Daphne Marlatt Interview, September 12th 2014

 

Ashley Clarkson

00:00:11.20

Ok I will start the interview now

Ashley Clarkson

00:00:17.31

Interview on September 12th at 1:30. Interview Ashley Clarkson, Interviewee: Daphne Marlatt in Vancouver. The interview is taking place via Skype.

Ashley Clarkson

00:00:34.89

Usually I like to start an interview just by asking the really broad question about how you first became interested in poetry?

Daphne Marlatt

00:00:44.27

Well that takes me back a long way Ashley, because the first two people who were interested themselves in poetry in my life were my mother and my grandfather. They had a long history of being interested in it together, my grandfather was a doctor, but he loved poetry and he gave my mother occasional books of poetry throughout the years. When she was a young teen and when I got to know my grandfather quite briefly, because he was only in my life for a little while. He would recite poems and he actually gave my first little dictionary, it was a pocket dictionary a slim, long shape and I could carry it around with me and he loved to play with words. When they immigrated to Canada my mother was rather um, rather negative about Canadian education in the public school system (laughs) and she felt that my literary education was lacking. So when I was still in my early teens she got me reading Keat and Shelley, those were her two favorites, I don't remember...I don't think we looked at Wordsworth, I think it was mainly Keats and Shelley.

Ashley Clarkson

00:02:13.30

Ok wow, that's really interesting how you mentioned that your grandfather gave you those books and that was really your first introduction to them, because one of the questions we like to ask is when you first heard poetry read out loud. Was that a practice in your family that your grandfather and your mother would

Daphne Marlatt

00:02:31.66

No that wasn't a practice in my family at all. My father was a character accountant, so he did not share my mother's interest in poetry. His interest was music.

Daphne Marlatt

00:02:43.48

So his interest was music so we had a lot of music in our house, but I think, well you know in those days...I went to a really tiny elementary school in North Vancouver that was the foot of Groose Mountain it was called North Star (laughs). In those days we had to memorize poetry, so I remember memorizing Wordsworth's daffodils and we each had to stand up and recite it in turn

Ashley Clarkson

00:02:43.48

Oh ok

Ashley Clarkson

00:03:16.57

Ok

Daphne Marlatt

00:03:16.57

I don't think that was particularly enlightening for me, because children's recitation of poems was usually rather halting and you can tell how foreign it feels to them. I must have heard the teacher read it and the readings that I really remember as aural events happened to me when I went to UBC, so it was in my undergraduate years.

Ashley Clarkson

00:03:42.47

Ok

Daphne Marlatt

00:03:43.85

So that would have been 1960-64, and I heard some wonderful readings then

Ashley Clarkson

00:03:51.95

Do you remember-

Daphne Marlatt

00:03:51.95

Of course I was there for the 1963 Poetry Conference and even before 63' Warren and Ellen Tallman. Warren was one of my English professors, were bringing up Robert Duncan to give readings at UBC so that was a big ear and eye opener for me, because Duncan was an incredible presence

Ashley Clarkson

00:04:20.04

Yeah

Daphne Marlatt

00:04:20.24

Very, very...a very energetic and present personality, but with a great breadth of classical learning and yet an interest in making poetry as immediate as possible to his audience.   he had an audience of young poets and he knew that. He was a good teacher and Warren himself would insist on people reading poetry out loud. I remember in one of his classes we had to read a Whitman poem "Church with Two Veterans" I think it was that one. We all had to take turns reading it and Warren would make it quite elusive and say "You know you haven't quite got it" and then he'd go on to the next person (laughs). After awhile he'd sit and say "Ok so how do I get this? How do I get this poem?"

Ashley Clarkson

00:05:20.36

(Laughs)

Daphne Marlatt

00:05:21.09

So I had a good training in listening to poetry and at the 63' conference of course it was also wonderful to hear a woman read with great presence. Denise Levertoff gave a fabulous reading and that was very, as a young woman that was very empowering to hear her read. Then of course there was the very casual conversational way in which Creeley read which was always prefaced by many comments (laughs). So um, it was a wonderful introduction.

Ashley Clarkson

00:05:52.75

Yeah, and what I find really interesting about that too is that what you think about a poetry reading there are certain cues and keys that people use to evaluate the readings. So you were mentioning how Warren Tallman was saying "No that's not quite right" and then you were able to think about how other readings were distinctly different. When you think about a poetry reading what makes a reading stand out for you? Are there certain aspects that make a reading particularly great or good for you as compared to maybe it not being as striking?

Daphne Marlatt

00:06:43.27

Well let’s go back to your version of what Warren said, he wouldn't say "that's not quite right" but rather "that doesn't quite get it"

Ashley Clarkson

00:06:56.88

Oh ok

Daphne Marlatt

00:06:58.18

This is the bridge I think a poetry reading that is a great poetry reading for me is one that not only interests me intellectually, but also moves me. There is something intangible in that being moved, it is not simply emotional although one experiences it as an emotion. It has something to do with how the work addresses you in a very personal place. It is probably a complex of the emotional, the experiential on an intellectual level, like what seems in some ways familiar yet also a stretch beyond the familiar way of thinking and also probably in some ways spiritual to use that word in a larger sense of where we are situation or how we are living in this life.

