Amatoritsero Ede: There seems to be two schools of poets in Canada: the experimentalists or Avant-Garde and the classical schools. Your aesthetics can be placed within the second. Any aesthetics reasons for this?


David O’Meara: It’s true my aesthetics are often placed in the second category, but this is due, in part, to a pre-conditioned tendency of us poetry readers and critics. I’ll resist being pigeonholed: it’s true that I have written in traditional forms such as the sonnet, pantoum, sestina and other varied formal patterns, but I’m quick to point out that there is a strong presence of associative free verse in my work as well. I find it strange that once a poet decides to write a poem with rhyme, suddenly they are “condemned,” or at least relegated, to some traditional aesthetic agenda. The fact is I have no allegiance to either. When I write a rhyming quatrain, I don’t feel I’m writing to defend a particular school’s aesthetic; I’m simply trying to write the best poem I can, depending on the subject matter, tone, pacing, etc. If those considerations lead me toward free verse, broken syntax, disassociation etc. then I’d like to think that my technique will make that leap. Good writing should have no prejudices. And I think a good poet should know how to do many things, just as a good cook should understand the nuances of various cuisines. He/she wouldn’t want to cook burgers every day; nor do I want to write terza rima all the time. Having said that, the challenge of working within form has always interested me, as formal limitations toggle the imagination, rather than confine it. I think a working poet brings their form to meet their subject matter, and tries to woo them into a good marriage. So I’ll do anything to make the poem’s decorum fit effectively. It’s an ongoing apprenticeship that I truly feel I’m only starting. Perhaps with a few more books, I’ll start to really get there. The most interesting thing about the resurgence of the formal voice in Canadian poetry is that it’s forced working poets in this country to think more deeply about technique again, whatever aesthetic they’re writing within. This classical/experimental polemic has made everyone sharpen their tools.  


A.E.:  Do you personally think the experimental is truly ground-breaking?


D.O.: Yes, it can be. But I’d have to make the argument by fighting the definition of experimental, which is related to my above comments. Experimental writing, to me, is any writing that is noticeably at mischievous play with form, language and thought. A certain aggression towards articulation is required. The term “experimental” has been appropriated by various so-called avant-garde groups who have employed abstract thought, chance, stream-of-consciousness, open field composition, indeterminacy, or computer poetry. The fact is there’s a hell of a lot of repetition and stale thought in this brand of experimental writing as well as with traditional forms. I think it was Paul Valery who said, “Everything changes, except the avant-garde.” Anything repeated to defend a particular “school,” rather than responding to the requirements of the poem, is already stringing up its own cobwebs. Each innovation is a response to tradition. And the most interesting stuff is the poetry being produced somewhere on the margins of an established centre, fighting expectations while simultaneously building on the strengths of past experiment. It’s why in English-speaking poetry right now Paul Muldoon is so vital.


A.E.: Contemporary Canadian poetics of the traditional classical type seem to hug the narrative style. I note this in your poetry too. Do you note this too? What can you say is responsible for this stylistic bent?




that Walks

and Walks

Interview with

David O’Meara


Amatoritsero Ede

David O’Meara

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The International Journal of Poetry & Graphics...since 2002

MAY 2006  ISSN 1479-425X    Editor: Amatoritsero Ede