Friday, 14 June 2013

The Score

Last night, David W. McFadden was awarded the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize for his collection, What's the Score? Rhonda Batchelor is a fan:
He’s revered for his dis­tinct­ive voice, a play­ful off­beat style that invites you in, sits you down, and charms you with dis­arm­ingly detailed, multi-levelled nar­rat­ives full of odd char­ac­ters, mys­tical twists, and quirky asides. Then, before you know it, a lever’s been pulled that drops you through a trap door in your con­scious­ness. For read­ers, the exhil­ar­a­tion of not know­ing where you’ll end up can be addict­ive. It’s kept this reviewer read­ing McFad­den for sev­eral dec­ades.  
Chris Shalom has some trouble with the Griffin-winning book:
For me, many of the poems exist only as a vague sense of emotion; the words yield feeling, perhaps, but sometimes so little sense of meaning that they don’t even provoke thought. The incredibly wide-ranging allusions, from Spinoza to Lauren Bacall to Eurydice to Proust, may be partly to blame. But sometimes the poetry is frustrating, as just as one begins to grasp a narrative strand or a sense of meaning, the next stanza switches topics, time, space completely. Possibly this is intentional defamiliarization of thought patterns, asking us to expand our comfort with juxtaposition and decrease our reliance on familiar connotation. Possibly, it is an unintentional lack of clarity. I don’t know. But for me, the connections sometimes just aren’t there.
George Bowering already warned us about those missing "connections" over thirty years ago:
Sometimes the reader will feel herself invited to make conclusions but unsure that she really knows what the "product" should be. The compositional method that makes for such "confusion" or uncertainty is at the heart of McFadden's poetic. Often he will seem to offer implied comparisons of bits of information or events, giving only the implication of the comparison, not the spark that one wants to see leaping across the space between the details, the impulse, say, to settle the order implied in coincidence.
Gary Barwin hopes McFadden returns to his old stomping grounds, Hamilton:
Maybe when he returns, they’ll change the street sign outside the Y that says ‘Franz Liszt’ and rename the street after Dave. Cul de Sac of Endless Radiance. Why are You So Long and Sweet Road, Park of Darkness. From here on in all road surfaces will be known as the Davement. Maybe they’ll just create a statue of him in dried plums and put it on Anonymity Street. But really, I don’t think that they should name a physical thing after him. They should name a certain kind of bemused happy/sad wonder after him. A quirky curiosity. Kids in Hamilton will be graded on this on their report cards. You got an B- in McFadden? You could do better. "Get on the bus and find out about people’s past lives. Take a trip around something. Plug your legs into the ground and become electrical. Become coincident. Now, and I mean it."
In any case, he seems like a nice guy:
Q: Name one poet, living or dead, it seems everyone loves but you. A: I like everybody’s poetry, living or dead. With the possible exception of myself.

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