Ashley Clarkson

00:08:14.52

So during the Duncan reading you mentioned how he had a very strong presence. So do you feel like during that reading all of that could have been checked off?

Daphne Marlatt

00:08:19.28

Yes, yes exactly. The same with the first time I heard Charles Olson read which was also the 63' conference. There was definitely a huge presence, not just in terms of his physical presence but also in terms of the history and his very personal engagement with that history. The significance of it moved through him, through his voice and out to the audience. Something that interested me a great deal was because I had the book right in front of me that he was reading from, it was from the Maximus poems and I could see that he would actually change some words while he was reading so the poem was never something that was dead on the page, it was always living and always up or rethinking while he was in the process of preforming it.

Ashley Clarkson

00:09:22.55

Wow that's really interesting, especially for our project, this idea of the living poem and how it changes when it is recited. So this would have all been in your undergrad, so do you feel like this was the turning point for you in your life as poet? Did it really steer you in the direction that you decided that you really wanted to strongly push into poetry?

Daphne Marlatt

00:09:47.23

Right, yes definitely, yes. I- you know when you're growing up you can't simply say to your parents that you want to be a poet (laughs)

Ashley Clarkson

00:09:57.32

(Laughs)

Daphne Marlatt

00:09:57.32

That's not anything you say to your parents and I wasn't even sure I wanted to be in high school. I knew I really wanted to write, but it had to be secret. I couldn't say that I wanted to be a writer because there was a lot of ego invested in saying that you wanted to be a writer. So I always had a cover story, that I was going to be this or going to be that, but once I got to UBC and I got to know the group of young writers there that began to put out TISH, so Fred Wah, Frank Davey, George Bowering, Gladys Hindmarch, Lou Reed, David Dawson, Bobby Hook. All of them were so invested in writing and that was clearly the most significant part of what they were doing and I got pulled into that.

Daphne Marlatt

00:11:01.88

I remember when I was, we had sort of a group reading between several of us, it was my first occasion to read and I was very shy and said "I can't do this". So I can't remember who now, but they said they'd read my poems for me. I recoiled and I shrank from the way he read my poems! That was not how I heard my poems (laughs) and from then on I said to myself, ok I am going to read my own poems and make them sound how I hear them in my head.

Daphne Marlatt

00:11:39.91

So it was from the beginning there was a large aural (A,U,R,A,L) component for me in writing and in reading, giving readings and I think that is really thanks to that particular milieu that I was fortunate enough to find and pushed a little towards to thanks to my English 100 professor Tony Freedson who said to me "I think you should meet this group of young writers meeting regularly off campus". They were meeting in different faculty member’s houses. I was terrified because it was my first year (laughs) yet I went and I met them and everything sort of unfolded from there

Daphne Marlatt

00:12:36.15

Oh now you're back

Daphne Marlatt

00:12:36.15

You're frozen Ashley! (laughs) *Skype technical issue*

Ashley Clarkson

00:12:38.41

Oh sorry, I don't know-

Daphne Marlatt

00:12:39.80

You were completely frozen and your face was beginning to do that Skype jigsaw effect, but now you're back

Unknown

00:12:41.34

Laughter

Ashley Clarkson

00:12:44.47

Uh no, I hope it doesn't keep doing that. I heard everything you said though, I was just commenting that it was really interesting that there was this community. We often talk about how the community differs in Vancouver as compared to Montreal, especially at this time. Do you have any thoughts on that? The Vancouver poetry community as compared to the one in Montreal.

Daphne Marlatt

00:13:09.55

Well I don't really know the Montreal poetry community very well. My connections to Montreal were very individual connections with individual people and of course for me it was a big discovery of Nicole Brossard and the Quebecois, the Feminist Quebecois milieu with Bersanik and Gale Scott was part of that and Frances Therrien and Louise Cotnois and Louise Dupris. I met all of them in 19, in the conference of Barbara Gooddale organized at York in 198, it was either 81 or 82. The energy that was coming out of that group of woman was so enthusiastic, joyous, mutually supportive, intellectually courageous and certainly socially courageous. That was my next big feeling of community, the feminist community, both there and in Vancouver. I would say that in making a comparison between those two communities, because Betsy Warlan and I did have a community going in the organization of Women and Words, the 1983 conference, I would say that the Montreal community was more intellectually exploratory and innovative then the feminist community in Vancouver. The feminist community in Vancouver was very socially acute. It was very aware of the social difficulties around class, gender and particularly around class and sexual orientation. That was not in a sense translated into a theoretical position or set of positions

Daphne Marlatt

00:15:48.29

*Skype technical difficulties*

Ashley Clarkson

00:15:48.29

Oh no, it is starting to cut

Daphne Marlatt

00:15:52.20

It was a very interesting comparison to me because I felt more drawn to what they were doing

