I was thrilled recently to find out that one of my poems was shortlisted for the Arc Poem of the Year contest. It’s an odd little poem that I wrote in Flatrock, NL, this past summer, when I was just visiting Newfoundland on a writing grant and hadn’t yet upended my entire life and moved here.
I stayed a small blue house right on the ocean. Nearby was a swimming hole at the river which was populated at night by teenagers who drank beer and energy drinks and jumped off cliffs and poured entire containers of Sunlight dish soap into the waterfall to make bubbles. In the mornings I went there to swim, naked if it was early enough. Then I collected some of the trash that had gathered, and brought it home. At some point I decided to transcribe the text from the beer bottles and chip bags and soggy cigarette containers, and to use this as source text to write about the river. It wasn’t found poetry, or erasure poetry, exactly; I refused count how many Blue Star beer cans I’d collected. But I limited myself to the scope of the words found on those cans and labels.
It was fun. And addictive. And strangely informative. I learned that beer is about choice and vitamin water is strangely verbose — hello trigonometry. Bubble bath was the source of wonderful. I learned that pronouns shape so much of what I could write, and how. That it was good to learn to do without me or I for a while. That cigarette packages knew a lot about health conditions. That everything was trademarked and licensed and imported for somebody, and not a significant source of a lot of things. And that potato chips were the only ones who mentioned love.
In conclusion, I blame the beautiful chaos of my recent life on a little blue house by the ocean in Flatrock and that early morning swimming hole. And I’m not at all sorry.
UPDATE: While it didn’t win, my poem was chosen as an Editor’s Pick and appears in the ARC Summer 2015 issue.