Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Arthur Bull

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Arthur Bull is one of four authors published by Thunder Bay-based Emmerson Street Press. His new book, The Lake Diary is described by the press with copy that is almost a mini-poem in itself: "nature/ longing/ isolation/ calm" — perfect poems for a hot summer day.

Below, Arthur Bull responds the Open Book's Poets in Profile series questionnaire.

Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets by following our series.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Arthur Bull:

That?s hard to pin down. I do remember being sick with a fever in the school infirmary when I was 14, lying there looking out the window in a bored, feverish state of mind, and suddenly wondering if everything was in fact hollow. Maybe the trees were just bark wrapped around empty space, and maybe everything was really just empty like that. Of course, now I can think of all sorts of Buddhist interpretations of this, but then there was no interpretation, just pleasure. Pleasure at the lightness this seemed to bring to my already heavy world.

How does this connect to becoming a poet? I think that got me started thinking about how you would describe all of that, not just how everything?s hollow, but how to say how it is to be someone who sees and feels this. I suppose then I started wondering about how to say the unsayable and describe the indescribable, in other words, how to write a poem.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


?The Drunken Boat? by Rimbaud. I bought the New Editions translation (L. Varese) in Montreal in 1965. Other purchases: ?The Empty Foxhole? by Ornette Coleman, ?Like a Rolling Stone? by Bob Dylan and ?Papa?s Got a Brand New Bag? by James Brown. I think they have all held their own in their own way. Poetry affected me very much as part of other big shifts in awareness. For example another poem that affected me a lot was ?Black Dada Nihilismus? by Leroi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) on a wonderful ESP record by the New York Art Quartet.


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


?Thoughts While Travelling at Night? by Tu Fu.


What do you do when a poem is not working?


I finish it best as I can and send it off to an obscure literary journal in a foreign country. Occasionally this backfires, and the poem gets published, and is solidified in its unfinished form. Almost always, however, it is (happily) rejected, and I get a chance to look at it fresh, six months or a year later.


What was the last book of poetry that really knocked your socks off?


Tender Taxes by Jo Shapcott.


What is the best thing about being a poet?.and what is the worst?


Best thing?
That when you remember you are a poet you have an endless ocean of pleasure in the language that?s all round you. All those beautiful fricatives and alveolars to wrap your mouth around, all those free floating snapshots of metaphors, all that hard driving rhythm — it?s all available at any given moment to you when you remember you are poet.

Worst thing?
Worrying about not writing, when you aren?t.

Arthur Bull is a renowned guitarist and has toured widely playing avant-garde improvised music. The Lake Diary is his second book of poetry. Arthur lives in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia.

For more information or to purchase The Lake Diary please visit the The Emmerson Street Press website.

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