Ashley Clarkson

00:15:57.33

Yeah I can hear you; it cut for a little bit. I think what I might do is maybe shut off my video if that's ok. One second, I'm sorry, so I will still be able to see you, but maybe just to make it go a little bit smoother...oh

Unknown

00:16:32.10

*Skype technical difficulties*

Ashley Clarkson

00:18:07.54

Oh Hi Daphne, I am not sure what happened there it said that it dropped the call and I am not sure if it was the Internet connection or

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:18.71

I know, I couldn't reach you so I signed off and I called you again and then I called you twice and it kept saying that you were unavailable

Ashley Clarkson

00:16:16.69

Before you were cutting out you were talking about the Women and Words the conference that was happening at York and then it started cutting out for me. We can go back there if you don't mind because I am actually very interested in how women poets were accepted at the time? Because so far for our series we have actually only done oral history interviews with male poets. So you and Diane are the first female poets we've had

Daphne Marlatt

00:16:45.63

Oh so we're the guinea pigs are we? (Laughs)

Ashley Clarkson

00:16:47.24

(Laughs) Yeah you're the first female poets we've had a chance to interview. We are really curious to see how during The Sir George Williams poetry series, what was the difference between giving a reading as a female poets in versa as a male poet? Or even was there a difference?

Daphne Marlatt

00:17:04.94

Well I am sure there was, I mean I certainly felt different as a young woman That reading, the reading I did in 1970, do you know which month it was?

Ashley Clarkson

00:17:16.52

Yeah it was in November actually

Daphne Marlatt

00:17:18.37

It was in November, I thought so, and I thought it was in the fall. So I would have been just 28, I was a young mother. I had a son of about- he would have been about 14-15 months old and I was in a very difficult situation in my life at that time because my marriage was breaking up.

Unknown

00:18:03.88

*Background static*

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:04.08

Hello?

Ashley Clarkson

00:18:04.74

Yes sorry, I can still hear you sorry if it's messed up

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:04.74

Oh ok, so I was feeling very unsure of myself and I could hear that in the tape you sent me. There were a lot of hesitations, particularly in my speaking voice. I think- I mean my memories of that reading are a little faint

Ashley Clarkson

00:18:24.21

Anything you can remember is fine

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:28.01

Well, George must have been there because there were interactions on the tape and they knew Vancouver, the voice knew Vancouver.

Ashley Clarkson

00:18:42.99

Yeah for sure he usually went to a lot of the readings, so he probably would have been there.

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:48.24

Right, right

Daphne Marlatt

00:18:52.01

So I am pretty sure that I was really relieved that George was there because that was a connection with my own early community. Yeah...28! When I think about this age now 72 looking at myself at 28 I think that I was very unsure of myself as a young woman. I think I knew very strongly that the poetry community was largely a male community. You know, nobody used the word "poetess" any longer in those days except people who were completely non-literary. Yet, there was still a feeling that there was an unspoken 's' at the end of that word when you were a woman. Even though I felt that my then, by 1970, the men in my Vancouver community were taking me seriously as a writer, which was wonderful. I didn't ever feel like I was a fully fledged member of that community, but that was in part because I had been away from that community for so long. I left Vancouver in '64 and came back for about 9 months in '69 and then was gone again until about 1971.

Daphne Marlatt

00:20:31.77

I left Wisconsin at the end of 1970, so in a way I was a kind of absent member. My sense of poetry, very much until I got to Indiana had been very much localized based in that poetic that we had as a TISH community. Although I felt myself always on the edges of that community and I had a lot of catching up to do since I was a lot younger than Frank, George or Lionel or Fred. So there was a lot that I had yet to learn.

Daphne Marlatt

00:21:29.98

I think that I probably began to gain some sense of strength of myself as a poet through the feminist community. Through my connections with other women writers, which took awhile to develop. There were women writers in the early sixties, but they were also on the edges of that community. So I am thinking of Judith Copperthorn and Maxine Gadd. Maxine was interesting because she bridges both the downtown poets based around Bill Bissett and Blue Ointment and the UBC group, which I was a part of. We even took a writer course together; we both took the same fiction-writing course from Earle Birney. I knew that Judith Copperthorn too from the edges of that group, but we were sort of all on the edges in a way except for Gladdy. Who was very much central to that TISH community and figured very much as a muse for the boys or young men. She probably had some difficulty herself establishing herself as a writer in her own right.

Daphne Marlatt

00:23:01.14

When I went back to Vancouver in the '70s Gladdy, I still think of her as Gladdy, was one of the people that I first reconnected with and she was very much involved in what we call a women's consciousness group in those days. She was part of the York Street commune based around Stan Persky and George Stanley. There was now Robin Blaser had arrived in Vancouver with Stan in the years that I was away and then he and Stan had parted company and Stand was very strongly Marxist at that point and so there was the York Street Commune. The wonderful press that he had started. So the community began to enlarge and George came back at that point, but Frank was gone, Fred was gone, Jamie was gone and David had moved to the States and Bobby was gone

Ashley Clarkson

00:24:12.97

So there was a change, quite a large change

Daphne Marlatt

00:24:15.81

Yes that's right and um, Gladdy suggested that- well I said that I wanted to join their group and she said "Well it is going to be too big if we take any more people you should start your own group, I hear that Judy Copperthorn is wanting to start that and Max was part of that group too. So that is how my feminist connections in the Vancouver scene began to happen.

