Surprise & poetry

This morning I had the pleasant surprise of discovering that one of the readers for the CBC Poetry Prize competition wrote some lovely things about one of my poems! I mentioned in my last post that, during the countdown to the shortlist announcement, the CBC is posting daily mini-interviews with some of the competition’s readers, asking them to comment on what it’s like to read hundreds and hundreds of poems, and what makes a poem stand out of the crowd. The readers read the poems blind–that it is, the poems were presented anonymously–so my name’s not mentioned in the article. All of the interviews are worth reading; I find it fascinating to hear all the variety of things that different readers want in poetry, for poetry.

Katherine Bitney mentions that she values fearlessness, risk and challenge in a poem, and the element of surprise. I’m very pleased that in this same discussion of poetry and surprise, she mentions my poem: “Fire and Safety, or, If my little brother is jumping out of helicopters into raging flames, I don’t want to know about it.”

“Fire and Safety, or, If my little brother is jumping out of helicopters into raging flames, I don’t want to know about it”: This poem surprised me, both with its emotional honesty, and with its fresh language, skillful use of imagery. The poet tells you just enough to call up images in the mind—the colours of an afghan, the brother finding a lizard in a burning forest. Just enough and no more. What one needs to not know in order to keep one’s heart safe. Nice crafting.

I love, too, that Bitney mentions “that whoopsie feeling one gets when reading [a poem].” It is an immensely strange pleasure, reading a good poem, and one I would feel incredibly humbled to be able to create for someone else.

You can read the whole article on the CBC Canada Writes website, on this page here.

Published by Ruth Daniell

Ruth Daniell is a speech arts teacher, a book editor, and an award-winning writer. Her first full-length collection of poems is The Brightest Thing (Caitlin Press, 2019). She lives in Kelowna, BC, where is at work on her second collection of poems.

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