25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: David Hickey

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

In Open Air Bindery (Biblioasis), David Hickey builds on the success of his first collection with poems that have been described as playful, humorous and profound.

He talks with Open Book about his new book and the poet's life.

Open Book:

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

David Hickey:

Not sure that I can. More like a slow, inevitable drift. But I do come from a family of readers, so having that kind of environment early on made the decision to write later in life feel like a very normal thing to do. That?s still the trick, I think. To keep company with people who think that writing poetry is a sensible way to spend your time.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


"I Am Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor," by Shel Silverstein. It was the first poem I memorized. I recited it in elementary school and my teacher recorded it on her tape deck for my parents. Come to think of it, that probably answers your first question, too.


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


I?ll go with Robbie Burns?s "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough." John Smith included it a few years back in a public lecture he gave (This Hour Has 1338 Years: A Quick Journey Through Thirteen Centuries of English Poetry) as a part of his poet laureateship on Prince Edward Island. His reading does justice to the remarkable range of moods present in the poem, not to mention its depth and profundity. Actually, Smith?s lecture as a whole provides one of the best introductions to the richness of the English tradition I?ve yet to encounter. I can?t recommend it enough.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


It?s a toss up between an item description on eBay and a pamphlet on erectile dysfunction I found at the Superstore. Given the world we live in, we shouldn?t have to look very far.


What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?


Truth? There are days when I?d empty my bank account for an answer. And while my nickels don?t add up to much, I do have spells when I?d gladly fill a fountain if it meant the right words would arrive.

That said, while I was trying to complete the revisions on Open Air Bindery, I went out and bought Tammy Armstrong?s most recent collection, The Scare in the Crow. Later that evening I managed to fix a poem that had been puzzling me for months. So basically I recommend that everyone go out and buy a new collection of poems, and then steal their favourite lines. If we all agree to do this quietly, I?m pretty sure no one will know.


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


Other than Armstrong?s book, Gabe Foreman?s A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People is well worth the price of new socks. It?s a very funny collection, but also quite poignant in places as well. Nick Thran?s Earworm was a welcome find in an Ottawa bookstore — his poems are edifying and optimistic in a way that?s difficult to describe. But the one book on my shelf that I keep coming back to is David O?Meara?s Noble Gas, Penny Black. It?s one of those collections you lend to people time and again, in hopes they recognize and appreciate what you see there.


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


Never mind the drawbacks. There really is nothing like reading one of your own poems in public and feeling as though you?ve been heard. Just having the chance to say something that might resonate with others. Makes the work in-between worth the while.

David Hickeygrew up on Prince Edward Island, in western Labrador and along the north shore of Quebec. A past recipient of the Milton Acorn Prize and the Ralph Gustafson Prize, his work has appeared in magazines and journals across Canada and the United States. His first book of poetry, In the Lights of a Midnight Plow, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award in 2006. David is an avid runner and back yard astronomer, and he lives in London, ON.

For more information about Open Air Bindery please visit the Biblioasis website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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