Thesen holding poetry reading tonight
I’m thinking it more as a receiver in the sense of what we take in, either consciously or more often unconsciously from the world around us.
The call comes in. The phone is ringing. Will you answer? Will you hear the other end of the conversation?
The conversation looks at the ends of life. The corners and the straightaways of life. It says things using words and phrase construction of a master builder. It was built into 100 pages between two green covers by Sharon Thesen, who is both the microphone and, as per the title, The Receiver.
Among the crafters of the English language, Thesen is a rare virtuoso. She has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry on three occasions, putting her in elite company on the Canadian literary landscape. But for all that projecting of creative thought, she observes that, like all people are, she is really more of a collector. Hence the new book’s title, emphasized by the photo of a vintage telephone.
“I’m thinking it more as a receiver in the sense of what we take in, either consciously or more often unconsciously from the world around us,” she told The Citizen in, of course, a phone call. “By some mysterious process it transmutes itself, or can, into some kind of art form. And I think of that thing that Ezra Pound said about poets being the antenna, as he said, of the race, the human race. The writer kind of hears the world and transmutes that into writing.”
This book is new in another sense as well. It is a mixed-genre collection, not just poetry. It contains elements of prose, essay, and memoir.
What it is not, however, is a diary. Truth frames and fortifies the contents of The Receiver but it is not a historical account. Even if it was, she said, that, too, would only be a filtered version of truth. But that’s hard to explain to her elderly mother who would, she knows, inevitably recognize past events and memories in this dispatch, and it might hurt.
Thesen said “I’m having fantasies about taking a razor blade to some of the pages” of the copy her mom will inevitably receive, to protect her mother’s feelings from those truths.
Thesen said the subject matter lays no blame nor does it point accusing fingers, “it’s just the milieu of what I grew up in, more of a mosiac than an arrow aiming inexorably at moi,” but sometimes getting to the root of things means exposing wounds.
“It’s a book that’s crowded with the experience of receptivity,” she said.
Part of its basis came from her memory of a movie seen in her youth. She remembered only that it was Ingrid Bergman, alone, talking mostly into a telephone, the plot acted out as one half of a conversation but depicting a full set of life’s conditions.
(The film was The Human Voice, 1966, directed by Jean Cocteau based on his 1930 play La Voix Humaine.)
That era of hard lines of communication, conversations announced by a ringing bell, no way of leaving messages, you either accept the call or you don’t, was large on her mind as she assembled the work within The Receiver. And also the woman, alone, emotional, confronting impending circumstances over which she had little control despite sensibility and strength.
“You can’t always shut everything out, and why would you want to – even though it’s not always good news,” said.
The lines of communication are wide open, vivid and personal at a reading tonight at the Twisted Cork (an event sponsored by the College of New Caledonia). Thesen will read from The Receiver and discuss writing for those who have questions.
Also reading at the event will be Fort St. John poet Greg Lainsbury and Prince George’s award-winning principal poet Barry McKinnon.
It is free of charge to attend and starts at 7 p.m.
— Sharon Thesen