Ashley Clarkson

00:24:44.74

It is interesting how you mention how Gladys or Gladdy was considered a muse for the men, the idea that she didn't have her own sense as a poet until later on when she form these groups. Was that sort of the norm in the beginning?

Daphne Marlatt

00:25:06.21

Yeah and she would probably have a different version of that because I wouldn't say it was until she formed those groups but I think it was a struggle to establish herself as a writer in her own right. When we were in Wisconsin, she and her then husband were also in Wisconsin for the first year we were there and it was wonderful to have her there. She was the only other person I knew then. I was stuck out in the middle of a tobacco farm, a half hour drive away from Madison and looking after my baby. Gladdy was in town, and she and I would get together and we'd drive to Milwaukee and we'd meet some of the young poets there.

Ashley Clarkson

00:25:54.75

That's great

Daphne Marlatt

00:25:55.95

Yeah that was also life saving for me at that point

Ashley Clarkson

00:26:02.87

Yeah because you still got to be involved in the community there

Daphne Marlatt

00:26:09.58

That's right, that's right

Daphne Marlatt

00:26:09.98

And it was interesting to be able to do it with Gladdy because there was that connection with that first community that we had each had been a part of or had shared in some way. I mean she was much more central as I said, but we knew each other from that.

Ashley Clarkson

00:26:26.48

Was it, um, when you were invited to the Sir George Williams Poetry Series was it George Bowering who-if you remember, do you remember who contacted you to read in that series?

Daphne Marlatt

00:26:40.42

I think it was George, it was interesting for me to read Jason's essay because I hadn't realized that Roy had played such a strong part in founding that whole series. Of course he was at the 1963 conference it wasn't a conference, but everyone calls it a conference now in Vancouver. I remember that when he was teaching at Emily Carr that he had set up a reading series there and in fact I and several of the second wave, the younger group of TISH poets who took over editing TISH after Frank, George and Fred disappeared. I think David was there for another year and Jamie might have been there for another year too. It was basically David Cull and Bob Hague and Dan McCloud who went on to become the editor of the Georgia Strait and myself.

Daphne Marlatt

00:28:03.14

You see there always seemed to be only one woman in each of these groups

Ashley Clarkson

00:28:05.72

Yeah

Daphne Marlatt

00:28:08.48

It was as if the group itself could only seem to accept one women and I am projecting probably my own feelings of being on the edge and struggling to find my own voice in that old sense that we use to talk about. Also projecting that onto Gladdy too, I am sure we discussed these things in the seventies when feminism became very much present for both of us, but I don't remember discussing anything like that in the sixties with her.

Ashley Clarkson

00:28:51.40

It is really interesting though this idea that you're talking about, about being on the edge and not feeling like you fit in. Like you mentioned how it took Gladdy a little bit of time to establish herself as a writer in her own right and developing these groups. I find this really interesting, and you and Diane read in the same year how there seemed to be more women that were invited to the Poetry Series.

Daphne Marlatt

00:29:26.72

Starting around 1970?

Ashley Clarkson

00:29:30.34

Yeah exactly, so many that's what is starting to show around this period. So women were starting to become included in some of these communities. Although you had the connections with the TISH community, so you were a part of that community before, so George probably would have thought to and made that connection to invite you to the series, do you believe that's possible?

Daphne Marlatt

00:29:57.35

I think that is true yes and I was very touched by that because I was feeling so isolated in Wisconsin because the only other person I really knew was Gladdy who was in the writing, was a writer, and part of the writer community. I was very moved that I was invited to go up and felt quite daunted by it. I think I was put up in a beautiful old hotel

Ashley Clarkson

00:30:31.82

Oh yes it would have been the Ritz Carleton

Daphne Marlatt

00:30:33.52

That's it! Yes the Ritz Carleton

Ashley Clarkson

00:30:35.25

Yes that is where they had everybody stay. They had a great budget (laughs)

Daphne Marlatt

00:30:38.31

I was just dumbfounded

Ashley Clarkson

00:30:47.51

Yes well they had the Canadian rant that they were able to use for the series, which unfortunately we don't have those kind of grants anymore (laughs). Do you remember the room that you read in or the crowd at the time? Do you have any sense of the atmosphere would have been like at the reading?

Daphne Marlatt

00:31:05.85

Yeah, my sense of- I don't have any details about the room or how large the audience was although it felt very large to me, but at that stage any audience would have felt very large to me (laughs). I do remember that there was a strong, how should I call it, a strong sense of audience presence. That the audience was actively listening, that I had a sense of engagement on the part of the audience and it was a longstanding engagement and it wasn't just for me or my work. There was an energy there that seemed to be developed for some time. So it felt very alive.

