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Category: Poetry in Transit

Poetry In Transit: Interview with Jennifer Zilm

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Courtesy of jenniferzilm.com

Poetry in Transit has been sparking inspiration and meaningful thought on transit in BC since 1996.

For those of us who adore the written –and spoken – word, (*ahem* ME), this is such a great opportunity to share the work of BC authors across the province and promote and celebrate this wonderful art form.

I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Zilm, one of the featured poets for this 20-year anniversary about her poem and Poetry in Transit.

Tell me about your inspiration for this poem?

It’s part of a three part poem called Spiritual Media and I was trying to take on different forms of social media. So, the first part is about Twitter with really bad hashtags because it was before I understood what hashtags were! But I love them. It’s interesting how the hashtag modifies the content of your message. The second part was about book history… but it was about Facebook and what happens when you’re talking to somebody and you don’t really know who they are or what they’re doing. The third part, the part on the bus, is only loosely connected to social media because I was interested in this therapy procedure called EMDR where you focus on light or sound while focusing on a traumatic memory with headphones in. So, it’s sort a being linked in and how what you’re linked into affects you.

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Published by BookThug – April, 2016

This poem can be found in your collection, Waiting Room. This piece is very observational, how does it compare on that level to other pieces in your book?

I would say I like to observe and write things down but I also like to work from a certain conceit. There’s a section in the book where I was working at a housing project in the downtown East side at the front desk and I know that those experiences absolutely inspired the way I wrote. I compared it to Dante’s purgatory… which is the good one, I think. Or at least, that’s my theory! But where you are and what you see of course affects how and what you write.

What makes transit a good place to gather inspiration?

I think it’s the last, great public space. I also find, personally, that it’s really hard not to do things when you’re on transit. There’s something about the bus that you get on and you just need to trust where it’s going and it forces you to be contained where you are and read or write or do whatever you need because your brain is not occupied with driving or biking. It helps me focus. It gets me down to business!

Poetry in Transit has been around for 20 years now. How do you feel being a part of this anniversary special?

If you’re from the Vancouver area, and I am, I grew up in Surrey, you remember Poetry in Transit! I remember reading Jamie Reid’s poem Prez or Stephanie Bolster’s Many Have Written Poems About Blackberries. I have memories from the beginning of this program. When you’re a person who writes poetry, it’s not always obvious to you what your career “landmarks” will be. I remember people saying, “well, maybe one day you’ll get a poem on the bus!” People don’t read poetry that much anymore and having it in a public space like transit, where you can just look up and read a piece on your bus, it connects people. It’s like a great, classic disruption. It’s not an ad for the dentist or a job college, it’s a poem!

What do you hope people take away from reading your poem on transit and the others included in this project?

You can be really idealistic and why not?! Maybe it will be inspirational? Maybe it will disturb them, but in a good way! Any time we get a chance to see something in these public spaces that aren’t market-based is really amazing. So, something like Poetry in Transit, if you’re someone who doesn’t have books in your house or visits the public library, it can be a hidden suggestion that there are other things in the world, besides what is immediately around you.

How long have you used transit? What’s your favourite mode?

My entire life! Growing up in Surrey, the Expo Line was my life blood. I rode it all the time. Now, in Vancouver, the #7 bus is my temple. It’s my thought bubble, it’s my inspiration at times. Plus, 7 is really lucky in Judaism so I feel like all around it’s my little bus home!

You can see Jennifer’s work along with the other amazing poets in this month’s special Poetry in Transit edition of the print Buzzer as well as on buses, bus shelters and SkyTrains across the system!

If you really can’t wait to see each poem on the system, you can head to the 2016 Word Vancouver Festival this weekend and hear live readings from some of the featured Poetry in Transit authors.

If you have a favourite you see on transit, snap a pic and let us know how it made you feel!
Twitter: @TransLink
Instagram: TransLinkBC

Author: Adrienne Coling

Poetry in Transit interview with Joanne Arnott

 

Photo courtesy of SFU

Photo courtesy of Joanne’s blog

Poetry in Transit is a partnership with the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. Now in it’s 18th year, the program aims to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes.

Joanne Arnott’s “Wild Seeds” currently one of 20 poems on the system. She took time out of her busy schedule to do this quick interview with us about the poem and herself!

