Friday, November 28, 2008

Gary Barwin: an Interview about Deer, Teeth, and Semi-Colons

Sina Queyras, the writer, editor, and critic did a great interview with me over at her fantastic blog, Lemon Hound. It's great because she asked me such excellent questions, questions which really meaningfully framed my own thinking and created an occasion for me to speak about things that are of great interest and concern to me.

Ok, so I talk a lot about deer, teeth & semi-colons, but also about the nature of nature poetry, humour in contemporary Canadian writing, teaching and the imagination, the representation of animals in contemporary poetry, and some other stuff. And there's a picture of me with a pigeon on my head.


Eccentric Scholar said...

Amazing interview! I have to read it again, as it's so packed with ideas and insights. A veritable smorgasbord for the mind!

Jeff said...

A magnificent and illuminating interview indeed. Now that I know something about the underpinnings of deer, teeth, and antlers, I can go back and reread with a new understanding of the imagery. Or not. Who am I kidding? I still don't understand it, and I never will. I'm an idiot. I think I'll go out and find some deer now.
P.S. Not all of this made it through my parser: Lives in Hamilton, Ontario and teaches music at Hillfield Strathallan College. He can be found at and

P.P.S. The pigeon photo frightens me.

gary barwin said...


I've always thought of the mind as a drive-thru. Shows what I know.


If you do figure out what I mean, please let me know...

But thanks to both of you for the kind comments.

Jeff said...

I may attempt it, Gary, but first I need more sardines. In the meantime, I can say with some certainty that (1) I've been paying much closer attention to the deer I see around here, especially their antlers, and (2) I find myself thinking about teeth all the time now, which was by no means the case before I began following your blog.

Putting delirium aside for a moment, I had the good fortune to live for some years in the woods — at that "gateway between my forest and theirs" — and although the scrim between those two worlds only got thinner with time, it never entirely disappeared. This may be a good thing, because the encounter with a parallel dimension probably shouldn't become an everyday occurrence. I mean, what would be left after that? Teeth aside, of course.

troylloyd said...

Teeth. Mailboxes. Toast.

( commentboxes )

cool, thanx for the pointer to the interview Gary, truly illuminating & a pleasure to read.

how you say "Teeth aren’t surprising, but they also exist at a gateway. The gateway between some kind of unconscious experience, something on the edge of the psyche, and everyday life. They are also wonderfully absurd.", is an acute example of how observant a person you are, & that aspect comes thru loud 'n clear in the interview -- also, dare i say it, a tremendous sensitivity for the world around you & an overjoying embrace of discovery -- this distinction is difficult to hang onto as one grows older, how childlike awe is replaced w/ the "serious" sociopolitical agenda (it's actually absurd, this "responsible" outgrowth from new eyes is a main source of depressive "iron prisons" we put ourselve in, i think, from the demands of cultural conditioning)

-- i like your term "post-natural" & the thought behind which has given me seed for further research into the topic, how it relates to human conditional states, very interesting.

" I have the feeling that the ability to trust humour in poetry is a mark of a confident tradition and an unapologetically sophisticated literary culture."

right on! i agree, to laugh is to live -- clever use of humor is one reason why my fave Langpoet is Chas. Bernstein, poets w/ the ability to utilize humor in their work have a handy tool for myriad avenues, also, people like to laugh!

re: education, you say: " I do think that allowing creative exploration is important for kids. Too often they are shut down by the goal orientation of the curriculum and by some utilitarian notion of learning., & ain't that the truth? i understand the massive problems associated with a public school system, but the fact that we've seemed to regress is alarming to me, here in the States the educational system is in very dire straits, even worse in the south where i live, the dropout rate continues to be high & teachers are crippled by inane memory-retention testing requirements where the students are deemed "educated" if they pass a series of tests -- the private schools are better off, as well as some of the "magnet schools", but Americans are slowly killing themselves due to the indifference & lack of action concerning serious educational reform.

your depths are oceanic, the following quote really trips my trigger:

"I see the imagination not as shaping nature, or capturing it (or indeed as some kind of conceptual taxidermy, but rather, as being nature. The history of everything is the imaginative unfolding of the universe. Evolution is the brainstorming, the free writing of the natural world."