Host Karis Shearer, guest curator Megan Butchart, and poet Daphne Marlatt have a conversation about Daphne Marlatt's 1969 archival recording of leaf leaf/s and her experience of performing poetry with the archive in 2019. This episode was co-produced by Karis Shearer and Nour Sallam.
Host Karis Shearer, guest curator Megan Butchart, and poet Daphne Marlatt have a conversation about Daphne Marlatt's 1969 archival recording of leaf leaf/s and her experience of performing poetry with the archive in 2019. This episode was co-produced by Karis Shearer and Nour Sallam.
Visit our website at soundbox.ok.ubc.ca. See what our UBCO SpokenWeb team is up to by following us on Instagram at @amplab_ubco and be sure to check out the larger SpokenWeb network at @spokenweb.
For the shout-outs mentioned at the end of this episode, please visit the links below:
John Lent's A Matins Flywheel:
David R. Loy's Nonduality in Buddhism and Beyond:
Daphne Marlatt's Ana Historic:
Inspired Word Cafe:
[00:00:00] [Theme music].
[00:00:31] Karis Shearer: This is SoundBox Signals, a podcast that brings archival recordings to life through a combination of curated close listening and conversation. Together we'll consider how these literary recordings signify in the contemporary moment and ask what listening allows us to know about cultural history. Full-length versions of these recordings are available online in our SpokenWeb archive at soundbox.ok.ubc.ca.
[00:00:59] [tape click, theme music fades].
[00:01:00] KS: Have you ever listened to a recording of yourself when you were younger and noticed how your voice has changed? On September 13th, 2019, Megan Butchart and I got together with Canadian poet Daphne Marlatt and talked with her about the experience of doing just that. In our SoundBox collection, we have a recording of Daphne from 1969 when she was just 26 years old talking with Warren Tallman about her second book leaf leaf/s. Yes, she had published two books by the time she was 26. Our conversation took place the day after contemporary Daphne had given a reading here in Kelowna with her younger self, or her archival recorded voice, as part of our “Performing the Archive” series. The event was co-hosted by Megan Butchart, Erin Scott, and Cole Mash, and took place at Milkcrate Records. It was sponsored by Tuum Est, SpokenWeb, City of Kelowna, and the Inspired Word Cafe. In this podcast episode, you'll hear our conversation with Daphne Marlatt. But first, let's rewind to July 1969 and hear Daphne read from leaf leaf/s.
[00:02:04] [tape click]
[00:02:05] Daphne Marlatt: [recorded voice reads from "4 Parts of Morning For 714."]
[00:03:17] [tape click]
[00:03:18] KS: You just heard "4 Parts of Morning For 714." Now we'll fast forward to our contemporary conversation. In the first half of it, you'll hear us ask Daphne about her experience listening to and voicing poems at public readings.
[00:03:32] (music overlaps)
[00:03:32] KS: In the second half of our conversation, we will talk about the archival recording itself and the experience of performing poetry with it.
[00:03:41] KS: My name is Karis Shearer.
[00:03:43] DM: My name is Daphne Marlatt
[00:03:45] Megan Butchart: And my name is Megan Butchart
[00:03:47] KS: And we are here podcasting, or preparing material for a podcast. So we have nine questions in kind of three different areas. But we also have a lot of flexibility around adding more or, I encourage Daphne to also, like, flip the questions back on us as well. So it becomes kind of more of a conversation, if we would like to do that. So, there really is no firm structure, that's for sure. The first questions though, have to do with poetry readings because you know, we are very interested in the poetry reading. And Megan, you have the first question. So do you want to?
[00:04:24] MB: Yeah. All right, so Daphne, can you recall the first time that you ever heard a poem read out loud?
[00:04:31] DM: I actually, I'm trying to remember, whether... well, the first poem that I ever saw that would have been a wonderful one to read out loud was on the wall of my grade 12 classroom at Delbrook High School in North Van and my English teacher had put up one of Allen Ginsberg's poems, which was the first time I ever heard about Allen Ginsberg. I mean, we'd been reading much much further back. I don't think we'd even got, we must have got to Dylan Thomas, but nothing like Ginsburg, and I can't remember if Mr. Patterson, that was his name, actually read it aloud to us or not. It's the kind of thing he could have done.
[00:05:24] KS: So building on that, can you tell us about the first poetry reading you ever attended, and what kind of impact it had on you?
