Optimisms 22: Cory Lavender and Sharon Harris

Optimisms 22: Cory Lavender and Sharon Harris

Today’s our penultimate optimism, folks. We’d like to thank the kind people who’ve read along and said such nice things about the project. The Optimism’s Project curator, Jacob McArthur Mooney, offers a doubleheader today, from two submitters who came up with inspired material, material that spoke to the spirit of the project, but who submitted knowing full well they were over the project’s age limit. How’s that for a form of optimism.

Anyway, Jake was so taken by these two optimists, that he decided to forgo the rules and include them in the project. So, without further introduction, here are Cory Lavender’s nod to transcending the usual canons (the product of a thinker who recently walked away from grad school, incidentally) and former Torontoist Book Editor Sharon Harris’s creative/critical one-two punch.

Cory Lavender

When E.H. Dewart compiled the first anthology of Canadian poetry in 1864 (Selections from Canadian Poets) he lamented the relative “coldness and indifference” that poetry was met with in pre-Confederation Canada. Poetry still faces its undue share of cold shoulders in Canada, but it has built a strong case against its indifferent treatment. Exhibits A through Z: the fine group of anthologies that we have seen published in this country since the millennial turn.

For anyone who cares about literature, I think it would be difficult to observe the breadth of what’s happening in Canadian poetry and fail to feel optimistic. And the broadest views can sometimes be seen through the narrowest lenses. Open Wide a Wilderness collects a rich history of Canadian nature poems, but the diverse ecological poems gathered in Regreen extend our view and demonstrate how endangered the traditional nature poem is. In Fine Form documents Canadian poets’ preoccupation with formal concerns, but lest anyone should think this anthology might be the last word, Jailbreaks shows us just how much innovative spirit Canadian poetry has brought to a single poetic form: the sonnet. Steadily plodding or flipping through any one of the recent Canadian anthologies, accepting them as faulty cultural barometers, but barometers nonetheless, it’s clear to me that Canadian poetry has plenty cause for optimism.

Cory Lavender isn’t exactly “young,” but lately he has been feeling younger. He lives in Guelph.

Sharon Harris

Fun With ‘Pataphysics Experiment No.163: How Do I Write An Optimistic Poem?

Lay a piece of writing paper on a windowsill, and place a polished glass of water upon it. Tape a postcard with a pencil-width slit to its outside so that a ray of sunlight shines through, and onto the water’s surface. Bands of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet will form on the paper.

Pause to thank the sun, air, and water. If you manage to keep your ego out of the rainbow you’ve created, then only happy words will assemble on the page. When you are finished, take a long draught of the water, and write an ecstatic chapbook.

No. 163a: Optimistic Poems

An optimistic poem is a natural phenomenon that causes a nearly continuous spectrum of light to appear in the sky. Its existence depends on the observer’s location: that is, even on a sunny day, not everyone can see a happy poem.

Optimism is part of Canadian poetry despite the poor ability of humans to distinguish it from lesser emotions. Sometimes we only manage a fleeting glimpse. Joy in poems is often overlooked, and sadly mistaken for irony.

Sharon Harris has lived in Toronto since 1992 but grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, with brief stays in Burlington and Bowling Green, Ohio. She loves TO: her first book, Avatar (The Mercury Press) was published here; she was Books Editor at Torontoist.com; her photography exhibition, I Love You Toronto, was a love note in graffiti to the city. Her work has appeared in magazines and newspapers across Canada (Geist, The Globe & Mail, National Post, EYE WEEKLY) and on television and radio. She blogs at theiloveyoublog.com and curates iloveyougraffiti.com.