Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Men Die for Lack of It

Last weekend I attended a day long conference at the University of Victoria put on by the Center for Religion and Culture Studies. Featuring four of our country's best known writer: Jan Zwicky, Alisa Kirk, Anne Michaels and Don Domanski, the free seminar brought to the fore some of the best thinking on poetry and contemplation that is on offer these days. Needless to say, it was a full house.

The conference was divided in two, with readings and hour long discussions divided by lunch. The morning session was the most interesting, with Tim Lilburn moderating a panel discussion with Zwicky and Michaels. A visiting prof from the French department provided a reader's perspective. Zwicky's talk could easily be transcribed directly and published, so spare, exact and sharp were her comments. Michaels, though more verbose, was equally as astute. And Lilburn, as always, was the perfect host--gentle, probing, full of humility, but with great passion for the great thoughts.

I have a recording of the session, a snippet of which I'll post here.

When I was sitting, listening to Zwicky, Lilburn and Michaels talk, I kept seeing the image of a giant boulder, resting in the air above and behind them. It rocked and spun slowly, held up by their words. If the daily, quotidian life is the rock we keep pushing up the hill, their words were the magic that keep that stone in the air, never falling. A necessary shadow, reminding us of our fragility, of the work that contemplation and poetry takes. Of the joy in the keeping-in-air of its particular and peculiar thought. It's November, but there is still hope in the world.