Ashley Clarkson

00:32:03.20

Wow, well from the research that we've done we have found that there did tend to be really great crowds at these readings. There was this atmosphere that everybody was really, we have done interviews with people in the audience at that time and they did mention how there were always people discussing and talking things like that, which is really interesting. One thing we always thought was interesting was they also help post-reading parties, they called them poetry parties. Do you remember anything like that?

Daphne Marlatt

00:32:35.56

Well that was a long standing tradition in Vancouver that went on for several decades. Gladdy's home was a very favorite place for these parties

Ashley Clarkson

00:32:50.27

Oh interesting

Daphne Marlatt

00:32:50.47

The discussions would just carry on and fueled by alcohol or dope or whatever, but it was always very animated and I have a memory of something like that happening after the reading, but as I said it was not very clear.

Ashley Clarkson

00:33:15.40

It is actually very interesting that you say it happened a lot in Vancouver, because probably what happened is when they started the poetry readings it was probably a custom that was just brought over here and put into the Sir George readings. It doesn't have to be the Sir George reading specifically, but at the poetry parties did it tend to be audiences who would attend and mingle with the poets who had read that night?

Daphne Marlatt

00:33:50.90

Yes because certainly in Vancouver many people in the audience would have been themselves poets and you know I think where this began in the Vancouver, or at least amongst the people I knew, was the Tallman's living rooms. Warren and Ellen Tallman were very, very hospitable and I remember a number of occasions in their living room where the event would just morph into a party. There would be someone giving a read or giving a talk and then it would just carry on the audience would just be involved and just carry on until the small hours of the morning. So it is interesting that you said it could have been brought from Vancouver, because it was certainly very much part of the scene.

Ashley Clarkson

00:34:50.08

I always find it interesting how different communities can influence each other and I know that there were difference between the Vancouver and Montreal scene, but I always find it interesting how they're intertwined like that. One thing I always like to go into is your own process giving a reading. You mentioned how at the Sir George reading when you listening back to it that you felt that you sounded a little bit nervous. I was wondering what sorts of ways do you prepare for a reading? Do you tend to try and memorize the poems or do you go up and change words like you mentioned some poets had done that. Also how it has changed over time as well?

Daphne Marlatt

00:35:49.96

Well I am- It's curious because for me the sound, the poem is like a musical score and how it is put on the page not just in terms of lineation, but in terms of- I tend to use long lines, prose, a poetic form too and I just punctuation and spacing within those long lines so I have a very strong sense of how the words have come up for me in the act of writing and what the rhythmic and melodic interplays are that I want to come across to an audience when I read. I don't memorize poems beforehand, I am always impressed by people who can do that, but my long line poems have a lot of words in them.

Ashley Clarkson

00:37:13.06

Yeah I can imagine it would be quite a feat to try (laughs)

Daphne Marlatt

00:37:17.44

So I don't memorize, but I do...it is interesting that I want to establish a connection with the audience so they feel comfortable with me and I feel comfortable with them, because then the ears can open and once I have a feeling that their ears on open then I am concentrating just on the page when I am reading a poem and I hardly ever look up at the audience when I am reading a poem. This is because it is as a score and I don't want to miss any of those beat or those tiny pauses that will actually be part of the rhythmic text of the poem and also reflect the meaning as the words come across, that gulf between reader and audience.

Ashley Clarkson

00:38:22.02

Yeah that's very interesting and you mentioned at the beginning of the interview how your father was more of an influence in music, while your mother was more of an influence with poetry so I sort of see perhaps there may have been an influence there as both came together in the poetry.

Daphne Marlatt

00:38:42.29

That's probably true and I did play the piano as a young person. I stopped at the point that I began composing for piano and obviously that is not where "it" was suppose to go, whatever the it was at that point in time it wasn't suppose to go into black notes on a white page, it as going to go into black words on a white page.

Ashley Clarkson

00:39:13.38

I really do find that it's a different way of imagining the reading, because I have had people describe it as a performance and trying to perform the poem using movement and so I was really do like that idea of making sure that the audience is listening and then making it almost like a score. This idea of it almost being like music, because I am a very big fan of close listening I feel like when you really listening to something over and over again their are intricacies that you hear that you might not have heard the first time. I feel like if there is too much of a performance you might miss some of those

Daphne Marlatt

00:39:57.84

That's lovely, that's lovely Ashley I am happy to be talking to a close listener

Ashley Clarkson

00:40:00.64

Yeah, well we have a very similar perspective on this so that's great

Daphne Marlatt

00:40:05.08

Right

Ashley Clarkson

00:40:06.28

I mean each to their own, there are pros and cons to both I do know that, but I agree with what you have been saying

Daphne Marlatt

00:40:16.21

Well of course performance poetry now is quite a different thing and it is very much bound up in narrative it seems to me and the dramatizing of the performer for the audience. That was one thing I always reacted negatively against because it seems to me that when you're into performing for the audience then the actually music of the words becomes difficult to hear, it becomes second place.

