David has two chapbooks to his name: Locomotive and Tender (Jamie  Hamilton’s Pikadilly Press, 1977) and Spilling the Beans (Clarke  Leverette’s Killaly Press, 1979).  His only full-length book was published  in 2005 by Sheila Martindale and South Western Ontario  Poetry. 

Conceived in Oshawa and born in Erith, Kent, England, many years ago, David has lived in several places: Port Hope, Midland, Lachine, Belleville, Agincourt, Kitchener, Dryden, Lucan, and London. 

As a result, he has attended four elementary schools, five secondary schools and three universities. After all that education--and,  geez, what else did he know?—David wound up teaching English in six high schools, most of them in London, Ontario.  

At 17, he wrote his first poem, a short lyric about the two dented garbage cans he put out on the curb in front of his parents’ house in Kitchener. And the first poet that meant anything to him was Raymond Souster and his book  Ten Elephants on Yonge Street. 

Now he reads widely in poetry and appreciates the work of Ammons, Booth, Crozier, Dunn, Heaney, Mahon, Matthews,  McKay, Olds, Reid, Szymborska and Williams, amongst others.

MORNINGS       

 

I walk the spider 
down my shirt

and loop the snake 
around my waist 

and tie the butterflies 
across my feet

to take the dog 
for her morning walk.

SOMEONE WENT BEFORE

This long path 
across the snow 
a little wider 
than two boots 
side by side 
was given me 
as short-cut 
and connection 
by some unknown 
whose first boots 
plunged deep 
into wells of snow 
and whose legs 
pulled out step 
by step each foot 
but in that 
going slow 
he’s sped up mine 
and now the path’s 
hard-packed 
by all of us who 
have approved 
his slightly off 
the compass 
straight and true 
this crooked gift 
that soon will shrink 
and disappear 
in the sun’s heat 
and the rain’s flow. 

FIVE BIRDS AND A FENCE

five grey and brown house
sparrows weaving in and out 
of a chain-link fence and
filling up the tilted squares

with their common lively bodies
clues of this and now
in a crossword strung across 
the backside of a schoolyard

calling me with answers on
the slant not across and
down but this side that
side how many letters and

what’s a synonym for that
word and what’s it start
with oh induction and then
deduction what you know and

what you can subtract tic
tac toe we fly and 
play for you who’s captured
by the curse to know

INSOMNIA

Lying in his bed 
beside his wife 
he’s wide awake 
blinking at the dark 
just an animal 
breathing in and out 
sucking on the air 
a consciousness 
who knows his light 
will disappear 
but the dark is great 
and his place is small 
his body a house 
where he’s the tenant 
and the landlord 
how he understands 
all he owns is breath 
what can he do 
but get on with it 
and hope to suffer 
wisdom on the way.

 

How old were you when you first started writing poetry and what was the impetus for that?

My first poem, a short descriptive piece about the dented metal garbage cans that I put out in front of my parents’ house in Kitchener, was written when I was 17. I must have felt some kinship with them; I saw character in them; I gave them names.

 


Which poets have influenced you the most over the course of your writing career? Do you have any favourites?

Raymond Souster’s Ten Elephants on Yonge Street was discovered in the Kitchener Public Library. I loved that book. I have a copy of it now. Other influences would be Earle Birney, the haiku poets, William Carlos Williams, the concrete poets, the Imagists, Christopher Reid and Craig Raine, and many Canadians, Al Purdy and Don McKay foremost among them.

 


Your first love seems to have been science. What led you to move more into English literature as a professional pursuit?

I started out in Natural Sciences at  Western, but after struggling with Physics and Chemistry, I chose English as my major. Ironically, it was my lowest mark. I was happier with the study of language because I’d written a journal through most of my high school years. Blame that on my English grandmothers who used to send me Lett’s Schoolboy Diaries every Christmas.

 


Have you traveled much during your lifetime? If so, have any of those different journeys influenced your poetry? Is there any particular type of imagery that comes back to you again and again and is used in your poems?

I love England. I was born there and I have been over there nine times. When I’m in England, ideas for poems come to me. Poems are my inner photographs. As far as imagery is concerned, I do recall a fixation with the railway and the loneliness inherent in the sound of the locomotive’s horn. There might be some animal imagery in my poetry, but other than that vague perception, someone else is going to have to point out the imagery I use.

 


What have been the biggest influences on your poetry through the course of your life?

Graduate school at the University of Waterloo, the reading of poetry (I have hundreds of books of poetry) and a certain unnamed London poetry group that I used to be a member of.

 


How do you think your poetry has evolved during your writing career and what has especially influenced that evolution?

I don’t know if I’ve had a writing career. I write because I have to, because I want to, because it’s a record of my thought. It calls me and I answer. My poetry has grown in length from the short lyric to the longer lyric which is more focused on rhythm and shape. The concrete possibilities of a poem interest me. Upsetting items in the newspaper can sometimes generate poems: the bombings in London, England; the earthquakes in Turkey and Haiti; the senseless shooting of Jane Creba in Toronto. Then there are other subjects: birds, dogs, nature, desire, love and death.

 


I know that you worked as a teacher for many years. How did your students influence your creative writing? I also know that you love your dog and many poems feature your dog. Can you tell me a little bit more about that special relationship?

I taught high school English for thirty years and I’d sit down in a spare student desk and write my journal along with my students. I loved that—but they had to be quiet. And sometimes I’d write a poem about an incident in the school, a bad class or a particular student who was a misfit, a survivor—a weed.
Bev and I have looked after two black Labrador retrievers. The first one, Bronte, was big and stoic; the second one, Jackie, is smaller and more energetic. Jackie gets me out of the house, into the neighbourhood and down into the river valley where she sniffs around and eats grass--dog salad. I look for birds or I write a poem in my head. The challenge there is to remember what I said to myself and to write the lines down on paper soon after we arrive home.

 


What is the future for you in terms of poetry?

I just want to keep on writing poems. Ambition and organization are not strong with me and so I do not send poems out to lit mags anymore. Of course, I wish I did, but wishes are not actions. Idea: a book containing 100 poems?

 


I have a question about your poem: Someone Went Before. Obviously, this poem was inspired by a walk in the snow but would you please share a little bit more about its inspiration? I think it's a lovely poem. I'm wondering how you came to write it, though.

I wrote the poem “Someone Went Before” many years ago, a result of realizing I owed someone for helping me make my way across a schoolyard of deep snow. But I also realized I owed thousands of unknown people for all the things I have. We all do. The expression “a self-made man” always makes me laugh—as if such a man had no mother, no culture, no language and no luck. I thought of other titles for the poem, “Inheritance” and “Democracy”, but I wanted to keep the title closer to the original experience. Someone had gone before--and maybe there’s a little elegy in that as well.

 

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