Quebec Anglophone Poets on The Best American Poetry Blog
This project started with the idea to study and present four English-speaking poets from Montreal whose work I admire and respect. These poets are David McGimpsey, Jason Camlot, Todd Swift, and Jon Paul Fiorentino.
In the upcoming weeks on The Best American Poetry blog, I will present and introduce poems which I consider representative of the poet in question, followed by an interview which I conducted with the poet. I was able to interview the poets individually this spring. I interviewed Jason Camlot, David McGimpsey, and Jon Paul Fiorentino in person, in Montreal. Since Todd Swift currently lives in London, England, I interviewed him via e-mail.
I may have been a little homesick at the inception of this project: since I am an Anglophone Montrealer myself, I was interested in learning about other poets' experiences centered around my hometown. Over the years, I have read and enjoyed the works of David McGimpsey, Jason Camlot, Todd Swift, and Jon Paul Fiorentino a great deal, and I was interested in seeing if there were any commonalities within their work due to their shared experiences.
The poets whom I'm considering have a lot in common. They were born around the same time (1962, 1966, 1967) with the exception of Jon Paul Fiorentino (1975). All four poets worked closely with the late poet, Robert Allen, and studied at Concordia University in Montreal. Three of them currently teach there. Camlot, Swift, and McGimpsey were born in Montreal. Fiorentino moved from Winnipeg to Montreal to study and work there, and has been living there for ten years.
With all this information in mind, I began brainstorming possible labels for these four poets and their contemporaries. The "Montreal English Poets" was one. Another was "The Concordia School". I even considered "The Robert Allen" school. In short, I was driven by the idea that these poets could be considered a new school of poetry that hadn't yet been categorized and named. Many of my questions reflected the desire to see them as a group.
After interviewing them, though, I learned that these labels would have ultimately generalized their individual works. Even the potential name "Montreal English Poets" is fraught with complexities, and might even be politically incorrect, due to the historical conflicts between the English and French languages (and people) within Quebec and Canada.
A couple of the poets referred to themselves, instead, as Anglophone Quebec Poets, emphasizing their dominant language rather than their ethnicity. With this preference in mind, I have named this project A Dialogue With Four Anglophone Quebec Poets and Their Poems. I do not intend for this label, "Anglophone Quebec Poets" to function as that of a school or movement, but rather as a useful but imperfect term by which to refer to these poets' linguistic and geographic commonalities. These commonalities are, after all, what firsts let me to consider these poets as a group. (A more accurate post-modern title, perhaps, would have been A Dialogue With Four Poets and Their Poems, but then again, that seems too generic.)
Many thanks to the four poets for their participation and to David Lehman for the opportunity to have excerpts from my project published on The Best American Poetry blog.
Also, today's my mother's birthday. Happy birthday, Mom!
The first post in which I present Todd Swift and one of his poems is now online at The Best American Poetry blog.
You can read it here.