of migration, exploring what we share with this creature and what remains ineffable. Running the gamut in form and theme, the poems range from lyric studies of the caribou and its environment to personal poems that use the caribou as a metaphor.
ALU: What are some books that inspired or informed Caribou Run?RKK: Don McKay’s Strike/Skip; Sue Sinclair’s Breaker; Anne Simpson’s Light Falls Through You; and (Christ, forgive me) Wordsworth’s Selected. Oh, and anything by Rilke (pretentious, I know). Of course, Karen Solie’s Pigeon, as well.ALU: If you were protesting the environmental destruction, what would your protest sign read?RKK: For sale: landscape, heavily worn. ALU: Why did you write this collection? RKK: Much of nature writing treats the animals as a simple metaphor for humans. We see ourselves in the societal structure of sperm whales, the intelligent eyes of owls, the clichéd freedom of wild horses. In writing Caribou Run, I wanted to try and present an animal in a way that wasn’t dependent on humans to ascribe it meaning. I wanted to argue that animals allow us to understand ourselves, not the other way around. Some poems are more successful than others. ALU: What does poetry as resistance mean to you? RKK: I’m not entirely sure that poetry is resistance. Don’t get me wrong, poetry may certainly have a political slant to it (the best poetry often does); however, a good poem is too open-ended to have a singular political argument. Whitman, for example, is incredibly political (“I hear America singing”), but he is so in a way that allows his reader to interpret his politics. For a poem to be a resistance poem, it needs to have a singular message, a message that is impossible to be construed in any other manner. I don’t think this singularity makes for good poetry; I think it makes for a partisan statement that uses poetic form to convey itself. If a poem can be boiled down to a statement such as, “The poet believes—ism is bad,” then the poet should have simply stated that and saved us the fourteen lines of trotting pentameter. The most fascinating political poems I’ve read can be used to support both sides of an argument; this duality makes for sloppy resistance. * * *
Richard Kelly Kemick’s poetry, prose, and criticism have been published in magazines and journals across Canada and the United States, including the Fiddlehead, the New Quarterly, and Tin House (Open Bar). He has won the poetry prizes of both Grain magazine and Echolocation. He lives in Calgary.Photo: Michelle Fleming* * *Buy Caribou Run or any of our other featured poetry month collections and get a Poets Resist pack of a patch and buttons to wear to your next protest. And if you need some more resistance poetry inspiration, check out our poetry bot!Keep up with us all month on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #poetsresist.