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CBC Question 5: On Winning

February 10, 2007


The Jim Interview

CBC: HOW ARE YOU GOING TO WIN THIS YEAR’S POETRY FACE OFF?

Jim hopes tonight “I” will not win. Jim hopes each poem tonight will speak to all of us, and for all of us, in small some way. Jim will win, if the “poem” from Ottawa goes on to be the poem which wins the National Poetry Face Off. Hopefully tonight we will choose the Ottawa poem all of Canada needs to hear. If Jim’s poem does go on to the finals, and there it does not win, Jim will feel as if he has failed his community a second time. There is no winning for a poet. There is only endless failure, or at worst the public humiliation of being interviewed by Allen Neal with some stupid plastic crown on your head.

(I have a poem I really want to perform to and for my local community. I feel lucky and privileged already; and furthermore, once the 4 minute CBC version is performed and recorded I can get back to rehearsing the 10 minute version and take it to Ottawa open-sets where the best live poetry in the country can be heard several times a week.)

On a technical note: Last time I think my poem was geared towards live performance; an avalanche of fragmented images, rapid reversals of tone, and polar shifts in emotions. It was not a “radio” poem that took into account – this medium’s voice is an intimate shadow. The contradiction of radio is that – its calling is a distant echo in an enclosed personal space. This year’s poem I hope is better suited to radio (and will still work for a live audience). It is simple. It is repetitive. It is direct. It is a song. It is a lonely human voice trying to touch a trapped human ear. It is an aging man’s lament for the lost stories of his grandmothers. It is a prayer for the logger’s rescuing peeve hook, as my cancerous mother one more time rides the raging spring waters on a sinking raft towards the tumbling falls. It is a hymn to the human. It is a sermon of nature railing against technological chains. It is a moment of silence as I ask this poem to perform me.

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CBC Question 4: On Slam Poetry

February 10, 2007


The Jim Interview

CBC: WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT SLAM POETRY?

Slam poetry at its worst is a false American Idle which fools some Canadian poets into thinking they can be the “best” poet. Face-Off Poetry is the poetry where we take our faces off and we skate for the team. Tonight five poets have laced up and have donned the lyric jersey of the team of truth in the never ending contest against the league of liars. May we speak with Canadian prophecy against those who speak for profit. However: there is nothing wrong with entertainment and that is why as soon as the poetry puck leaves the refs hands my gloves are dropping down to the ice and I’m coming out with bare knuckled words. And I hope my team mates will do the same. And sure, when the game is over, pick a star or two, let the clownish commentators cast their comments on the rock-em-sock-em poetry, but eh, all that really matters:

Is it the team of truth that will win for Canada tonight.

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CBC Question 3: On Favorite Poet

February 10, 2007


The Jim Interview

CBC: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE POET AND WHY?

A wolf pack’s moonlight serenade is the song of the mountain top. The collective of poets living in and around Ottawa are my favourite poet. The sermon, the prayer, the hymn, are all part of a congregation’s celebration. A lone cry in the night has no answer. Community is the Canadian Howl. Ottawa is our poem and you are the poet. A Valley, a Peace Tower, a Canadian Shield, we stand en-guarde; our sword is the pen and song that points the way.

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CBC Question 2: On What Canada Means

February 10, 2007


For the Start of the The Jim Interview

WHAT DOES MADE IN CANADA MEAN TO YOU? (HOW DID YOU APPROACH WRITING A POEM ABOUT THIS THEME?)

The people of Canada are the treads which weaves together the various landscapes of a land that stretches from sea to sea to sea.

We stand with our backs to the south, not so much in an individual defiance of external influence, but more in celebration of collective creativity. We are a people of changing seasons, the dramatic shifts of nature, light and dark days, hot weeks and cold months, reflects in our psyche. It is possible for us to contend different perspectives while embracing common ground. In Canada we often have the political blending of Red Tories and Free Market Communists as our politicians frantically try to embrace the seasonal nature of the Canadian voter. Of course, we quickly dismiss politicians at the polls, because THEY are the ones who are opportunistic, wishy-washy, and short sighted. The ideal Canadian parliament is populated by charming drunks and pious preachers. One way or the other, our Prime Minister is always a charismatic drunk preaching about the need for humility while the opposition leader stands with thrusting finger claiming their party is the one moving past blame for the good of the nation. And we wouldn’t want it any other way; our leaders are always fragmented projections of our own shifting self-contempt.

Canadians roll with the clouds of the seasons, but it is an everlasting connection to the landscape that roots us.

Made in Canada solutions cannot come from above, they come from the Land, they come from the People.

Historically winter has forced us to seek collective solutions based upon local conditions; as well, we have an awareness of our environment because its extremes can kill us.

The planet needs Medicare.