[00:05:35] DM: The first poetry reading was probably at UBC. And Prism held poetry readings, it seems to me, and there was another student magazine that did too, Raven. The first one that I actually remember, because I was very nervous about it, was one that I had been asked to read in. And I suspect it was a Raven poetry reading. It wasn't raven as in “R-A-V-I-N',” it was raven as in the blackbird, the trickster. And I said I'm too nervous to read. I don't think I can read my poem. and I can't remember whether it was Frank or someone else who said, you know from the Tish group, who said "I'll read it for you." I have a feeling it might have been Frank. Anyway, he read it and I squirmed in my seat because he didn't read it the way I thought it should be read and from then on I vowed I would always read my own poems out loud to an audience.
[00:06:56] MB: And so, how do you prepare to deliver for a poetry reading, then?
[00:07:00] DM: Ah! That's a very good question.
[00:07:10] DM: It's really interesting because it has become more flexible as I age. I still start the same way, I look at the book and I look at what I feel like reading that day, and I look at maybe different kinds of line that I might do from poem to poem. Sometimes it turns out there is a kind of image motif that's running through several poems. I think, well, maybe I'll do that. Sometimes I look at a poem and I think, I don't want to read this poem aloud. When I was younger, I would take the book and I would look at the book and I would say, "I don't feel like reading any of these.” [Marlatt laughs]. And that was pure nervousness before a reading, but now I will sometimes get up and I think, no I want to read this other poem instead. I mean I prepare, I have a list of what I'm going to read. I even time it because everybody is so concerned about timing and if there are other readers, I don't want to go over my allotted time. But sometimes like last night, last night's reading, you know, I wasn't going to read the "Beo" poem at all and I just thought, no, I really I think after hearing Kurt read his Caetani poem, which used a lot of the language origins of the Caetani family, I thought, yeah, I want to read “Beo,” because that brings up a little of it, and it certainly talks about the relationship that Sveva had with her mother. So, that felt more appropriate, I guess.
[00:09:14] KS: I was struck by that too, last night, how, you know, responsive you were to the audience and to the kind of moment and things that were going on. How you were kind of re-crafting the reading in the moment.
[00:09:24] DM : Right, Right. Yeah, now that I'm the ripe old age that I am [Marlatt laughs] I feel more comfortable in front of an audience, so it gives me more freedom to do that.
[00:09:38] KS: Can I connect that back to what you said about hearing Frank read your work and then deciding, you know, that as an impulse to want to read your own work. Can you kind of draw us a line from that to kind of feeling much more comfortable and responsive and being flexible in that moment? Were there kind of key pieces along the way in readings?
[00:10:01] DM: No. No, I can't. I don't think I can know how to respond to that. It's more a sense of having grown into your own voice and you have a sense of what your own voice is. and it's interesting to me that even then I was beginning to have a sense of my own voice and it was not the voice that was reading the poem.
[00:10:21] KS: Nice. Yeah. Thank you.
[00:10:23] MB: Daphne, Can you share some of your thoughts on the significance of the live poetry reading during the period of the 1960s?
[00:10:30] DM: Yeah, the live poetry reading was very important. It was a social glue, in a sense, that held all of us writers together. It was an occasion for being serious and being hilarious at the same time. No doubt there was room for a lot of grandstanding. But because, you know, the group of writers that I knew met regularly, once a month, anyway, and sometimes more if we met at Warren's house, to read to each other or to discuss. For instance, we had one evening where we had a long discussion of Olson's essay on projective verse trying to figure out what he was saying and how that applied to any of us. So there was a lot of push and pull, give-and-take, and I think the importance of those live readings was that it brought the language back into the body. The body was very present in the voicing, each person's characteristic voicing of line, voicing of sound patterns, and so on. And I think that it clued us into that very quickly.
[00:12:07] KS: And you were doing that as students, right? I mean I'm talking about a time when you were undergrads at UBC.
[00:12:12] DM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, some of them were, I mean, several of them were older than me and they left in 63 right after the 63 conference and went on to graduate school. Whereas, I still had another year anyway as an undergraduate, yeah. Yeah, and I can't figure out, I mean, some of them were doing student teaching too, I think so, I don't know if they stayed an extra year or the Honors program required an extra year. I have no idea. I just don't remember all of that.
[00:12:48] KS: And were you also that student group that's kind of like the Writers Workshop group?
[00:12:53] DM: And the Tisch group. Yeah.
[00:12:54] KS: Were you also going to, like, see other visiting writers give...
