Please join us in celebration of Dan Darrah’s Perennial Fields at 1349 Queen St. West (Permanent Sleep Bookshop/ Capital Espresso) on Saturday, July 27th, 2019 at 7pm. Alongside drinks and music (provided by Platinum Playhouse) we invited friends to produce visual works (available for purchase) inspired by the poems contained within Darrah’s Perennial Fields creating a beautiful multimedia group exhibition which will also be on display.
Beyond the language of Dan Darrah’s poetry – a language filled with searching, wondering, reflecting – lies the language of bodies. The poems collected in Perennial Fields are filled with people. Mostly nameless save for a few, the citizens of Darrah’s work are complicated yet realized and represented economically, as if to imply that the reader knows them so well, maybe even is them, that they don’t need any explanation at all. Some spread marmalade amidst bouts of crying, some drop bags of groceries, some flick bugs, but everyone does this with, to, or for someone else. All of these actions lead to connection, or a desire for it. Darrah’s poems are successful meditations on a universal personal: how do we live with ourselves and with others?
*Available via Deathwish Inc 27/07/19
I had to read Kirby’s wonderful poetry collection twice because there is a lot going on and a second read was necessary to absorb the beauty of it all. The book is so frank, honest, raw and funny.
In the book, Kirby isn’t afraid to talk about sex, combining the joy that one feels in the act, taking us through histories of traumas, suicides, AIDS, familial stories, while bringing laughter in the most awkward times, the poems are skin deep, gut-wrenching.
In the poem “9:30 PM”, Kirby recalls the time when he took his father to see Wertmuller’s The Seduction of Mimi. I laughed hard because of the way Kirby had a foot-note, talking about the experience. Above it : “Smoke, stale cum, disinfectant. Wet.” There is a high level of sincerity in the that resonated with me. Similarly, the poem “Cristofolo,” Kirby recalls the time when he met this hot Italian man and how he used to park in the driveway with him when Kirby’s mother asked if we would use the front living room she didn’t want the neighbours to see (fuck, what could they see, fogged up windows at 3AM?)” I sensed that his relationship with his mother was strained, there seemed to be a barrier between the two.
In the poem, “The Only Reason,” Kirby’s mother “said that’s all they knew of homosexuals, that they were child molesters and that they killed themselves and even though as a child I dreamed of being molested myself.” It brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of a conversation, I had with a family member about homosexuals, my relative asserting that the gays kill themselves and God punishes them with AIDS. Kirby continuously reminds us of these traumas, such as in the poem “Lament” and other poems like “My Eulogy, “ which had one line that always haunts me: “My biggest disappointment is never hearing I was loved because I’m gay.” How can anyone not tear up to this? In the poem, “What She Lived Through,” each section of the poem were like little chapters in a novel, illustrating the relationship between Kirby and his mother when he came out to her as gay, how he asked to go see a therapist, how she uttered the words, “I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.” What breaks my heart the most is Kirby’s unconditional love to her: “How did she not know she was beautiful?”
The tears fill my eyes as they drop on my cheeks, a half-smile buried underneath. Kirby’s poem had to be read twice and three times and more because it grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Even in the end, I am still in a bittersweet aching state. His words are not for the faint of heart. “Cocksuckers know. It’s a calling.”
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first chapbook was Simple Enough put together by my bf at the time Don Pyle in 1985. That we both existed was remarkable enough. That, and being in love.
At 60, This Is Where I Get Off, is my full-length debut. Again, I had no idea either would exist. Still here. A sweet surprise.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Poetry was my intro to gay lit in the 70s, Cavafy, O’Hara, Ginsberg, Gunn, Dennis Cooper, Essex Hemphill, Rich, Lorde, Strand, Baldwin, Antler, Giorno. And John Rechy. Ed White. Samuel Delany.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
The work is continuous. Outside of my daily 30-40 minutes, it’s constantly a matter of jotting things down. Otherwise, it’s gone. I love the word copious. What it does to my mouth.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I always have at least a year’s worth of dabblings I return, give shape to. I see pieces. My editor (Kathryn Mockler for This Is Where I Get Off) sees book.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
An essential part. I write in a ‘to be read’ voice. I have enormous regard for the reader, the listener.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
The questions themselves. My work is often an open inquiry. I’m fascinated most by people’s private logic, how they connect the dots. What moves people, reaches the surface (or not) and how.
The ‘current’ question for me is always from the Gospel of Luke, “How then shall we live?”
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I’ve always said, “give me a porpoise not a purpose,” and “if it’s void of humour, make another choice.”