Who is Joanne Arnott?
I am a poet, activist, mother, editor, blogger. I am a correspondent with many diverse writers, and other types of people, and I write up my notes in the form of poetry and essays. I am a synthesizer, noting patterns in the world and seeking to balance the world through word and deed.

Would you be able to tell us a bit more about your poem? What were the inspirations behind it?
“Wild Seeds” is a long poem. I had an intense experience of bonding with a new partner, and many visions and dreams about babies and pregnancy, despite a conscious awareness that pregnancy in the physical realm was not possible. Over the years, I had the experience of love-bonding leading to child-bearing, six times this occurred, and in some sense, my bodymind was deeply challenged to understand other possible outcomes.

At the same time, a couple whom I loved and had spent time with over two decades, was called upon to face illness and death together. I felt very moved to be a small part of the process, to be a part of the intimate web of vitality and witness to the transformative time of passage. I learned a great deal about “how to be” by witnessing the great grace with which both the dying person died, and the surviving partner fostered her loved one through this massive time of change. How she called upon others to support the processes of living, dying, mourning.

The Gulf Islands are referenced in this excerpt, and the poem brings these great questions of birth, death, love—both couple forms of love and the great webs of our friendships and relatedness—into focus.

How would you classify your style of poetry and writing? What inspires you?
My writing is intimate and embodied, engaged, sometimes playful, sometimes wry, sometimes mournful. Free verse that’s informed by music and the speaking voice, often engaging with ideas and a way of seeking how to articulate what is: in writing nonfiction, that intimacy is always there, ‘this is what I think,’ ‘this is what I wonder.’

What’s a ‘great’ poem for you?
A great poem is, for me, satisfying. It is musically or imagistically or in a storytelling way, a whole, and that may be as swift as haiku or as ponderous as a book-long navigation. It is a form of writing or orating that is closely akin to song, or something else more akin to type-setting. What makes it great is its capacity to do what it set out to do, to meet its own goals. If it lingers in the mind, if it settles in the body, if it calls me back: these are possible signs of greatness.

Who’s your favourite poet and/or somebody that has heavily influenced your work?
When I was young I read “Within the Barbed Wire Fence” by Takeo Ujo Nakano. This is a powerful text that presents prose and poetry in such intimately woven circumstance, revealing the importance of truth and the ways that poetry and prose can each articulate aspects of life. It is a Canadian story such as I had never encountered before. Places that I knew, and places I did not know: feelings that I knew, and experiences I did or did not have: this book connected me to my Canadian life and to Canadian literature in a way that other books had not, and showed a way to be or to write that honoured with courage the precise truths of a life.

What does Poetry of Transit mean for you?
It is a relief to find a bit of poetic information nestled amidst the contact numbers and attention-seeking advertisements, a kernel of poetic information as a way to introduce whole new realms (a book, a poet, a way of conceiving of the world) into the ongoing journey.

Poetry of Transit might mean the astrological unfoldment of the ever-new. It may be the rhythmic experience of routines that have the always fresh grace-notes of something unique, something that helps to distinguish one rush hour from the next, or one season for another sample of the same season, lived years before.

Do you take transit? If so, what’s your favourite mode?
I tend to live my life within walking distance of my home. When I venture further, I take public transit. Canada Line, SeaBus, Sky Train, bus routes that branch and web: all good.

Peer into your crystal ball, and tell us what you see for yourself in the future.
I see an impending role as poetry editor for a literary magazine: I see many trips to many poetry gatherings throughout the Lower Mainland, from Dead Poets Society at Vancouver Public Library to Surrey Muse at the Surrey Public Library, and from Cottage Bistro to the Heritage Grill. I see a visit to Nanaimo for the Cascadia Poetry Festival in the spring. I see the official opening of the North Number One Road Pump Station public art project, in Richmond, with school children, elders and artists, and city officials and staff all mingling by the side of the river: hoping for a sun-filled day.

Is there anything you’d like to add or share?
Cultural workers are often economically vulnerable, and poets not the least.

It is greatly affirming for young people to see the work of their parents showcased on public transit.

Metis and other indigenous poets and artists are the strong creative threads through all of our regions, connective tissue in a cultural sense, rooting the tumble of Canadiana to the specificity of this place.

Your time is much appreciated Joanne! You can find more of her work at joannearnott.blogspot.ca and join the Poetry in Transit conversation using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit.

