The Wombwell Rainbow
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Chad Norman, Truro, NS, Canada
His poems have appeared for the past 35 years in literary publications across Canada, as well as a number of other countries around the world.
He hosts and organizes RiverWords: Poetry & Music Festival each year in Truro, NS., held at Riverfront Park, the 2nd Saturday of each July.
In October 2016 he was invited by the Nordic Assn. for Canadian Studies to give talks on Canadian Poetry and read from his books at Borupgaard Gym in Copenhagen, and Risskov Gym in Aarhus, as well as other readings in both cities and Malmo, Sweden. Because of that tour Norman has started the manuscript, Counting Coins In Denmark And Sweden.
His most recent books are Selected & New Poems, from Mosaic Press, and Waking Up On The Wrong Side of The Sky, from Grant Block Press, and a new book, Squall: Poems In The Voice Of Mary Shelley, is due out Spring 2020, from Guernica Editions. Recently, he completed the manuscript, The Black Rum Poems, and presently works on a new manuscript, A Small Matter of Inclusion.
In October of 2017 he read at various Eastern Canada venues in Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. And in the Fall of 2018 Norman will undertake a speaking/reading tour of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, as a celebration of literacy and Canadian Poetry.
His love of walks is endless.
1. When and why did you start writing poetry?
In my mid-teens I had a very troubled relationship with my father, and at that point we had moved across Canada several times due to my parents unsettled marriage. You see my mother is from Nova Scotia, and my father from British Columbia, so I was dealing with the two coasts of Canada. To get back to that relationship really does mean a beginning of sorts, you see my father was a very consistent workaholic, so that meant he always had jobs for me to do, and they were posted on the fridge each day I came home from school, and they were jobs in addition to what I had to do in order to keep our orchard and ground-crops watered and free of weeds.
But it was because of this situation I began to leave post-it notes for my father, and with those I quickly understood the power of words, and how we could communicate. But it wasn’t until a number of years into the future I began to write what I actually believed to be poems.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I had always known about poetry through song lyrics, but it wasn’t until I started to listen to the Caedmon recordings, mainly Dylan Thomas, that I really heard words by themselves so to speak, no instruments other than the voice. So as to who introduced me to poetry I’d have to say myself for one, and Murdock Burnett, a Canadian poet who used to work at a bookstore in Calgary, Alberta, who was responsible for ordering my Caedmon choices. He also encouraged me to attend some open mic evenings, and shared a title of his own with me.
3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?
I became aware of them quickly because I knew the importance of being led by what I eventually called “my elders”. But I never felt they were any type of dominating presence, just that I could begin my own path by being led, paying attention to their paths, and that, now nearly 40 years later, continues to be my way to honour and follow. Both extremely important for the path I look down and see I am on.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
. As for a daily writing routine I don’t really have one, due to having to chase the almighty paycheque, so I have 12-hour days and nights when I am working at a manufacturing plant. However, and thankfully, those days are only 16 each month. So that gives me the other days to either be tinkering on poems in early stages, or right into preparing submissions for magazines, or preparing manuscripts for presses. But I always keep a small notepad and trusty pen in my pocket no matter where I am, especially when out on my walks. I feel the writing process for me is on-going even though I may not be actually physically writing or typing…there always seems to be poems working within me to find their way to the page and stage.
5. What motivates you to write?
I am motivated to write mainly as a way to stay sane, to stay active in my life as poet, husband, father, and employee. But to say what causes poems, well, over the years human behaviour, nature, poverty, war, love, sex, I could go on, but it can be summed by saying, simply, I am alive, and I want to say I am, I am living on our tolerant planet. Too many have lived and died and not left us their proof, their stories of enduring life.
6. What is your work ethic?
As for my work ethic, I had a time when younger I worked on the family dairy farm, it was there I discovered what would become my life-long work ethic, and fortunately I have been able to apply it to the writing of poems throughout my writing life. As for what it is I keep things open to the mystery, open to not knowing where the poems come from, why they come, but be the “reliable vessel” as Whitman advised poets to be. When it comes time be part of the poem’s longing, or that “irresistible disturbance” as I call it, I am then with my notebook and pen, or at the keyboard to settle in for capturing the poem, and having a very sharp eye and ear for editing.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
The writers I read when I was young seem to come back to me more as I grow older. As for their influences, mainly, all of them end up saying pretty much what they said in the beginning, “Believe in your need to speak and capture, go on and move deeper into your love of words, and keep developing a way to have your poems say something to someone.” I am always appreciative when one of them calls to me again.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I have so many poets around the world I admire, but if I must single any out for the moment it is some of the poets from the UK I recently read with during my Fall speaking/reading tour, Live The Reading Life, 2018, poets from Ireland like Kevin Higgins and Maria McManus, from Wales like Rhys Owain Williams and Emily Blewitt, and from Scotland like Ray Evans and Kathryn Metcalfe. I admire them because they all have the courage and need to live as poets today. Not an easy life.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I write to stay sane. To say I was here, like Kunitz, the American poet once titled one his collections, “Passing Through”, I want to say I too have passed through, saying it with my poetry.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
You become a writer by dealing with the mysterious feeling in your gut, that endless almost painful thing, that will travel throughout your body until the need to speak by writing down the voices the poems send. And never again not hearing or honouring them.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
At the moment I am writing a manuscript called, A Small Matter Of Inclusion, where, through poems, I am exploring how I feel and what I think of peoples who have to uproot themselves from their homelands, and make a decision to move to my homeland, Canada, all the time knowing this is happening around the world as well. The other manuscript I am working on is called, A Small Parental Forest, poems which deal mainly with some kind of connection to the natural world. You see, I have a small forested lot in a local suburb I use as a short-cut, to the plant where I earn the pay-cheque, a lot where I contiue to receive poems, and the other wonderful types of disturbances that are sent to me from my own yard surrounding my home here in Truro, Nova Scotia. I also have a second children’s book on hold, as well as two chapbook types of collections also patiently waiting for my return. I am blessed, but I have earned it. To know this keeps me writing.