[00:12:59] DM: Oh, definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I remember Leonard Cohen coming to give a reading. Yes, a poetry reading from what was it, Spice Box of the Earth, his first book, and that was remarkable because, he started out, it was in a classroom in the Buchanan Building and he started out to read and he suddenly stopped in the middle of a line! and we all thought, what? what's going on? And he said something like "no, that's not right" and he started again. And I was very impressed by that, like he was being so true to his sense of the line and he wanted it to come across the way he wanted it to come across, and that was a moment of freedom. Freeing for me because I realized the importance of that. And then I heard Irving Layton read. I can't remember maybe that was in the old Auditorium. Was odd. There was kind of a stage set up but it was lower than a proper theater stage. So I don't know where it was, which room, but there he was. He had two young women posed on this little stage on each side of him. [Marlatt laughs] Layton. And okay. Well, that's okay. That's Layton, that's Irving Layton. It was a very different reading from Leonard Cohen's. And then, of course, we had these Arts festivals that began and they were starting to do that and they brought in incredible people like... all these names are going to escape me. At 77, memory begins to go. There's a New York poet, I cannot remember his name, and he did these very, to us, astonishing readings, which were not readings, they were performances. And he assigned lines to a number of us to say as we walked around the auditorium. But that really stuck in my mind because it was the beginning of the language approach that the Language School of Writers in the U.S. and was a beginning of that, I think. Very different from the aesthetic that we had developed and grown up with through the San Francisco Poets coming up, especially Robert Duncan, but Jack Spicer too, and of course Robin Blaser. So it was a bit of an eye-opener to me that you could do that kind of thing with language. and it was like doing in language what John Cage was doing in music.
[00:16:00] KS: Cool.
[00:16:01] DM: Yeah.
[00:16:03] KS: Who was organizing that festival? Is that Warren?
[00:16:04] DM: [overlaps] There wasn't. No, there was a group. There was a group of faculty people from, I think, theater people as well as music people and people from English. Literary people. It was great. It was wonderful. It brought the outside world to us in performance and it was very exciting.
[00:16:30] KS: Sounds exciting.
[00:16:30] DM: Yeah.
[00:16:31] KS: Were you there for the Jack Spicer reading in 65?
[00:16:35] DM: No, I was not there. I was in Bloomington, Indiana.
[00:16:41] KS: Yeah, that sounds like an incredible, I mean, just I always kind of think about myself, you know, being back at, you know, wanting to be back and that kind of moment of just kind of heady readings, you know.
[00:16:51] DM: Oh yeah, well Robert Duncan, of course, was the big one for me and for a number of us. Because he himself was so dramatic. I can see him walking between the catalpa trees, striding between them in his black cape on the way to giving a reading in the Buchanan building. [Marlatt laughs]. I learned a lot from Robert Duncan, a lot about language and the music of language and how language carries breath and spirit.
[00:17:27] KS: Can I ask you, following on that, you know, you would've read the Black Mountain Poets before they arrived in 63, I mean, I guess they read at different times, some of them, at UBC.
[00:17:36] DM: Yeah, yeah.
[00:17:38] KS: But prior to meeting them in person, had you formed ideas kind of about them that maybe were changed by meeting them in person?
[00:17:48] DM: Yeah, I had no idea that Denise Levertov for instance was such a dynamic reader. That was a wonderful event. And she was so open to young women poets. I mean I had a coffee with her and chat about my imminent marriage and whether I could continue writing, and she was great. She was very supportive. Robert Duncan we knew because he'd come up several times before 63. Olson was a revelation, because he was such a large man and his work was so large in its scope and yet he was very open to talking to us. You know, like one of the things he said to me in Warren and Ellen's kitchen, was when I told him, you know, he asked me where I'd grown up. And so I told him I spent my childhood in Penang and grew up North Van. And he said, you should write about Penang. And I'm only just doing this now in my late 70s. [Marlatt laughs]. But some things kind of stay with you, you know. You get gifts like that. And Creeley. We knew Creely, and he had taught a wonderful Creative Writing course. I think it was the first Creative Writing course that the English Department had given and it was, I mean Edward Bernie was busy trying to get a Creative Writing Department going, but I took that one from Robert and Bob Creeley. Yeah, Bob didn't teach it like a workshop, like we know Creative Writing workshops these days. What he did was he brought in a lot of ideas in the form of reading assignments and discussions of what we had read and how does that relate to what you're writing? It was very opening for me. It was about at the level of the older Tish poets. So I was floundering around a bit, but it set the tone for me. Set the bar really high, intellectually. Yeah.
[00:20:27] KS: Nice. Can I pick up on that and ask, I mean, some of the things that strike me about like your descriptions of, you know, the Creative Writing course or, you know, your experiences in English courses are so different from how courses are run these days, typically. Yeah, you know, so that description and then what you said the other night about Warren teaching an English course, but having students do a lot of reading aloud.