Author: Allen Tung

Poetry in Transit interview with Catherine Greenwood

Catherine Greenwood

Catherine Greenwood

Poetry in Transit, now in its 18th year, aims to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes.

An excerpt from Catherine Greenwood’s “Charity” from her book, The Lost Letters, is one of 20 poems on the system this year – 10 poetry car cards on buses and 10 transit shelter ads. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions from me about her poem and herself!

Who is Catherine Greenwood? 
Wife, cat-wrangler, paper-pusher, collector of hotel soaps, reader of gothic novels, belated-birthday card sender. I live in Esquimalt and work for the Ministry of Justice.

Would you be able to tell us a bit more about “Charity?” What were the inspirations behind it?
I was working in a community services thrift store when someone I’d known in elementary school walked in, needing a coat The bus card titled “Charity” is an excerpt from a longer poem about this encounter on the theme of the return, with its attendant questions of recognition, as in the biblical story of the prodigal son or the return of Odysseus from his long journey. There’s a loose pattern of end rhyme — returns in a technical sense — and alliterative meter throughout. It seemed fitting to use archaic style in piece that felt like a fairytale.

How would you classify your style of poetry and writing? What inspires you?
I write narrative poems in varying styles. I don’t usually set out to achieve a particular form but my poems often end up in a shape fitted to each particular piece, eleven-line stanzas for example, sometimes with end rhyme, almost always with metaphors and internal sound effects.

What’s a ‘great’ poem for you?
I’m going to quote my answer to this question from another interview, because it still holds for me: “A great poem is affecting, stirs something up in the reader, yields new dimensions and revelations on successive readings, yet retains its essential mystery.”

Who’s your favourite poet and/or somebody that has heavily influenced your work?
I absorb many influences. In my most recent book, The Lost Letters, there is an animal section that may echo British nature poet Jeremy Reid; a section about Heloise and Aberlard that intentionally adopts a particular metaphor-saturated voice inspired by American poet Amy Gerstler’s work; I also had Stephen Mitchell’s translations of Rilke in mind while writing some of the other poems. I can’t choose a favourite poet.

What does Poetry in Transit mean for you?
A poem from my first book The Pearl King and Other Poems was on Poetry in Transit, and there’s a lovely story about that – apparently the poem, “Exile”, a very short love poem about the pain of being separated, sparked a conversation between a couple of strangers who ended up getting married and having the poem read at their wedding. Perhaps someone reading “Charity” might be spurred to consider what lies beneath a person’s appearance – if it generates a moment of contemplation or empathy in a commuter or two, that would be an unintended but nice consequence of having the poem shared so widely.

Do you take transit? If so, what’s your favourite mode?
I take the bus to work every day, and I have done so for over thirty years, from different residences to different jobs. I’ve come to know some of my fellow commuters as well as I know my co-workers. When I’ve had to drive, I’ve found parking expensive and a nuisance, and then in winter there’s warming up the car in the morning and scraping off frost –who has time for that? My husband and I went a couple of years without a car in our current location, and I realize that I prefer to live in an area with public transit. It’s liberating.

Peer into your crystal ball, and tell us what you see for yourself in the future.
Fiction is in my future. I have a big, back-burnered project I’m psyching myself up to return to working on. Hopefully some travel around BC related to that project, and very likely a trip to England and France in springtime with my husband. It’s a time of transition and change, which is challenging but exciting.

Thanks for your time Catherine and we look forward to reading more of your work! Join the Poetry in Transit conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit.

Author: Allen Tung

Poetry in Transit interview with Jen Currin

Jen Currin

Jen Currin

Poetry in Transit is a partnership with the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. Now in it’s 18th year, the program aims to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes.

Jen Currin’s “A Week of Silence” from School is currently one of 20 poems on the system. She took time out of her busy schedule to do this quick interview with us about the poem and herself!

Who is Jen Currin?
I wish I knew the answer to this question!

Would you be able to tell us a bit more about “A Week of Silence?” What were the inspirations behind it?
This poem came from the not-unique realization that sometimes the most wise and kind thing you can do for someone you love is to step aside and wish them well as they go on to other experiences.

How would you classify your style of poetry and writing? What inspires you?
I’m a collagist, primarily. I am inspired by a lot of things: reading, art of all kinds, the city, walking and biking, gardening and friends.

What’s a ‘great’ poem for you?
I want to feel both my intelligence and my heart/spirit tickled.

