WHAT THIS REUNION MEANS

 Stephen Morrissey

For me, this “reunion” of the Vehicule Poets is a time of reflection on what we did together; what we have accomplished since we went our separate ways; and what we are doing now. I am grateful for having met and known Endre Farkas, Ken Norris, Artie Gold, Claudia Lapp, John McAuley, and Tom Konyves. They were the poets of my youth and will always have a special place in my heart.


The five intensive years of being associated with the Vehicule Poets were a time of belonging to a poetry community. I attended numerous poetry readings and served an apprenticeship to poetry. In my own poetry I began to articulate who I was and where I belonged in the greater world around me. I don’t remember having any doubts about being a poet or questioning the necessity of what I was writing. Writing poetry was not something I felt that I had any choice about. I appreciate that my teaching profession has also been in the service of poetry and I have had the privilege of teaching Canadian literature over these past years. I have continued to read poetry and biographies of poets, and to write and publish poetry.


During a three-day period in April 1977 I wrote the long-poem, “Divisions”. Writing this poem was important for me, as it was my first significant confessional poem. However, the time of germination needed to write this poem took place over many years before I actually wrote the poem. It included finding a form for the poem, and being able to “scribble down your nakedness” as Allen Ginsberg advised, a phrase that had made an impression on me ten years prior to when I wrote “Divisions”. By “confessional poetry” I refer to poems written out of a sense of emotional urgency. They are not therapy, but contain content that demands to be written because of its psychological, spiritual, and emotional importance to the poet.


But “Divisions” was not my only confessional writing. Family Album (Caitlin Press, 1989) is a collection of short poems--snapshots of significant events--that explore and reveal family life. During the 1990s I wrote “The Shadow Trilogy”: The Compass (1993), The Yoni Rocks (1995), and The Mystic Beast (1997), all published by Empyreal Press, in Montreal. These books explore marriage, family, sexuality, grief, and the renewal of a life through romantic love. To explore consciousness deeply requires going beyond our hesitation to discuss subjects that we find overly personal or that we are afraid to inquire into. Beginning with “Divisions” and continuing to the completion of “The Shadow Trilogy”, the development of the confessional aspect of my work becomes apparent.


Who have been my influences? They include Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Lowell. But I also had poet mentors who encouraged me and treated me with kindness and respect, including Louis Dudek and George Johnston. Some of the Canadian poets I read in my youth were A.M. Klein, Leonard Cohen, bill bissett, and Alden Nowlan. I met Vancouver-born poet Carolyn Zonailo in May 1991, and since then she has been an on-going influence, professionally and in my everyday life—we married in 1995. She is a lyric poet of great beauty and intensity. Knowing CZ transformed my life and awakened love where love had diminished.


Poetry is the voice of the human soul. Whether written three thousand years ago in ancient Greece, or yesterday in Montreal, poetry has an urgency and relevance that is never dated, always human, and able to communicate across time and geography. My poetry is a life-long confession; it is the voice of the soul found in images, emotion, and the music of language. Mapping the Soul: Selected Poems 1978-1998 (The Muses’ Company, 1998) is the journey of a single poet through the many experiences of the first half of an individual’s life.


Looking over the years since I began writing poems, when I was fifteen years old, I can see the unfolding of my life story. It is a drama in which experiences are lived, emotions felt, and challenges are met or avoided. My poetry affirms both mundane living and the spiritual dimension of life. We may think our existence is meaningless when we are young, but age gives us a different perspective. From my early poems until now I have gained an appreciation of the value and meaning of what it means to be human, from the simplest details to the most complex situations.

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