[00:20:52] DM: Yeah, right.
[00:20:53] KS: Can you take us back to that for a second, just the role of reading aloud?
[00:20:58] DM: Right. Right. That was that particular course, we did a lot of Whitman in and it was a poetry reading. It was a course on poetry and it's funny, I can't remember who else we studied. But Whitman was an eye-opener because in a way it was a bit excruciating for the class. He didn't want to talk about the content of the poem, several poems, he just had different students read aloud. He would point to someone say, "okay, you read this one.” Person would read and he'd say, "you read that! and you read that!". And of course, we would hear all these different versions of the same poem and we would all be thinking, "okay, what is the version he's looking for?" But what it did was, it opened us up to hearing the poetry, hearing how the words were moving together, musically, rhythmically, semantically.
[00:22:06] KS: Nice. So, we have another set of questions that have to do with this recording of leaf leaf/s in an interview that you did with Warren Tallman in July 21st, 22nd, 25th, 1969. [laughter] Warren is not really sure what day it was recorded. But I wanted to ask you about that recording in the next couple of questions, and whether you can recall how you came to do that recording, that interview?
[00:22:37] DM: Which month was it?
[00:22:39] July 1969. Some recording of an interview with Warren's Tallman about leaf leaf/s and you've heard a copy of this where you read the full book in two parts, and he asks you a series of questions about it.
[00:22:53] DM: Interesting that date, because I had given birth to my son at the beginning of May. So I was a young mother, my body had gone through a major experience. That was not the experience that I had had when I wrote those poems, so what was interesting to me hearing last night at the reading, there was so much, my voice was so much more present in those poems than I had remembered my voice being, and I think it's because of the giving birth experience. You know, I mean we sat in the living room where he usually recorded and I was very happy that he wanted to record the whole book and then talk about it, but I think we had some slight, we had different approaches to my writing at that point because I had gone somewhere else. I had been in Bloomington and then I had been in the Napa Valley in California and in Bloomington, I belonged to, I joined a small writing group that Clayton Eshleman organized and D. Alexander was part of the deal. D. was a linguist. And we had a very significant conversation, significant for me, in one of the local student pubs. They don't call them "pubs" down there, "bars," in Bloomington, about language. And he pointed out to me that there was, there's an elasticity, and a semantic associativeness and flexibility that I was not paying attention to because I wasn't thinking of language just as a medium, as language. I was thinking of language referring to objects and actions in the world. And he said, I mean, this is Saussure, right? It's basic Saussure. "No, you should read Saussure, for one thing, but language is a medium unto itself and it has all these currents in it that you could be hearing." And that was a big eye-opener for me. So leaf leaf/s was very much written out of learning that and trying to put that into practice. I find it a rather abstract book now, but it taught me a lot about writing because it taught me a lot about language.
[00:25:45] MB: And so what does this recording mean to you now to listen back to it?
[00:25:49] DM: Well, as I said, I was surprised that my voice was so present in it, in the language. I was happy to hear that. I was still, I mean reading it in Warren’s living room was very familiar territory for me. So it wasn't like reading it aloud to an audience, which I still then found very nerve-wracking. But reading it to Warren, I can't remember if other people were present or not, I know when he had me read frames of a brain, frames of a book, of a story.... Yeah, see, I can't even remember the title of my first book! [Marlatt laughs]. Frames of a Story. He had me read that in his living room to a group of people when it first came out. I think it was, it might have been a fireplace. There might have been a fire burning in the fireplace. I felt very much at home there, and a lot of my friends were there in the living room and it was a big experience for me to read the whole, the whole of that book! "Warren, are you sure? really all of it?" "Yes. Yes. Yes." [Marlatt laughs] So leaf leaf/s was after that. And it seems to me it was more, I don't think there were many other people there, if any other people were there.
[00:27:17] KS: Yeah, I didn't get the sense listening to it that there were others.
[00:27:20] DM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think Warren was trying to figure out what had happened to my language while I was away. I suspect that occasioned that.
[00:27:32] KS: Yeah, that transition from that kind of Black Mountain Poetics. It's Duncan, Creeley, especially. He really wants to emphasize [inaudble], right?
[00:27:41] DM: That's right, well, he's very close to Creeley's work. Yeah.
[00:27:46] KS: Can I take a little detour and ask about this concept of reading the entire book? Because that comes up in the Sir George Williams University recording as well where George Bowering says, you know, back in Vancouver, you know, we would just you know, a reading, you would just read the whole book to your friends. Was that a common thing?