Pollution is a communist property. Pollution is a communist property. Pollution is the fastest growing form of property in the world today; there is nothing private about it. Pollution is the communism of the rich shared equally with the poor. Communist pollution does not create wealth it destroys future possibility of life. Pollution makes every species upon our planet a communist consumer of human capitalism. Wolves do not support Global Capitalism. Listen and you will hear them howling from Canadian hill tops.

I did not write this poem. This poem stocked me for over a year. It tracked me. It hunted me. Its teeth grabbed me by the throat. It pulled me down. I knelt before it as it came in from all sides to devour me.

A living landscape is marked by the fading footprints of the extinct.

This time last year Ravens had flooded the sky at the end of my lake. I was not drawn directly to the focus of their flight even though, eager to share the gregarious bounty of life, they called out to me as some of the flock flew over my head doing acrobatics in order to get my attention. I took a circular path through the woods to the location.

There I found the remains of a white-tailed deer which had offered itself to the wolves. The lay of the carcass was illustrated by maps of blood and entrails on ice and snow. It formed a circle of four points. The background wash of this ring of life and death was endless light-brown blotches of raven shit; giving the scene the quality of a faded sepia photo now pulled from an ancient trunk out into the reflective glare of winter light.

Crimson oxygen-soaked blood stained white snow; marking the sudden moment one wolf shot out of the trees, down the hill-side, bursting out of the bush. Jaws clamped the deer’s throat: pulled it to the ground. The rest of the pack had been driving the prey along the curving hillside to this ambush while a hungry Raven marked the deer from above.

From the bog two loping wolves had pushed the deer along the shore-line, as a fourth member of the pack came across from the open lake in the opposite direction to make sure the deer turned inward towards the ambush; its intended direction of flight now blocked. A fifth wolf was coming up the creek where the lake funnelled (just in case the ambush missed), but the deer never saw this wolf, or in fact the ambush wolf, the deer never knew what hit it; the expression frozen on its face captured the very second it was pulled to ground. The rest of the hungry pack then broke into a run and soon the kill was dragged to a bare patch of wind-blown ice, the second point in the circle. Here the pack ripped the belly open and ravenously ate, leaving a carcass sized outline of brownish post-mortem blood and other internal body fluids. About half of the body was left to be frozen on the ice at the fourth point. For a week the pack would return. Rib bones would be chewed to nubs. The hide would be gnawed to bits. Thigh bones ground to nothing. The skull stripped bare. The circular path of the dispatched deer was completed by the body lying in its final resting spot where it had been pulled back towards the initial bright red blotch. Its legs pointed outwards, nose pointed towards the initial location of contact, only now the deer was moving in the opposite direction. The curve of its frozen prancing body evoked the stylised shape of a constellation of stars: The hunting was a quite anticipation: The kill a solemn formal act: The feeding a carnal festival.

The third point in the four point circle was less obvious. It lay on the curve between the feeding and where the remains now rested; however, there was a faint outline and one small patch of blood marked the snow. The pack’s feeding had stopped, but one pack member continued its attack at this third point where the meat now waited to be put into the freezer. The focus of attack was near the top of the deer’s body. The deer’s throat had been ripped down to the bone even thought much choicer cuts were still available. The youngest member of the pack who has been loping along side of its mother driving the deer had seen the father’s attack, and with youthful adrenaline still pumping; here at the third point, the pack let the yearling play with the meat, acting out its histrionic gnawing of an imaginary deer’s throat. One can’t help but admire the ferocity of youth as it attacks the dead past; it is an important step towards learning how to hunt the living future.

The deer remained the focus of many for the rest of the winter. Fox and rabbits, squirrels and mink, birds of all kinds came for a visit. By spring a skull attached to a short spine lay next to fragments of bone and a few pieces of hide on the ice. It moved with the flow towards the creek. These bones and last threads of sinews disappeared into the thick silt of the bog, tufts of skin drifted all the way to the beaver dam where birds collected fleece to line their nests, a few hairs were visible here and there late into the fall, the return of winter washed the scene white.

A living landscape is marked by the fading footprints of the extinct.

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CBC Question 1: On Life Since Winning the Crown

February 10, 2007

HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE YOU WON A PREVIOUS POETRY FACE OFF?

I “won” the 2003 Ottawa Poetry Face Off by a single vote.

After the 2003 Poetry Face Off for two years I danced with absolute joy.

Then for two years I cried with utter disappointment.

Now I have begun to sing. (Not enough wine and women in my life.)

And even better, I have received the news; I am going to be a Grampa.

(After the previous Poetry Face Off I did not become CEO of a Global Poetry Corporation. I have come to realise I am not even a “beautiful loser” – I am a short stocky loser, with body odour, who dresses funny.)

Since I won the 2003 Poetry Face-Off “my” life has not changed; however, our planet has shortened all human life down to three future generations.

— Jim Larwill, Omnigothic Neofuturist

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