I write what is mine to write. Which in its own way becomes an imperative.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential. Working with The Mockler was such a gift. I love her work. We both have a robust sense of humour and wit. But, she was/is much kinder to my work than myself would ever be. She would say, “No, keep that in, I like that.” She saw book. I was only seeing pieces.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I haven’t always been this pretty. I used to be a tough nut, dead fucking serious. I’d always go for my jugular. Now I choose a feather duster over a machete.
“Learning must be pleasurable, and it must be easy. The two make breathing simple.” - Moshe Feldenkrais
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I’ve attended poet/friend Hoa Nguyen’s Sundays for a number of years now. A lovely engagement with poets reading poets which gives me just enough structure to keep pen to paper. I carry notebook and pens at all times. And, I’m a voracious reader.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Damn, if I stop noticing the beauty around me, particularly in male form, check my pulse.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I grew up in gallery spaces. The Toledo Museum of Art. DIA. MoMA. AGO. Upon graduating from University, I bought a Greyhound bus pass, made a Rothko pilgrimage, hitting every museum that housed his work from Toledo to the chapel in Houston (where I spent a week, every day at dusk). My friend Tom and I always bought season tickets for Opening Night at Premiere Dance Theatre to meet the beauties after. I was a band wife for seven years. Work is never unilateral.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Not entirely certain the ask here, but my circle of friends is essential. My touchstones. Accurate reflectors.
Writings I return to again and again are Beckett, Albee, Chekov, Barthes, Genet, Baldwin, Didion, Cavafy, Rilke, more contemporary I’d say Carl Phillips, David Wojnarowicz, Henri Cole, Thom Gunn. Mark Strand. I feel in kinship with Alex Dimitrov, Travis Sharp, Shiv Kotecha, Timothy Liu in that they move me by making me come full stop. I love Dale Smith’s work. Ralph Kolewe. Norma Cole. Hoa. And CAConrad. Currently reading Rene Ricard.
And, I read a lot of journals, notebooks Camus, Isherwood, Gide, especially Tennessee Williams. To read how they lived through things, what a gift.
Essential? Rilke’s reflections on Auguste Rodin. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Go to the Tate Modern. Touch a redwood.
16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Not what, but who! I wanted to be Anthony Kiedis (okay, for a night, in concert).
I might’ve entertained librarianship earlier than I did. I lean towards service. I dream of making a perfect fish sandwich people would line-up around the block for. Enjoy being useful/valued.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Writing is where I continue to find my body, my voice.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Hasan Namir’s War/Torn (book*hug) ripped me a new one. Jean-Luc Godard's Le livre d'image.
19 - What are you currently working on?
A new chapbook for Jim Johnstone at Anstruther Press, working title, She Ascended Into Heaven.
A glorious rampage through glory holes to holy glory, This Is Where I Get Off is an incandescent trip through time and place. With singing rage, ferocious wit, sly tenderness, and defiant heart, these poems kick against the pricks, even as they worship what wounds. This collection cuts through convention to command attention, a triumphant “fuck you” to unfeeling. Sublimely smutty, these poems make radiant the particular pain of gay lust in a world that denies its existence. Love is not obscene, bodies are beauty, and belonging can be found even in the back row of an adult cinema. “Can you imagine all she’s lived through?” Kirby questions, then answers by blowing open all closets, tossing skeletons aside to two-step on the bones.
— ROXANNA BENNETT Author of Unmeaningable and Unseen Garden
This Is Where I Get Off isn’t the work of a mere debutante, but a lived-in and unflinchingly rendered poetic treatise on life, love, and survival from one of Canada’s best kept secrets. Get in, take a tour of Kirby’s temples, and get off!
— JIM JOHNSTONE Editor of The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry
Part memoir and part adventure, This is Where I Get Off is a debut collection as exciting as a treasure map where ‘‘X’ marks multiple spots. Kirby’s poems pay homage to yesterday’s lost temples and make space for new ones, celebrating our secrets and our bodies as sites for sacred ritual. Provocative, erotic, vulnerable, and liberating, Kirby lights a match, and stands in the heat of the fire.
— DAVID JAMES BROCK Author of Everyone is CO2 & Ten-Headed Alien
Kirby's This Is Where I Get Off is a glory whole!
— JESSICA JOY HIEMSTRA Author of The Holy Nothing
I read Kirby's This Is Where I get Off with awe, envy, amazement. And then I read it again, for the love that resides everywhere here... And here I say to the author love is the very wonder of you.
—Excerpt from forward by LYNN CROSBIE Author of Chicken and Liar