[00:28:04] DM: Not that I remember, no. I think Warren probably, I think, George was probably thinking about Warren, because I don't remember that happening elsewhere, the whole book.
[00:28:17] KS: Okay. Yes. I'm just curious.
[00:28:21] MB: How do you think that changes the reading experience though? To read just single poems versus reading something consecutive?
[00:28:29] DM: Yeah. Well, for me, there's always what you might call a kind of, it's not a narrative in a book of poetry, necessarily, but narrative has always been of interest to me and that's what Frames was. It told the narrative, but there's a sense in a collection of poems some sort of line of a development through the book, and so you would only get that if you read the whole book.
[00:29:05] KS: As a listener, I really love these moments where, you know, we get to attend a reading where someone reads the entire book because it feels like, you know, you've in advance made a commitment to staying for that kind of duration, it's a significant duration.
[00:29:19] DM: That's right. That's right.
[00:29:21] KS: The kind of dedication to that person who's going to read, they're always, they're very, and they also feel like a kind of communal dedication everybody in the room is there for the whole, you know, for the whole thing.
[00:29:31] DM: That's right. Yeah, yeah.
[00:29:32] KS: I long for those occasions, although one cannot have them all the time.
[00:29:37] DM: No, but it was particularly nice to have an occasion like that in Warren’s living room. I should always say Warren and Ellen, because it was both of them. They were both such wonderful supporters of young writers. Really, I mean that whole phenomenon that's become known as the Tish group wouldn't have happened without them.
[00:30:03] KS: Can you talk a little bit about Ellen's role in that?
[00:30:05] DM: [overlaps] Yeah.
[00:30:06] KS: [overlaps] I know it was significant.
[00:30:07] DM: Yeah. Ellen was very significant because not only did she help organize that 1963 conference, but she had the contacts because of growing up in Berkley and going to, I mean growing up in San Francisco and going to Berkeley. She had the contacts with Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, and Robin Blazer, and she brought those with her when they moved to Vancouver. So there was a clear line, a clear artery, if you like, for infusion. I knew Ellen not as a teacher. She became a teacher. She taught at UBC later. But when I knew her she was more, the one that everyone could talk to about their personal lives, their problems. She was remarkable. I've never known anyone who could cook a whole meal in the kitchen while talking to somebody about their deep emotional angst. She was a phenomenon in herself and I was really glad when she started writing in her later life about her experiences meeting all those people. And I wished, I mean, she had a very busy career as a therapist, and she was very, very supportive to a number of people in the AIDS community who it would have been very different for them without Ellen, and she didn't have much room left in her life for writing. But the pieces that she did write were so good, and I kept encouraging her to try and find more time to write, but it was difficult. And she had her, you know, health problems as she aged to deal with. So, yeah.
[00:32:03] KS: I think I've heard very much, as you say, that social, as someone who had the kind of social connections, you know, to invite those writers up, but also who received them when they did come. And he talks on one of the recordings about actually, you know, choosing Robert Duncan's poems and choosing the entire lineup for him and kind of orchestrating behind the scenes.
[00:32:28] DM: Yep. Yep. Yeah. She was she was intelligent. And I think a lot of people might not have known that in the early days. She's very intelligent. And also intuitive about people.
[00:32:42] KS: Yeah. We need to talk more about that kind of work. Work behind the readings it's so important.
[00:32:49] DM: It is, and Glady fulfilled that role too.
[00:32:55] KS: Yeah.
[00:32:54] DM: Yeah Gladys Hindmarch, Maria.
[00:32:57] KS: Yeah, very much. So I want to turn to, if you don't mind, talking about last night's reading, because it was a pretty marvelous, marvelous event in so many ways and I can't stop thinking about it. Last night, you read with your former self, as we and sort of build it.
[00:33:19] DM: [Marlatt laughs]. That's right.
[00:33:20] KS: With your 26-year-old voice, from the archive as part of our "Performing the Archive" series. I know you've only had a short time to maybe think and reflect on that, but what was it like to collaborate with yourself?
[00:33:34] DM: Well, first of all, I was very very glad that Craig would key me in, because I didn't want to read the poems as I heard them. I didn't want to read them on the page. I wanted to hear them. And so I couldn't always remember when a poem would end. And so I was always looking at him to clue me in to when to start reading in my current voice from that book. And we, you know, we did this sandwiching thing, past and present, past and present, past and. So, it was interesting because it felt, well, it felt peculiar, in one sense, to hear my voice played back to me. And it wasn't my voice as it is now. Bridget commented afterward that she noticed that there was still more English pronunciations, English-English pronunciations in it, which probably in the tone more than anything, I would think. And that voice was very clear about what it wanted, how it wanted the line to sound and exactly where the brakes went. It was a musical score, basically. The poems were kind of a musical score, and that voice was very keen on paying attention to that. And then when I read in my present voice, there was more focus on maybe image, and on the movement of a poem as a whole. Yeah, I don't know what other people heard.