Who’s your favourite poet and/or somebody that has heavily influenced your work?
I have so many favorites—it’s impossible to pick one. Anne Carson, John Ashbery, Lisa Robertson, Dionne Brand, Max Jacob, Russell Edson, Camille Roy and Mary Tallmountain are just a few of the many poets who have inspired and influenced me.

What does Poetry in Transit mean for you?
I like the idea that poetry is a way of moving, a kind of transportation. Poetry should transport us to different places, different experiences and different points of view. Ideally, a poem takes me outside of my own limited point of view.

Do you take transit? If so, what’s your favourite mode?
Yes. I like the noise and city views from the bus; I like the speed and reach of the SkyTrain.

Peer into your crystal ball, and tell us what you see for yourself in the future.
I see myself growing and canning vegetables with friends. I see myself on bike rides, alone and with good people, through a verdant and car-less city.

We really appreciate your time Jen! You can visit her website at jencurrin.com and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit.

Author: Allen Tung

Poetry in Transit interview with Jennica Harper

Jennica Harper

Jennica Harper

Now in its 18th year, Poetry in Transit aims to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes! Jennica Harper’s “Fever” is one of 20 poems that are on the system this year. I had the opportunity to do a quick interview with Jennica, here’s what she had to say!

Who is Jennica Harper? Very existential! I’m a Vancouver poet and TV writer. I’ll let you guess which kind of writing pays the bills.

Would you be able to tell us a bit more about your poem that will be shared as part of Poetry in Transit? What were the inspirations behind it? “Fever” is a sonnet about the hunt for affordable real estate in Vancouver – the despair, the hope, the compromises, and the addictiveness of the search. The earliest version of the poem was written for poet Sachiko Murakami’s “Project Rebuild” – a very cool online space in which people “re-built” one another’s poems.

How would you classify your style of poetry and writing? What inspires you? I would say I write accessible free verse (the occasional sonnet or sestina being the exception). I like using iconic figures or fictional characters (Houdini, Pinocchio, Mad Men’s Sally Draper) as filters for exploring my own thoughts or experiences.

What’s a ‘great’ poem for you? Any poem that haunts me later.

Who’s your favourite poet and/or somebody that has heavily influenced your work? One of my favourite poets is Sharon McCartney. She delves deeply into existing fictional worlds and characters and explores them in playful, fresh ways.

What does Poetry of Transit mean for you? It’s fantastic. I love moments of art placed within an otherwise functional context. And for me, personally, knowing people who might not ordinarily read poetry at all will be reading my poem… that’s very powerful.

Do you take transit? If so, what’s your favourite mode? I recently moved to an area of town really close to a Canada Line stop. Getting to and from the airport in twenty minutes is amazing.

Peer into your crystal ball, and tell us what you see for yourself in the future. I’m not yet sure what my next book of poems will be about. But I recently had my first child, and hope to get her hooked on poetry early. Shel Silverstein and Dennis Lee, here we come!

Is there anything you’d like to add or share? Yes – thank you, Translink and the Association of Book Publishers of BC, for continuing to make Poetry in Transit happen!

Thanks for your time Jennica! You can visit her website at jennicaharper.com and follow her on Twitter @jennicaharper. Join the conversation using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit!

Author: Allen Tung

Poetry in Transit interview with Jane Munro

Poetry in Transit: Jane Munro

Jane Munro (Photo: Imaging by Marlis)

Poetry in Transit, now in its 18th year, aims to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes. This year, there are a total of 20 poems on the system – 10 poetry car cards on buses and 10 transit shelter ads.

One of them is “Old Man Vacanas, 11” by Jane Munro. I had the opportunity to chat with Jane about the poem and her work:

Who is Jane Munro?

I’m a Vancouver-based writer and poet.

Would you be able to tell us a bit more about “Old Man Vacanas, 11?” What were the inspirations behind it?

My husband had Alzheimer’s disease. We lived in an isolated area on the “wild coast” of Vancouver Island. I was his caregiver until he had to move into a nursing home. He died in 2013. This is the final poem in a sequence called “Old Man Vacanas.” You can find the whole set in my new book, Blue Sonoma.

How would you classify your style of poetry and writing? What inspires you?

In form, this poem is inspired by vacanas, ancient South Indian prayer-poems. Vacana means “saying” or “thing said” in Kannada, the language in which the 12th Century poems were written. They use colloquial diction and imagery drawn from village life to deal with philosophical questions. Unlike those original vacanas, my poem is not addressed to Siva.