Ashley Clarkson

00:40:55.43

Yeah

Daphne Marlatt

00:40:59.38

Then it is all semantically loaded and the message is dominant

Ashley Clarkson

00:41:09.90

I think it is going to be very interesting at the Series, that we're hoping to have in November, we normally try to perform or do your reading from your poetry novels and then we'll actually play a clip from the archive so it will be interesting to see the difference. As you mentioned in the audio you said you hear a nervousness so it is kind of fun to have a reading almost with yourself in a way.

Daphne Marlatt

00:41:39.46

I did notice that my voice has dropped over the years, yet I probably still have the same hesitations when I am speaking.

Ashley Clarkson

00:41:48.22

That's ok, I always feel like my voice sounds like a little girl so (laughs). As you get older the voice changes its tone

Daphne Marlatt

00:41:57.05

Yes it does, it does (laughs). It is all that living, it puts darker notes in your voice.

Ashley Clarkson

00:42:03.97

Laughs

Daphne Marlatt

00:42:08.59

You said my poetry novels, are you wanting, I thought I would just read from the poems as- I do play a lot with genre blur, but I do have a sense as my three novels as something different from the poems

Ashley Clarkson

00:42:31.79

Oh yeah sorry that was probably a mis-word on my part, sorry. Sometimes when you're searching for a word it doesn't come up. I should have just said the poetry books

Daphne Marlatt

00:42:44.82

Oh ok, just so I know what the expectations are (laughs)

Ashley Clarkson

00:42:49.60

No but the selection you gave me is great and I took note of it and just waiting to make all the final decisions on everything.

Ashley Clarkson

00:43:01.29

One thing which I actually haven't asked about, one interesting perspective of the Sir George Series is that a lot of the organizers invited a lot of American poets and also Canadian poets because they were trying to show the difference between Canadian and American poetry, yet at the same time sort of the similarities in the North American poetry scene overall. I was wondering if you remember what it meant to sort of be in the Canadian poetry scene at the time or being a Canadian poet as apposed to an a American poet?

Daphne Marlatt

00:43:39.77

Um, well I am thinking about my own experiences with American poets

Daphne Marlatt

00:43:53.88

yes it was especially strong in Indiana since I was part of a reading group, a reading-writing group with Clayton Ashman and D. Alexander, Denis Kelly and Mary Ellen Sult who was the only concrete poet who was part of that group and it was in the terms of poets a rather motely group since we all representation a rather divergent group and yet there were connections. It was through that group that I got to meet and hear Jerome Rothenberg and Robert Kelly um, and...I hear Diane Wakoski read and I cannot remember where and when it was. Yet I remember being struck by her reading, by the courageousness of how she was presenting her female self on the page and out to he audience

Ashley Clarkson

00:43:53.88

Yeah especially since you lived

Ashley Clarkson

00:45:15.10

It may have actually been at the Sir George Reading, we unfortunately don't have a specific date for Diane's reading but we know it was in 1971 the same year that you read, so it is possible it could have been the same reading

Daphne Marlatt

00:45:30.92

Oh interesting, but I think I also heard her read earlier than that somewhere, um I know when D moved to San Francisco and when Allen, my then husband and I, moved to Napa for a year because he was doing his clinical internship as a Clinical Psychologist at the Napa State Hospital, we'd drive in on the weekends to spend time with D and his wife then and D have begun editing a little magazine called Oddatala and he was very involved in publishing people like Rothenberg and Kelly, Diane Deprima and I don't know if he published Diane Wakoski in it um...

Ashley Clarkson

00:46:39.76

I am not sure

Daphne Marlatt

00:46:41.98

There was a sense of- I mean D was very important to me personally because he was a linguist and he got me to see, although I had taken a linguistics course at UBC I didn't really, I don't think I got the same sense of language that I got from D where it was very much based on structure linguistics and the sense of the artificiality of a word in connection with it's reverent. before I was always stuck on the connection so it was very liberating for me to have that broken and at the same time I was doing my Master's thesis on a series of-I was in the translation program under comparative literature and I was translating much of (name Kung) first book of poems Le Partie pris de chose and of course he plays around with language incredibly and it was just a joy for me to immerse myself in that kind of language play.

Daphne Marlatt

00:48:03.55

I was put in touch through D and Clayton with Cid Corman so Cid Corman and Origin Magazine al of these were tributaries of the poetic current of the time and there were obviously connections with what I had learned with my studies at UBC and with Warren Tallman and my unofficial studies at UBC with the TISH group and who they were reading and who they were talking about.

Daphne Marlatt

00:48:48.83

So I didn't feel that I was on foreign territory there I felt some strong connections even though deep image poetry was going somewhere different then where I was heading

Ashley Clarkson

00:49:14.56

I often wonder, you mentioned how there wasn't a large difference between what the TISH group was reading and I wonder if there is a connection between the West Coast poetry scene as apposed to maybe East Coast, Central, maybe the differences aren't easily distinguished between saying American or Canadian, but it is actually a more geographical. I don't really know, I am just saying hypothetically, because you have the people at UBC and San Francisco having more connections there

Daphne Marlatt

00:49:47.78

Well there were certainly very strong connections up and down the West Coast and a strong sense of kinship in what was happening in the San Francisco scene with Duncan, Glazer, Spicer, Walen, Snyder that was all very present. I don't know if that holds water though, that geographical distinction because what do you do then with the influence of Charles Olson? Who is what out there in Glouster and the strong influence of Zukoski and the objectivist poems? All of whom we were reading and talking about, especial Bukowski there was a lot of fascination with Bukowski's work. So yeah, it is more of a sense of how the new poetics were reacting strongly against the old poetics based around principals of new criticisms that was the divide.

