when you have a question about poetry ask a poet

Or at least read what they say.

Who is David McFadden? A Canadian poet who I had never heard of until today...what's the opposite of an oxymoron...internet research, and...


Thanks to Monkey Farm his deets were sent my way.

She's in the midst of a poetry course right now so undoubtedly has all sorts of goodies she can share, but started me off with some great news, just the sort of thing I want to hear...

"Also we had a guest lecture in class last night and there was a brief discussion of clarity in poetry. He told us that there are levels of obscurity in poetry, and that the more you study it the more you can get out it. But he also said that the best poetry - the stuff that will stand the test of time - will have surface clarity, and then underneath that layer upon layer of complexity."

She then mentioned Mr. McFadden and was kind enough to send me a link to his book, recommending Margaret Hollingsworth's Typewriter as an excellent place to start.

I was eating scrambled eggs in the Shamrock Restaurant
and the eggs tasted like Chinese food
so I said to the waitress I'm a person
who likes Chinese food but doesn't like
my eggs in the morning to taste like chicken fried rice
and she laughed and said it must have been
the green onions and suggested the next time
I come into the Shamrock for breakfast
I specify that I want Canadian green onions
with my scrambled eggs or I'll get Chinese again

and I said there won't be another time,
this is it, I'm a widely respected blah blah and blah
and well-regarded in the community too
and shouldn't have to subject myself
to such bad food. I'm finished, I said.
This used to be my favourite Irish-Chinese restaurant
in the entire West Kootenay
but this is it, I'm never coming back --
and through the kitchen door I could see
the Chinese chef covering his ears with his hands.

And so I went to pay my bill
and this is the really embarrassing part,
this is why I'm writing this poem
by hand, pencil on paper, because Margaret Hollingsworth's
typewrite has a three-prong plug
and all the outlets in the house are two-prongers
and her adapter is up at the college
and I begged her to let me cut the third prong off
so I could use her typewriter
because I had a simply overwhelming
desire to write this poem, and she refused
and I told...oh, never mind all that.

This is the embarrassing part. After complaining
so vociferously about the eggs I went to pay my bill
and discovered I had no money with me
so I had to go home and get my wallet
and bring it back to the restaurant
making myself a liar for having said
this is it, I'm never coming back.
The waitress was very nice about it all.

Is it hard to write poetry?
Yes, I would say it is. For instance
in this poem I didn't know whether to start
by talking about the scrambled eggs
or the Smith Corona. And I didn't have
a lot of time to think about it
because I simply had to start the poem,
it was that urgent,
and then you have to torture yourself
wondering if it's all right to write about
writing in a poem and you keep resolving
never again to write about writing
and you always break your resolve.
It's as if writing has a will of its own
and wants to be written about
just like Margaret Hollingsworth's

Great stuff, so clear and seemingly simple. And the book was nominated for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.

It's great when you find out you aren't alone. Others are pondering poetry's absurdities as well, and And AND, the introduction to McFadden's book compares him to Frank O'Hara (see the below post if you've already forgotten) in the first line! Oh universe, you are a tricky monkey.

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