What’s a ‘great’ poem for you?

One that moves me and sticks in my mind – a poem I’ll read again. Jane Hirshfield says, “A good poem is a bit like a volcanic island. It creates new terrain for the soul.” In a volcano, the stuff coming up was previously hidden. Poems can make visible—and invite us to pay attention to—individual and social shadows. If Jung’s right and we need to agree to the whole experience to get a full life, then incorporating what was molten and unformed into a concentrated pattern of words gives us new ground—a place to explore, camp out, maybe even plant a garden. Oddly, though it may at first strike us as “new terrain,” we recognize and trust its reliability and its continuity with the rest of our experience: now that it’s there, it’s there.

Who’s your favourite poet and/or somebody that has heavily influenced your work?

I’ve loved poetry since my mother sang nursery rhymes to me. A wide variety of poetry delights me and enriches my life. I can’t begin to list my favourite poets. Many poems have influenced my work. Even nursery rhymes!

What does Poetry of Transit mean for you?

I love having a poem riding around on transit, catching the eyes of passengers. It’s a wonderful outing for a poem. Too many poems stay closeted in slender volumes. It’s great to have one out and about. I hope lots of people read it.

Do you take transit? If so, what’s your favourite mode?

Yes, I take transit. I often ride the 99 bus to UBC and back. It’s wonderfully convenient to take SkyTrain to and from the airport. Crossing the harbour on SeaBus feels like an adventure.

Peer into your crystal ball, and tell us what you see for yourself in the future.

More writing – more books – more poetry readings – more yoga, and more travel. My next big trip will be to study yoga in India.

Is there anything you’d like to add or share?

I’m a member of Yoko’s Dogs. We write collaborative poetry.

Thanks your time Jane! “Old Man Vacanas, 11” is from her book, Blue Sonoma, and you can visit her website at janemunro.com. Join the conversation using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit!

Author: Allen Tung

Poetry in Transit returns for its 18th year!

One of the 20 poems that will be featured around the system on buses and transit shelters! (Photo: Gerilee McBride)

One of the 20 poems that will be featured around the system on buses and transit shelters! (Photo: Gerilee McBride)

TransLink will once again be partnering with the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) to bring you the eighteenth year of Poetry in Transit!

Running since 1996, this program is a great way to profile talented British Columbian and Canadian poets and provide our customers with poetry to read on their commutes.

There will be a total of 20 poems on the system – 10 poetry car cards on buses and 10 transit shelter ads – over the next year. We’ll be profiling one poet and their poem each month on the Buzzer blog for the next ten months, so be on the look out for those!

To mark the launch of this year’s Poetry in Transit, ABPBC will be presenting an event on Sunday, September 28 at 4 p.m. as part of Word Vancouver. A bus with all car cards will be on display on Homer Street by the Vancouver Public Library on Georgia Street.

The event will be hosted by Vancouver’s outgoing Poet Laureate Evelyn Lau. She tells us Poetry in Transit is an important initiative that allows poets to reach more people – bringing poetry into everyday life.

Evelyn Lau (Photo by Pearl Pirie / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Evelyn Lau (Photo by Pearl Pirie / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“Every year, poets who are selected for the program tell me how they appreciate having their work reach audiences that wouldn’t normally pick up a book of poetry or attend a poetry reading,” she says. “I think we all as poets feel our audience tends to be narrow and tends to be fellow poets. Something such as Poetry in Transit reaches far beyond that community.”

Evelyn credits the program for bringing poetry into public spaces so people who wouldn’t consider themselves poetry fans can run into one while waiting for a bus.

“It’s such an amazing way for them to engage with literature and in a way that is just part of everyday life. Here you are going home from work and you’re having an intimate experience with a poem. You can react to it in a really emotional way or just find it amusing,” she says.

“I’ve heard from a number of writers who have had emails from complete strangers who have read their poem on the bus and had some kind of response to it. It is extremely gratifying.”

TransLink is proud to be supporting this program by donating ad space from the company’s reserve. It is also supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC), Creative BC, BC Transit, and the Vancouver Writers Fest.

You can join the conversation about Poetry on Transit by leaving a comment or on Twitter by searching and using the hashtag #PoetryInTransit!

Author: Allen Tung