TIDNISH – Poetry’s place in mainstream culture is less secure than in years past.
“People are intimidated by modern poetry to a degree,” said poet Harry Thurston.
The co-author of a new volume of poetry, entitled The Deer Yard, pointed to the irony that in this fast-paced world, the short format of poetry might be ideal for today’s readers – especially in the case of his new collection, which features just 21 four-line poems by each of two writers.
The slim volume, beautifully produced by Nova Scotia publisher Gaspereau Press, was inspired by a famous “poetic correspondence” between two Chinese poets that was written 1,200 years ago. Thurston wrote his poems from the west coast during a winter he spent there – Thurston’s home is here in Cumberland County – while his co-author, Allan Cooper, wrote from Alma, New Brunswick.
“This book was really Al’s idea…,” said Thurston.
The two writers have known each other for decades. Thurston had previously read selections from the Wang River Sequence, as the ancient Chinese text is called, and both poets had Chinese influences early in their writing careers. The poet said their work pays homage to the two Chinese masters, Wang Wei and P’ei Ti, but he also finds common ground in the interest in the natural world shared by the two modern writers and the Taoist tradition that informed the Chinese correspondents.
The poems are paired, with Thurston writing four lines, followed by four lines from Cooper tied to Thurston’s work.
Those familiar with Thurston’s non-fiction may not be surprised to hear he studied biology in university (the natural world is a favourite subject). The idea art and science are separate spheres doesn’t reflect his personal experience.
“I’ve always sort of swum against that current,” he said.
Launch events for the new volume were held in Halifax and Moncton. Thurston said having two poets, two voices, brings a sense of drama and performance to readings. The writer said the poems, which he called very accessible, received an engaged reception at the events.