Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: David Seymour

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David Seymour

David Seymour's work has been nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award and the CBC Literary Award, amongst others, and this season he returns with For Display Purposes Only (Coach House Press).

Poet Tim Lilburn praised For Display Purposes Only for its "energized curiosity and humane amusement", noting "David Seymour is a magician".

Today we speak to David as part of our celebration of National Poetry Month and part of our Poets in Profile series, which aims to find out what inspires, confounds and delights today's Canadian poets.

In our conversation, David tells us about the amoral joy of reading, the attraction of the brutal and the crisis of the writer at a dinner party.

And don't miss our post on David's amazing book trailer for For Display Purposes Only.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

David Seymour:

I think the experience of reading has proven the greatest contributor. Feeling that amoral joy when encountering a well written line, in poetry or prose, is an unparalleled wonder. Then one spends a lifetime trying to recreate the fineness of that experience for someone else.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


I don’t know about the ‘first’ per se, but in my teenage years, Randall Jarrell’s ‘Death of the Ball Turret Gunner’ and Michael Ondaatje’s ‘ The Time Around Scars’ stand out. Through the accident of song in early youth, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, as sung by The Tokens.


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


Geez, that’s difficult. Why is this so hard to answer? I’m going to throw a dart in the air and say John Berryman’s “The Ball Poem”. Or Issa’s haiku, “This world is made of dew”. No, no, Karen Solie’s “The Vandal Confesses”… no, wait…


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Coronation Street, Walter Benjamin, the Isle of Skye, the skewed vertex at one corner of my bedroom ceiling. Not to be flippant, but they’re all equally surprising to me when they lend an image, or idea, or phrase. Lately I’ve been drawn to, well, brutal might be too harsh a word, but things that actively abrade the lyric thought or impulse, though are no less beautiful for it. Dialects, landscapes, personae, philosophies. Also, I’ve recently learned never to underestimate the power of popular culture to reveal certain existential truths.


What do you do when a poem is not working?


When there seems to be no exit from, or no further entry into, a poem I try to put it aside. It’s very difficult to realize when and if one should do that, although my decision to throw something away has become far less emotionally determined. I’m less possessive now about broken poems, and more interested in retrieving salvage material from those failed attempts.


What was the last book of poetry that really knocked your socks off?


Right now I’m reading Michael Donaghy’s Collected Poems, and it’s fairly removing my argyles for its concision, remarkable reflex for rhyme, and use of simple language to convey complex ideas and interactions. Also, I’m slavering after Jacob Polley’s Havocs but have yet to acquire it.


What is the best thing about being a poet….and what is the worst?


At dinner parties I respond that I’m a writer when asked what I do. This generates immediate interest in conversation. When I, often sheepishly, elaborate that I write poetry, the secondary reaction falls between being appalled or insulted. I’m not sure whether this answers the question properly.

David Seymour's Inter Alia was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. His poems have been included in three Best Canadian Poetry anthologies, shortlisted for the CBC Literary Award and used as song lyrics for The Warped 45's. David lives in Toronto, where he works in the film industry.

For more information about For Display Purposes Only please visit the Coach House website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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