21st century poets

What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation, a collection of conversations between well-established and budding poets, focuses on the role of poetry and poets in the 21st century.

It serves as a follow up to 2002’s interview collection Where the Words Come From. The book launch will be hosted by author Rob Taylor at Vancouver Public Library Central Branch on Nov. 18.

With authors such as Raoul Fernandes, the book shows its readers not only that the poets are doing things, but also that they’re doing it in style. Fernandes was excited to participate when Rob Taylor, a good friend, fellow poet and editor, asked him to contribute to the book. A fan of the original, he was keen on being a part of the sequel. For his contribution, Fernandes conversed with well-known Canadian poet Tim Bowling. A little intimidated, having never crossed paths with Bowling in the poetry world, he was pleasantly surprised how easily the conversation flowed. Writing back and forth in a Google document may have led to a less candid conversation, but it also allowed the two poets to think more about their responses and be completely transparent with one another.

“He made me feel very at ease once we started, and even generously suggested that we can talk more about my work than his,” says Fernandes reflecting on his experience.

From one poet to another

Raoul Fernandes | Photo by Jordan Crick

Fernandes loved the opportunity he got to compare his path to another poet’s. Bowling has devoted much of his life to his writing and now he teaches while working on his own projects. Fernandes, on the other hand, aims to achieve balance between his personal life and creative work. He tries to squeeze in time for writing between school, work and being a father to two young boys.

“[I’m] trying to keep the instrument tuned despite the perpetual fog from lack of sleep. I still feel the urge to write, and miss it, which is reassuring,” he says.

The two poets also conversed on the dangers of false poetic voice on the page – staying true to one’s personality and working on being honest within one’s work. Fernandes appreciates Bowling’s ability. He says that even in his earlier work, Bowling had such a strong, grounded voice. He hopes to do the same within his own work by asking the tough questions: Is this how I really feel? Am I including this because it’s clever or because it’s honest? Fernandes wants to ensure the authenticity of his work.

“There’s a kind of performing that’s inescapable in creative writing – you want to show some parts of yourself and hide others,” he says.

The future of poetry

Cover of What the Poets are Doing | Photo curtesy of publisher

Fernandes hopes the book falls into the hands of young poets who are just starting out. He believes there are bits of wisdom they can glean from the conversations. And perhaps the most important thing they’ll understand is that there is a whole community of fellow poets and readers out there who are willing to support them. Hopefully, they can avoid the feeling of isolation that creative individuals often feel.

“I think it can be a wonderful thing to overhear people who care deeply about what they do, and talk about what it means to them,” Fernandes says.

Twenty years from now, if Fernandes is asked to participate in a similar project as the “experienced poet” he looks forward to a younger generation emerging within the community who are writing exciting poems and putting books together.

“I’d remind them to have fun doing it, keep exploring and being curious, and not pay too much attention to awards and things like that. The gifts are in the writing and reading,” he says.

As for future works, “I don’t think in terms of projects, but when the time clears up a bit I’ll probably just sit down at a table, with a notebook and coffee and see where my imagination goes… as I’ve always done,” Fernandes says.

For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/events/250080689187623.

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