[00:35:24] KS: Well, actually, I'm going to turn to Megan and ask her. What did you hear in that kind of movement from the archival voice to the contemporary voice?
[00:35:35] MB: Well, it was interesting to me because you have two different contexts in which you're reading. So the1969 voice is just you and Warren in the living room, which you would think would be the more intimate setting, whereas last night's reading was in front of a crowd of I don't even know how many.
[00:35:51] KS: 70 people.
[00:35:51] MB: 70 people.
[00:35:52] DM: 70, huh?
[00:35:53] MB: And in that case, you know, it seems like you would naturally want to perform more. And I actually found that the 1969 voice was more performative, in a sort of deliberate sense. Whereas, your reading last night was, like, I got musicality of the words together more.
[00:36:12] DM: Oh, wonderful.
[00:36:12] MB: I felt it was a softer reading, and I feel like everyone was so intent and so attentive, you know, to your reading that there was sort of this silence around your speaking almost, it was incredible.
[00:36:25] DM: It was a wonderful, well, it was a wonderful audience. And you know, we'd heard such diverse voices before I got up to read and that audience was open to every one of us. That was the astonishing thing.
[00:36:40] MB: Yeah.
[00:36:41] KS: Yeah. Erin Scott and Cole Mash have really crafted, I mean, that's, you know, been a reading series over the past more than two years and every time I've been to it the audience is so generous and so warm.
[00:36:55] DM: Well Cole really sets that up. He's so spontaneous and himself. And no posing at all on stage.
[00:37:05] KS: Listening to him afterwards, one of the things I love about the way he hosts is he manages to kind of move between the sort of different registers, like that comic register, you know, this sort of open, outrageous comedy, but then very respectful, thoughtful attentiveness and seriousness as well. And he's able to move through those registers back and forth in a way that is very energizing. But also, yeah, just really attentive to the audience.
[00:37:35] DM: And the space was really good for a reading because even though I'm surprised to hear there were 70 people there because it didn't feel like that, I mean, there's all the records at the back and the shirts, t-shirts hanging up in the back and so on, but on the in the front this peculiar platform of a stage with an Asian carpet spread out on it [Marlatt Laughs].
[00:38:01] KS: And a Mickey Mouse table [Shearer Laughs].
[00:38:03] DM: [overlaps] And a Mickey Mouse table, that's right. It's very, well, it reminded me of the 70s actually. So, I felt really at home there. And also the way, it was announced that this was probably the last event there, because people were being evicted, had to move, and Richard, I mean the flowers for Richard, the owner, not owner, but manager of Milkcrate Records, I guess he's the owner of Milkcrate Records, not the owner of the building, and how he got up and spoke so, with such determination about the future of the place and then the diversity of the poets, the three poets before, and then Sari reading. It did feel almost like being in somebody's living room. Yeah.
[00:39:04] MB: Yeah, I mean even there's a couch in the front row.
[00:39:06] DM: That's right.
[00:39:07] MB: Everyone was just [inaudble] hanging around.
[00:39:07] DM: With foots, you know, with hassocks with footstools or yeah.
[00:39:13] KS: One of the things I've been reminded over the last couple of days from the events that we've been doing. Just the kind of diversity of audience for poetry. You know, that really I find very invigorating. You know, we've had at the “curated close listening” event, first-year students and, you know, students who are coming with sometimes very little background in poetry itself or knowledge of a particular poet, and they're coming for a variety of reasons and, you know, contributing amazing things to the conversation. Yeah, and that struck me too with Milkcrate, with the reading last night, we saw a variety of different performers, different styles.
[00:39:54] DM: Right, very much so. Yeah, yeah. And there was a variety in the audience too.
[00:40:01] KS: Yeah, definitely.
[00:40:03] DM: Well, I hope they find a good place.
[00:40:06] KS: Me too.
[00:40:07] DM: And keep it going. Because it is, it does remind me of what the Vancouver poetry scene was like, you know, and there were readings in folk music coffee shops [Marlatt laughs] and readings in bookshops. It wasn't always this staged thing where you sold tickets or whatever.
