The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2015 edition with a huge, genre-spanning program of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 23 to 27.
The Straight asked a group of these writers to tell us about their most meaningful reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones expanded their ideas of what the written word can do?
Here’s what Vancouver poet Daphne Marlatt told us. She’s the author of such collections as the prize-winning 2009 volume The Given. She’ll read from her latest work, Liquidities: Vancouver Poems Then and Now, at 12:45 p.m. on September 27, in the fest’s Poetry on the Bus venue outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Like most kids, I loved verbal rhythm and music before becoming fascinated by the semantic complexities of words. In the idiosyncratic primary school I attended in Penang, Malaysia, I was taught to read and write by copying lines from poems like Walter de la Mare’s "Silver" ("Slowly, silently, now the moon…”). I must have been sounding out the words to make sense of them. Later, there was narrative, adventure stories and then novels. But the sounding of words, whether in a play or a poem, was what fascinated me.
What allowed me to think I could write poetry? Probably hearing Robert Duncan read in the early 1960s from his wonderful collection The Opening of the Field—a thoughtful, dramatic, and highly literary voice (both on the page and out to an audience), music often foremost (“This we remember:/ember of the fire/catches the word if we but hear…”). And then the question, could I do that, and how as a woman would I compose poems from my own experience? That’s how the work began.