Ashley Clarkson

00:51:09.12

Yeah that's interesting, because we always ask what it meant to be a "Canadian" poet, but since you got to live in Wisconsin you mentioned that you never felt out of place from the group, so that's interesting.

Daphne Marlatt

00:51:25.80

Yeah well of course that was my formative period, so it always has a very strong pull. In fact I am sure that was why I went back to Vancouver, I didn't want to go back anywhere else in Canada, I wanted to go back to Vancouver.

Ashley Clarkson

00:51:49.56

Because even George Bowering published a book on the poetry scene when he went back to Vancouver he published a book on the Montreal poetry scene, so the difference between the scenes is always interesting

Daphne Marlatt

00:52:04.63

Well you see, Montreal had a division in English poetry before my generation came along the poets of my generation and what George, who George influenced there the Vehicle poets. Yet in Vancouver there wasn't, you couldn't say there was a tradition there was individual poets but there wasn't a poetic front, as in the sense of a movement until the TISH movement. So I think that goes towards explaining quite a lot, between the Montreal community and Vancouver community of Anglophone poets. We didn't have a sense of isolation from larger linguistic milieu that the Anglophone poets in Montreal had. So there wasn't that and also there wasn't that...from the very beginning in Montreal the sensitivity in language, to the cultural differences imbedded in languages. We have that here now in Vancouver in spades (laughs) because it has become so much more of an Asian city, but it wasn't and still pretended to be larger white in the fifties and sixties even though that wasn't the case.

Ashley Clarkson

00:54:11.26

That was something we noticed that no Francophone poets were reading in the Series. I was wondering if you noticed in Montreal a tension between the Francophone poets, there are always language tensions in Quebec, but did any of that come up when you came to visit in 70s?

Daphne Marlatt

00:54:26.99

Well I think it came up earlier in the sixties, Allen and I made a trip earlier to Montreal, we were starved for a little community contact and cultural and so we went up to Montreal and stayed over Christmas. We went to a reading, he was a francophone poetry reading and there was a very strong feeling of enthusiasm and animation in the room and I felt, as an Anglophone, I felt distinctly uncomfortable there.

Ashley Clarkson

00:55:12.30

That's interesting

Daphne Marlatt

00:55:12.60

Yeah, and of course it was also a highly politically charged atmosphere at that point

Ashley Clarkson

00:55:31.30

yeah, well it would have been um, well you see Bill 101 went through in the 1970s, and I could imagine leading up to it would have been (eg. Quiet Revolution). I would believe they were two distinct scenes at the time.

Daphne Marlatt

00:55:48.05

Do you feel that now? That there are two distinct scenes?

Ashley Clarkson

00:56:08.62

Well it has been very tense in Quebec recently, I am not sure if you know, with Pauline Marois. We have the Office de la langue francais which makes sure the signs don't have English on them or that the English is not too big since the French has to be the size it is suppose to be, it has to be larger than the English. If it isn't it has to be changed or taken down, so there has been a lot of turmoil over the past year especially in language. Hopefully now it's going to calm down a little bit

Daphne Marlatt

00:56:34.18

Yes well it just seems to be ongoing for Quebec

Ashley Clarkson

00:56:40.66

Yeah it is always something that- I mean I always find it funny when I go somewhere else and everyone is speaking in English. I mean you mentioned how Vancouver is starting to feel the divide between languages? So I am guessing that now on the signs and everything are in different languages? Right?

Daphne Marlatt

00:57:04.14

Well the signs are still largely in English, but there are more and more Chinese signs appearing and it was very interesting I noticed that the Vancouver public library has had a series of poetry readings and for the first time I noticed that one of the poets was a translator of Chinese poetry

Ashley Clarkson

00:57:33.08

Oh wow

Daphne Marlatt

00:57:33.91

Yeah and I think this is going to happen more and more, and especially on the street you hear many different languages in Vancouver. Yet especially Chinese, various Chinese dialects and Mandarin of course being spoken

Ashley Clarkson

00:57:57.70

Yeah interesting, also because depending when you came in the 1960s you would have been in Quebec when it was going through the sovereignist movement. I would think that what we just went through would have been similar, so I can imagine the atmosphere being very strong at that time

Daphne Marlatt

00:58:21.25

Of course I am forgetting names and such now, but it seems to me that Quebec poetry at that time was pretty nationalistic and pretty fueled by a political awareness and the FLQ was very persuasive.

