Quoted: Randall Maggs’ Night Work

It’s the 10th anniversary of the release of poet Randall Maggs’ Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems (Brick Books). Hockey and non-hockey, poetry and non-poetry fans have fallen for this collection about storied Leafs goalie Terry Sawchuk for the past decade, and we talked to Randall about his own “team effort” that went into the book, the influences of poets, songwriters, filmmakers, and Mr. Robert Frost.


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STORIES: As Stan Dragland suggests, in likening Night Work to a novel and connecting this to its reception, I do think in terms of stories. I see them as an important element in writing and living. Not the only one, but an important one. That’s why, I suppose, I want to be understood and why my language is like it is. I don’t set out to make it that way—that’s just the way it comes out. My father was a story-teller. I’m sure writing my doctoral thesis on E. J. Pratt contributes here as well. It was Pratt’s narrative poems I preferred to his more lyrical works. After Night Work came out, always conscious of what others (respected others as well) would describe as the prosy quality of my work, I decided to take a more serious stab at writing some short stories. I wrote about four, trying to stop each from becoming a novel and an endless logistical nightmare. (I have such admiration for novelists!) I was also unhappy with the rhythm (in a general sense) of the process. I preferred the way I was able to approach my subject in Night Work. I did a lot of research, and wrote a bunch of poems based on that research, with only a vague sense of where it was all going. But it began to take its shape as I went along. I feel it happening again with my present work. That’s just the way I’m comfortable working. It fits into my life which is not singularly devoted to writing as you both know.
The epigraph beginning Randall Maggs’ Night Work.One of the things that happened in the wake of the book coming out is how I got hooked up with other kinds of writers and singers and song-writers. I love the feeling that we’re getting the story out together. The people who told me stories about Sawchuk—players and fans as well—are part of the larger process. Their stories become mine in this book and then get passed on to my daughters who will make them theirs in the film they’re in the process of developing. I loved the fact that Ron Hynes wrote a 51 verse song based on the book and I loved performing on the stage with him, reading a couple of poems between the verses of his song. I did something similar with John K. Samson as well. I loved the fact that John wrote his wonderful toast to Gump Worsley after he read Night Work. I’m doing a similar thing with Casey Laforet, my son-in-law who is part of Elliot Brood in Toronto and Parry Sound [March 1 and 2] at the March Hare this year. I love the opportunity for cross-fertilization that the March Hare and the Woody Point Writers Festival offer, the kind of festival that brings writers and song-writers together. I like the cross-fertilization I’ve felt in my connections with Stephen Brunt, a sports journalist and author of several strong books on sporting figures. His anthology of sports-writing in Canada placed the work of journalists and more literary writers side by side and offered a really useful look at language and the way the included writers differed from one another, really an important work I thought. In live readings, Steve and I have taken this process one step further, reading back and forth from our works. That’s not only a lot of fun, it feels like we’re getting the story out in a more complete and more satisfying way.This is probably why I like epigraphs as well. Community.Hear Randall read from Night Work on Brick Books’ YouTube poetry podcast below. * * *Thanks so much to Randall for sharing the story behind the epigraph that leads Night Work, now celebrating its 10th Anniversary. Thanks also to Kitty Lewis at Brick Books for making the connection for this piece. Read some poems from the collection over at Open Book, here.