[00:40:37] KS: Yeah, it reminds me too, I mean Milkcrate Records is, you know, a venue for music and has been so welcoming to poetry. And so Sari's response last night, to your question Megan, about what undergrad course had most influenced her. I mean, you know, our connection sometimes are very much outside of the literary classroom, if you will, or the poetry community proper, and I think that those other connections are often where it finds growth.
[00:41:06] DM: Well, poetry should never be just an academic subject. It was never meant to be that in the beginning. And in one of the things that, I feel, the commercialization of the literary industry in Canada's done is make it much more ambitious, the whole award business for one thing, I mean I've been on one of those juries and it's impossible to choose the best book for the year. It's a matter of people's tastes finally vying and you get some kind of compromise. But poetry comes out of life, it comes out of lived experience and it also reaches for something that I was thinking of this morning, as philosophy in the original sense ‘philos’'sofia', the love of wisdom. It's about how to live, how to be alive in this time with all that we're facing, as a culture as a society, and going through one's individual life journey as well, at the same time.
[00:42:36] KS: Definitely. I mean in that sense it has to reach out beyond the poetry community, proper. Draw from and be responsive to.
[00:42:48] DM: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:42:50] MB: Do you think it could describe a little bit more, sort of, how you're reading style has changed? I mean your voice has changed some, it has become less English, perhaps, but, like, your reading style.
[00:43:02] DM: Well, how did you hear it? How did you hear the difference?
[00:43:06] MB: I mean I heard the difference is being less deliberately performative, which is interesting. And maybe it was sort of the intimacy of having the mic right there instead of perhaps just, you know, a reel-to-reel machine in the room, right? So there might have been a little bit.
[00:43:20] DM: So I didn't have to project as much.
[00:43:23] MB: Perhaps not. Yeah, but I'm not sure. Karis, do you have any thoughts about that?
[00:43:27] KS: Yeah, I mean, I think what I heard in the recording was a voice that was, you know, that was like clipped and deliberate and you know, for a long time, when I think about leaf leaf/s, I think about that recording and that's kind of in my head, the reference point for the sound of it. What struck me when you were reading last night was the way that you kind of opened up some of the vowels and, you know, it kind of lengthened and some of the vowels and it felt much more kind of flowy, and the turns more gentle. Then yeah, that particular .. but I still hear echoes of the style, of course, you know, across across both.
[00:44:08] DM: Oh, that's that's good feedback for me. Yeah, thank you.
[00:44:11] KS: Yeah.
[00:44:12] DM: Yeah, well, you know, I've always had these two diverging interests in writing and one is narrative and one is the lyric. And the narrative also fights against the sense of sequence, that sequence doesn't have to be narrative. And yet I've written narratives, I've written two novels, if not three, and I fought against, in each case, I fought against writing a traditional narrative [Marlatt laughs]. So, there's an interesting conflict that feeds into the writing. And the lyric side of it has to do with my feeling that poetry is not about being declamatory. It's about music. It's what the music in the language, how it informs one, even sometimes unconsciously. Writing feels to me much more like improvisation than trying to get from A to B. So there's a funny kind of uneasy balance in my work between getting from A to B, as in a narrative, and the improvisatory.
[00:45:46] KS: When you were finishing with leaf leaf/s last night and transitioning to some of the other work, you mark that transition with a reference to the longer line, right? The very short lines of leaf leaf/s and the move into this like long the longer line of Steveson, for example. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:46:06] DM: Yeah. Well it was wonderful for me to be able to stretch out into a longer line. And of course I started trying to do that with the Vancouver poems. But even there they would come back to a short line here a short line there and so on, whereas with Steveston the writing was really informed by the flow of the Fraser River that ran underneath everything I wrote about Steveston. I wanted the flow of the river there, and the flow of history, which has a kind of, what's the word I want? It has a kind of fatality to it, that is like the flow of the river out to sea, you can't reverse it. You can't reverse the tide. Not the tide, but the current in the river. It keeps on going out, and it keeps going out into this disappearance, into the oceanic. And I wanted to talk about the fatality of that awful moment in Canadian history when people who are born here as citizens, Japanese-Canadian citizens, were suddenly stripped of their citizenship and sent off, basically imprisoned and in camps in the interior. And how fear it has a kind of fatality in it that grabs people so that they cannot see outside it. I wanted some of that to come through, and so there was this, you could call it a driving force, that was driving the line. But at the same time, it was aware of the music of the line because when a river flows it eddies around the banks and at eddies around whatever it encounters in the current and so there was this waylaying, musically, of that current driving forward. And I was really intrigued with a balance of that or trying to balance that in some way.
[00:48:36] KS: And that's also picked up on the spaciousness of the page as well, yeah, right?
