One Question Interview: Alessandro Porco

05Apr10

Alessandro Porco is the author of two collections of poetry: Augustine in Carthage, and Other Poems and The Jill Kelly Poems. He’s also the editor of the new critical study, Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey.

You’re the editor of Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey.  Was there much consensus between Canadian poets writing about this particular Canadian poet?

Thanks for the question, Alex.  First, I should clarify that only a couple of contributors to the collection are “Canadian poets”— there are pieces by Paul Vermeersch and Elizabeth Bachinsky, for example. But for the most part, the essays are written by an eclectic group of thinkers (a Canadianist, a Victorianist, a Faulkner specialist, and an American poetry scholar) from schools like the University of Toronto, Concordia University, the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and TCU. What they all have in common is a deep and studied relationship with David McGimpsey’s poetry and prose. They have smart and significant things to say about McGimpsey’s various takes on everything from aesthetics to nationalism, from love to language politics, and from class to literary influence (i.e. Shakespeare and Milton, etc.). Together, the essays provide everything from overviews of McGimpsey’s career, to considerations of single collections or single themes/ideas, and close readings of single poems, too. Plus, there’s a fantastic interview with McGimpsey to conclude things.

As for consensus, well, I think all the contributors are in agreement on one essential thing: that McGimpsey’s output over the last 20 years deserves— and is in need of— real critical attention, and that’s where the collection comes in. That said, it was tremendously fascinating as the editor to observe how each contributor focused on certain poems. Some poems came up repeatedly. For example, I’d guess that the most mentioned poem is McGimpsey’s classic, “O Coconut,” which originally appeared in The Globe and Mail and which famously skewers Margaret Atwood: “Once the snow was so deep / you almost couldn’t hear Margaret Atwood.” But throughout the book contributors display an interest in a wide variety of McGimpsey’s pieces: for example, David Vanderwerken is partial to McGimpsey’s sports poems, especially “Spit, Robbie, Spit,” while Nick LoLordo focuses on McGimpsey’s travelogue poems, especially the long-poem “Hamburger Valley, California.” So, there’s a lot of variety of opinion entangled within the overall consensus shared amongst the contributors that McGimpsey’s a major figure in Canadian poetry.

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