25th Trillium Award

The Gutter Series: Between Projects, Poetry Edition with Antony Di Nardo

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Antony Di Nardo

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Open Book is launching a new series — The Gutter Series: Between Books, Poetry Edition. (The gutter, as any good book geek knows, refers to the inner margins of two facing pages — literally, the in-between.)

Writing a book is a lengthy process and even the most prolific authors need time to work. We rarely have a chance to chat with writers who haven't published in the current season, and we're curious about life between launches.

In "Pendulum," our final installment of the series, Antony Di Nardo describes the skeleton clock that marks with a rhythmic tock the arc travelled between one writing project and the next.

Antony Di Nardo's most recent books are Alien, Correspondent (Brick Books, 2010) and Soul on Standby (Exile Editions, 2010).

The Pendulum

by Antony Di Nardo

The writing life, if based on what I know about other writers and what I?ve experienced as a poet — the work of a poet damned or charmed by its circadian rhythms, emotional investments — swings between extremes. It?s marked by periods of great highs, abysmal lows; certainty and doubt; muse or succubus; critical success or personal failure; acceptance and rejection; the public stage versus solitary, internal monologues. Writers vacillate from one to the other, from _______ to ______. I?ll let you fill in the blanks with your own set of dichotomies. You no doubt know what I mean. Each of us would have little difficulty outlining the split of extremes that exists both while we write and when we don?t.

But then we notice there are degrees between those extremities and as the pendulum traces a course in the arc of its sweeping motion new ideas emerge, projects evolve, words fall into place. That?s where the poems get written for the next book — and for me, especially, they get written whenever I?m in the middle of something. Reading Ashbery or Babcock, sitting in airport terminals, up in the air, on a downtown trek, looking in or out of a window.

Years ago I bought a skeleton clock when I was living on the edge of the Black Forest. I keep it in my office behind me where I write/redact. It?s called a skeleton clock because, like the name suggests, it has no body, no outer case to contain its mechanism so that one can observe its gears at work, watch time moving though its sprockets. But this clock no longer tells time — or rather it posts the correct time only twice a day. Five fifty-five, early morning and late afternoon. I could have it repaired, but I won?t. The pendulum works independently of the gears and sprockets and, by pulling on a thin, sturdy chain to raise a lead weight, I can get the pendulum, thanks to the magic of gravity, to swing. For days.

I love the sound it makes — it?s really all I need from my skeleton clock. It rocks back and forth, keeping a perfect iambic rhythm as it ticks and tocks creating, for me, the illusion of keeping time. Of poetry in motion? When the lead weight reaches the floor the pendulum stops, dead centre. All goes silent. Its work is done. So I pull on the chain to bring the weight back up, tap the pendulum off its centre, and it begins to swing all over again. Re-energized, re-animated. Keeping time only as a metronome might, back and forth, a record of moments passing, the irony of forward movement as the momentum relies on what?s gone before. Accurate to a fault, twice a day.

I wish to appropriate the pendulum on that clock as a metaphor applied to my writing life between one book and the next. And you, dear reader, are free to fill in the blanks as to what that might possibly mean.

Antony Di Nardo was born in Montreal and has lived in northwestern Ontario, Toronto, Germany and Beirut. His poetry appears widely in journals across Canada and internationally. Both writer and teacher, he was the editor of a weekly newspaper, contributed book reviews to Books in Canada and writes fiction and non-fiction content for educational texts. He is the author of two collections of poetry, both released in 2010: Alien, Correspondent (Brick Books) and Soul on Standby (Exile Editions). He divides his time between Oshawa, Ontario and Sutton, Quebec. Visit him at his website.

To purchase Alien, Correspondent and for more information, please visit the Brick Books website.

For more information about Soul on Standby, please visit the Exile Editions website.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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