PATRICK WOODCOCK INTERVIEW
Bio: Patrick Woodcock He was born - July 12th - thus his first name is William after the orange fela his second name is Patrick after the other fela - emotionally torn - his first two names bring together the loving protestants and catholics - to top this off with Woodcock (which is a name Shakespeare used to mean idiot) is certainly one of the classics of the name game. He found out what his name meant in grade 5 through a gesture he wants to forget read Dostoevsky's The Idiot in high school and decided he had to move to Russia or at least get as close as he could - drank till morn - had his first real beer in Montreal and decided to move there . . .many moves later including Iceland, Poland, Russia, The Baltics, The Balkans especially Bosnia and Herzegovina - The Sultanate of Oman and India, he now lives in Saudi Arabia. His seventh book of poetry Forgive The Host, Then Bury Him is due for publication Nov 2006. The future? Poet Laureate of Acton? And died playing the fluegelhorn.
Q: Patrick, why do you write? A: It helps postpone my inevitable physical and mental decay. Layton said that if he didn't write during the day he felt like a lump of coal. I feel the same way but would change 'a lump of coal' to 'the cover art for John Denver's Greatest Hits Volume 2.' Empty. It's just something you're naturally drawn to do isn't it? Even when nothing happens and the act itself is literally making me ill I feel I must continue with it. There are many days when I dread the thought of sitting down and writing. It's quite similar to the way I feel about eating. I really derive little pleasure from eating anymore, but obviously I must. Q: Why do you think anyone will be interested in what you write? A: I don`t really think about it - which doesn't mean I don`t care. It just means that the interests of others has little affect on my approach to writing. Q: Do you think there are too many 'young' poets at the moment? If so, how can they improve or define the Canadian canon? Does it need to improve -we have Layton, Cohen, Purdy, Bissett, Atwood,Gord Downie already. A: I can't answer the first question. But, I do believe there are too many people, both old and young, who call themselves poets. I think the word 'poet' and 'poetry' has gone to rot. Why do so many people care about the Canadian canon or at least pretend to? I don't like Layton, Cohen (note: Gordon Lightfoot is a better lyricist than Cohen) and Purdy because they are Canadian. I like them because they are good poets. What about Nowlan? I rarely hear anyone talk about him anymore and I think he is the best. When will Canadians just accept that not having an identity is our identity not everything can be defined. We cannot have one voice one definition or absolute - stating what a Canadian is. How do we define the canon? I don't know. Can a poet in Toronto be the voice of Iqaluit? If I read a Canadian poem that is average am I then supposed to praise it because it is Canadian? Am I supposed to suffer it and give it the benefit of the north side of the border doubt. I fear the kind of community that would allow this to happen. They are the same people who refuse to believe nationalism can (not will) lead to isolationism and artistic mediocrity. Maybe I just want to be an other writer among other poets among other Canadians. Last point. Lets say that I agree that defining the Canadian canon is important. Is it more important than what the West has let happen in Africa? More important than what North America alone has done to the environment. Is it more important than trying to understand the mentality of those policeman raping children in the Congo? Is it more important than offering psychiatric assistance to the Bosnian children who were shot at for over 3 years? Let the poets worry about those things first - the inequities of power. Lets worry more about the canons that are blowing are heads off before we worry about those giving us paper cuts. Q: Do you think that poetry is gaining in momentum internationally? If so what do you think it can hope to achieve? A: I don't know. There is so much older poetry that I am trying to get through that I find I have little time to search out more current writers. I think I still have another two or three months of reading Paul Durcan and Anthony Hecht. Christ I like their work a lot. Are they Canadian? (joke) I'd also like another go at Brodsky. What can poetry achieve? My opinions on this change daily. I used to despise art for art's sake. I guess because of my ties to Ireland and my travels in Eastern Europe, Russia and the Balkans I have become far more political or at least more aware. And being a minder for PEN has certainly humbled me in many respects. But now . . . the world is in such a horrible state that I find I need to read literature that is socially conscious while also reminding me that men can be more than butchers. (Tomorrow I will re-write this and on and on . . .) I want to try and combine the two and write poetry that entertains while reminding the reader of one's duty and accountability. Q: Are you, like, a big T.V. personality in Bosnia? A: I'll always wonder what would have happened if I had continued with The Black Chronicles. The producers asked me to return and continue my part but then they screwed up my plane ticket and someone had to take my place so my career in the Bosnian version of Law and Order was limited to the first episode. Lord I was a nervous wreck when I was acting. But at least I had a hair girl and my own chair. I don't care what he said. I said no fucking witnesses BANG. Q: As you publish in Bosnia and Canada do you think that the people (poets, readers) of Canada fully understand your work? A: I've been published in a few more places than the two you mention Slovenia, Mimico, Serbia, Long Branch, Poland the list just goes on and on. If the piece is written well then I think most people will find something in iteven if the link to their emotions is tenuous at best. Obviously if I write about the parliament building in Sarajevo it would help if someone knew what it looked like but the work shouldn't depend on it or rely on it. It has to be able to stand on its own without biographical, geographical, political etc. information. But I also think the reader should get off his or her arse and do a bit of research. You should never be able to understand a poem immediately (try it with Mallarme) Immediacy is for those who like to go to poetry readings and laugh out loud at bad stand-up comedy. Immediacy is for those who applaud after some wanker compares his poem about the lovely eggs benedict he had for brunch in The Beaches to Philip Larkin. Q: Some of your earlier writing (Scarring Endymion et al), was sobre and serious stuff. Do you think you`ve been able to tap into your funny side, and for that matter do you want to? Are you worried, being a naturally funny guy that people won`t take you seriously? A: I do think I have written some funny pieces. When I was living in Oman I used to go for long walks in the Wadis dry riverbeds and take photographs of dead goats. I wrote a poem about one of them and compared its pecker to a minaret. Isn't that funny? In another piece about Sarajevo I compared a mountain to a balding businessman awaiting the cosmetic dignity of a blonde toupee of fog. Funny? I don't think what I write is 'serious.' I think that is too general a term. When I was asked to describe what I wrote at a festival in Slovenia I called it 'Remote Literature.' There are two reasons for this. Firstly, because of the form I have chosen, the way I write and the topics I write about I can never see myself being widely read. It will always be impossible for me to find even an average sized audience. So there is 'remote' in that sense. But I also like the word because of its relationship to television. If I am watching the news, a movie etc. and grow bored I use the remote to change the channel to something more relevant or stimulating. This is also how I write. If I need to switch to symbolism or surrealism during a piece that is ultimately a folk narrative I do it. I change the channels constantly during my writing. And it is because of this and my present inability to control this type of writing that I think some of the humour is lost. In the end the reader might think that something I think is very straightforward and amusing is dark and apocalyptic. I had this really great idea the other day. How about I write a book with only "a"s in the first chapter and "e"s in the second chapter and "i"s in the third etc. I think it would be a really neat little vowel book a conversation piece. I hope no one has already attempted it. I'm so excited about it I could crush my nuts "nuts" goes in the "u" chapter. Funny? Q: What sort of pants do you wear round the house? Are you a cutoffs kinda guy? A 'Y' Front man or do you go commando when people come by to visit whom you don`t like? Of course we can move on... A: Well considering it's the summer and I'm living in Saudi Arabia I can honestly say I try to never wear pants. I went for a 3 hour walk today - but only after a lovely swim in the Persian Gulf washed away my sunblock - so tomorrow and for the next week or so I will be wearing layers of burnt, peeling skin. Peel away the evil John, always peel it away. Q: Any thoughts on your next book? On securing a Canadian publisher? A: My next book is called Forgive The Host, Then Bury Him. It is due for publication in Belgrade, November 2006 by the same people who published Controlling Mastema - "Kunst und Gott" . I'm going to read from it in Sofia, Bulgaria and Nis, Serbia in October, 2006. I won't approach another Canadian publisher until I am living in Canada. I appreciate the amount of work publishers have to go through and the financial burdens many suffer from. If you are lucky enough to have someone pay to publish your book you should feel obligated to promote it is as much as you can and I cannot do that from the Middle East. Q: Any interest in writing a novel? A: No. The book I'm working on now is a collection of prose poems entitled Look, The Fish Are Having Nightmares. I have also been working on a few short plays. Has the word 'playwright' been ruined yet? Q: Any interest in getting your Irving Layton film on the T.V.? A: Yes, I'd like to get it shown but I want to add a different ending I think I will visit his grave when I'm back in Canada and use some of that footage instead. Considering our budget and your state of mind when you were filming it I think it turned out well. If I remember correctly you wanted to stab me in Montreal. Why? Q: Any interest in living with another writer again? Or not living with another writer? A: No to the writer question. 3 months paid = 3 nights stayed = enough. I'd like to live with a cellist or a cobbler. (not a joke) Q: How do you see yourself dying? A: I've thought about it quite a lot recently. How will it (I) go down? I truly believe I will be hit by a car. Now, whether it is the driver's fault or mine I am not sure. Do you have a driver's license? I hope I'm wearing my Irish suit, I'd like to fade away in tweed. don't plead for those willing to jump in the river don't grieve for the drowning smitten and scourged let water rush over both goat legs and silver past camels in car parks where men's souls float purged Written at 7am, July 11th 2006 in Jubail Industrial City, Saudi Arabia Patrick Woodcock