Today’s contributor to The Optimisms Project, Jeff Latosik, wants readers to remember the sheer, cussed defiance that goes into the composition of a good poem. Defiance as optimism–a fine answer to our question, “What makes you feel optimistic about the future of poetry in Canada?”
For project curator Jacob McArthur Mooney’s introduction to The Optimisms Project please go here.
What makes you feel optimistic about the future of poetry in Canada?
By a departing light
We see acuter, quite,
Than by a wick that stays.
There’s something in the flight
That clarifies the sight
And decks the rays.
A good poem is, in many ways, an act of defiance. This poem, by Emily Dickinson, is roughly 30 words. What can you express in 30 words? Well, a lot. More than you might think. Less than 30 words even–give me less words, Dickinson might say, and I will give you more.
Whenever I read a good poem, I’m always shocked by the fact that it’s there. That’s the response I have: this thing has no business being here, but it is. Someone put the time and effort into creating this thing that has no pragmatic value and is one of a seemingly endless array of others. But if it’s good–if it works–there’s almost no way to diminish it. So there, it says.
The good ones show us why we’re here. They clarify the value system that artists hold, which is a kind of response to being moved or shaken awake by great work. Hold to that and go forth. Make it sing against the reasons not to.
Jeff Latosik’s award-winning poems have appeared in magazines and journals across the country. He won the P.K. Page Founders’ Award from The Malahat Review in 2007, placed first in THIS Magazine‘s Great Canadian Literary Hunt in 2008, and was a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for 2008. He teaches at Humber College in Toronto. Tiny, Frantic, Stronger (Insomniac Press, 2010) is his first book.