[00:48:39] DM: Yeah. Yeah, which is why I thought the books have those white pages. Yes. I ran into such trouble trying to submit poems from Steveston to anthologies or magazines. I mean sometimes anthologies would ask me for poems, and "please, don't cut the line!"
[00:49:04] KS: And so, to pick up on that as is the page a unit for you in that sense?
[00:49:08] DM: Yeah, the page is a kind of unit. And of course, then, you know, poems will go over the page. And so that's interesting. Where did they go? Over the page. How do they get over the page?
[00:49:21] KS: Yeah, and especially when you're in when the work is anthologized, I mean if you've had control or input in the, you know, the page as a compositional unit in the original publication that gets...
[00:49:33] DM: [Overlaps] Completely undone, yeah.
[00:49:33] KS: [Overlaps] Compromised unintentionally.
[00:49:38] DM: Yeah, has been a cause of great aggravation.
[00:49:44] KS: I want to ask, Daphne, you, and Megan. We'll start with Daphne. Is there anything you're reading right now that you would recommend to the audience, the listeners?
[00:49:54] DM: Yeah, there's a book. I picked up at Mosaic Books here in Kelowna. That I was delighted to see -- it's John Lent's new book. It's called Matten Flywheel and they are remarkable poems because they're written in the aftermath of a near-fatal heart attack and he, I would say those poems, they radiate that kind of ‘philosophia’ that I was talking about as what poetry reaches for. There's a lot of it in there as well as the daily. But it always has to be. The daily always has to be there too. And the other book I'm reading that I'm very interested in is David R. Loy's Nondual Thought. It's a very exciting investigation of how the Buddhist notion of emptiness, which is very present in Chan and Zen Buddhism, and in Mahayana Buddhism, [inaudble], there are connections with earlier Western philosophers, including Heidegger and Kant and he's talking about the non-binary. And I think that is such an important concept. It's one that I was first came in contact with through Rachel Blau Duplessis's work and the work of feminist theorists generally and of course, Loy doesn't talk about that, which he should do, but he doesn't. He's philosophical. And it's a really interesting investigation of that, of those kinds of connections, and he's now applying that to ecology and the environment. So I'm going to be curious to hear what he has to say about that.
[00:52:09] KS: That's great, Thank you very much. Megan, over to you, for final thoughts. What would you recommend?
[00:52:15] MB: I'm in class right now. So I'm reading a lot of books for class. But I've also been re-reading Ana Historic. Kind of in anticipation of this visit. That's a book that's meant a lot to me, because of its topics with archival work in a couple studies and trying to retrieve voices, often marginalized voices from, you know, the periphery that have been silenced. So yeah, just re-reading that and also thinking about the SpokenWeb project, you know, more broadly and the sort of work that it's it's hopefully doing, yeah.
[00:52:52] DM: Great.
[00:52:52] MB: Yeah.
[00:52:53] DM: Wonderful.
[00:52:53] KS: Thank you so much.
[00:52:55] DM: Well, the archival is very interesting. Of course, I've used archives a lot in my work. What was it Olive Senior said in her recent talk? At the Writers Union, their little magazine writing has a kind of synopsis of it, but she said something like "place is never fixed." It's not fixed in time. We affect place, place affects us too. And the archival is interesting because it gives us a sense of what was there before we encounter it. We tend to think what we encounter is all there is, it isn't. And we need to have not only a sense of what was there before we encountered it, but where it's all moving to now, especially with climate change. So there's, I don't know what you'd call the opposite of the archival, but it has to leap forward from the archival, just as indigenous knowledge, and what the elders teach moves from very very far back in what preceded us, now, here, and forward to seven generations, they affect seven generations down the line. That's the kind of view we need in our culture.
[00:54:23] KS: Yeah.
[00:54:24] MB: Yeah.
[00:54:25] DM: Sorry to get a little [inaudible]
[00:54:26] [overlapping voices, laughter]
[00:54:28] KS: But, a kind of a living archive that is not just passed on, but also co-created maybe?
[00:54:35] DM: yeah. Well the understanding of it has to be very much in the present, but it looks back and it looks forward and it should be a guide for action.
[00:54:52] KS: That was episode two of SoundBox Signals. You were listening to a recording by Daphne Marlatt from our archive called the SoundBox Collection. I want to thank Daphne Marlatt for talking with us and for allowing us to share the recording online, and also to the Warren Tallman estate for the same permission. You can find full-length recordings online at soundbox.ok.ubc.ca. I'm your host Karis Shearer and I will see you next time.
[00:55:17] [music fades].