and we fell
to the creeks
and blowing grass
of hillsides riddled red
blooming from the bones
Today is Remembrance Day! Red poppies! Red poppies everywhere!
Someone somewhere will recite John McRae’s “In Flanders Field”. Perhaps, a grade school child (with a blonde lock of hair over her eyes and a shoelace untied) will rustle a paper sheet before uttering the poem’s title. Her classmates may sit-wiggle-squirm cross-legged on a gymnasium floor. Outdoors, across town in the cold damp November air, a uniformed solider may place a wreath at a cenotaph. Silence observed. We try to remember.
Thanks to poets and storytellers, the scars of war remain etched on our minds. However, John McRae isn’t the only Canadian poet to write about the atrocities of conflict. This fall, contemporary poet Keith Inman added a fresh viewpoint of history with his first trade book The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven. Published by Black Moss Press, this 104-page collection includes 67 poems categorized into three sections: Wars of Dependence: 1812 to 1887, A Republic Monarchy: 1889 to 1953, and Armed Peace: 1954 to Present.
If it sounds dry, it isn’t. Inman’s work is enriched by strong characters and setting. He often includes dialogue and draws unusual but memorial stories from ordinary men and women living and working in what appears to be ordinary situations.
It’s a winning combination. Several of his poems included in this collection have been previously published in literary journals such as Descant or CV2. Others have placed in contests.
According to his book bio: he has published two chapbooks: Tactile Hunters (Cubicle Press, 2005) and A Stone with Sails, part of Sigil Press’s trilogy of Niagara Poets: Hanging on a Nail (2009).
Last week, I asked Inman to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:
Describe your book. Why did you write it?
War Poems represents the years Canada was at war. However, instead of a traditional war front, I wanted to look at what was going on in the lives of the people who were, basically, funding the war through family and taxes. I also believe that people, generally, rely on reason to form and inform their lives. I also like to delve into what happens when time and circumstance get in their way?
What are you working on?
How does your work differ from others?
I started out as a short story writer, loved developing characters, rather than the internal ‘I’, or, testimonial point of view which is standard fare for poetry. I find it more rewarding creating from, let’s say, ‘what happened on the way to the forum’: a drunk crosses the road. His name is Fred. A war vet. Air force. Trainer, maybe.
Posted east, to train land- loving colonials how to fly above their gods. A separation of religions. Mutilation begets mutilation. Bodies of whole families in the ditch. Their sandals stolen. A drunk crosses the street.
Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?
There comes a point when all the learning and lessons that you’ve absorbed over years becomes automatic – something triggers a thought, you sit down, and write. Editing comes later, although I find much of the process now happens as I am writing. Not sure that’s good or bad, it just is. Also, against most recommendations, I do not write every day. That is not my personality. That does not work for me. I don’t force it.
I remember reading about Nikola Tesla building a machine in his head, ‘then let it run for a few months.’ Later, he’d think about where the bearings showed signs of wear. What wasn’t working, etc… I think of it as periphery intelligence, or periphery sequencing. For me, I allow ideas to work in my brain for a period, see what imagery attaches to the machinery of it, let the gears mesh for a while, let the pressure build in the pipes, then write. It usually works.
Thanks Keith for the interview.
Watch this blog for additional Canadian Poet Profiles.
*from the poem “The Flute and the Rifle” The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) Reprinted with permission from the author. Copyright ©2014 Keith Inman