Ashley Clarkson

00:58:49.67

It was interesting how the distinction was made when they introduced the poetry series saying Canadian & American poetry, but even just in Quebec there are all these separate scenes that aren't really addressed in the poetry series. Technically women's inclusion in the poetry series was also one of those things where they weren't really apparent or really included in the beginning very much

Daphne Marlatt

00:59:15.06

That's right, yes, yes. What proportion would you say of readers were women?

Daphne Marlatt

00:59:23.14

Oh umm, I would have to go back and look specifically. Yet I think, if I am thinking correctly, there were only about 6 female poets in the series. I can actually pull it up right now,

Daphne Marlatt

00:59:48.30

And what were the total number of readers?

Ashley Clarkson

00:59:48.40

Well we have 89 readings in all and (71 readers on our website. ok so it was 8 actually ( It is actually 9), but still

Daphne Marlatt

01:00:17.40

Yes, less then a tenth

Unknown

01:00:21.23

Laughter

Daphne Marlatt

01:00:25.46

Well I am quite astonished to be able to find myself one of those

Ashley Clarkson

01:00:30.04

Yeah and it is really great to be able to go into detail, because unfortunately some of the female readers have passed away. So it is interesting to go back into that moment and see what it was like to be a--I mean were there any tensions between female and male? I know you mentioned how it was hard to present yourself as a writer in your own right, but do you find there were any tensions between the male writers against the female writers? Or was it that once you had established yourself and your writing sort of speaks for itself that you were sort of more accepted?

Daphne Marlatt

01:01:07.47

Yes definitively the latter and until that happened you tended to be the object- you know we are talking about a young group here, my generation in the sixties. As a woman you tended to be the object of a poem rather than the subject of your own poems, so to become that subject the person who could speak about your own poems, as a woman, was a big leap.

Ashley Clarkson

01:01:42.28

Ok, I am going through our questions and we actually got through a lot of our question material already. Do you have any things that I might not have touched upon in relation to the Sir George reading that you think might be interesting? Like a memory or something else that you recall?

Daphne Marlatt

01:02:09.44

Um, well somehow or other I have the image of a window, a cultured window with light coming through it. I don't know if that was in Sir George Williams or whether it was in the hotel I was staying. Yet I think it stood as kind of a metaphor for me, that coming up and giving that reading was like opening a window into an active poetic community, an active poetic world that I was feeling very estranged from at that point in my life.

Daphne Marlatt

01:03:02.66

That is interesting how the series actually marked a specific point in your life when you think back to it as this turning point

Daphne Marlatt

01:03:07.86

Yes, yes well it was a profound turning point! You said I read in November?

Ashley Clarkson

01:03:14.22

Yes

Daphne Marlatt

01:03:14.22

Well by the end of December I was on a plane with my 18-month-old son, so he was actually older than 14-15 months, I was on a plane back to Vancouver having left my marriage in Wisconsin.

Ashley Clarkson

01:03:35.28

It must be interesting to think back, because at the time I would think- well did you feel at the time that it was that important of an event (Sir George Poetry Series) or is it only just looking back that you realize that it was a

Daphne Marlatt

01:03:47.50

Do it is looking back I see that, I see the connection between those two events, whereas I think I was probably so involved at the time and during the reading, before and after it and just so involved in being there and being in the midst of it, interacting with it, that I wasn't thinking about the overall arc of my life.

Ashley Clarkson

01:04:19.91

It is interesting from me coming from an oral history background and thinking about life stories, I always find it interesting when you think back and this idea of reminisces about the past and you actually see the turning points in life.

Daphne Marlatt

01:04:36.85

Yes, yes. Roy used to say, Roy Kiyooka used to say, that "You only see the shape of a persons life when they have died"

Ashley Clarkson

01:04:46.38

Wow

Daphne Marlatt

01:04:48.30

Because that is when the whole arc is complete and you can see what form it takes

Ashley Clarkson

01:04:57.22

Wow, well I think for today we have covered a lot of ground and it is always hard to keep someone attached to their computer (laughs) we have been at it for about an hour now.

Daphne Marlatt

01:05:09.46

Yes we have, yes. I just want to correct that last quote from Roy, because he didn't say arc, that's my word for it. He said shape, the shape of a person's life. That allows for many possibilities apart from an arc shape.

Ashley Clarkson

01:05:34.58

yeah wow, this interview has gone over so many interesting aspects that we are interested in, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview today

Daphne Marlatt

01:05:37.65

Oh you're welcome

Ashley Clarkson

01:05:37.75

It has been really great and I am hoping when you come for the event in November we can perhaps sit down and Jason Camlot, the lead on this project, can join us and we can go over the aspects we talked about today.

Daphne Marlatt

01:05:54.08

Yes for sure and maybe talk a bit more about oral history

Ashley Clarkson

01:05:57.64

Yeah!

Unknown

01:05:58.04

Ends in laughter

Interview: Daphne Marlatt Interview, September 12th, 2014

Interview
SpeakersDaphne Marlatt, Ashley Clarkson
VenueSkype. Daphne Marlatt: Vancouver, British-Columbia, Ashley Clarkson: Montreal, Quebec
Date2014-09-12
Recording
Duration
Sound qualityaverage