Geist.com recently caught up with the poet Peter Pereira who is a family physician in Seattle, and was a founding editor of Floating Bridge Press. Peter Pereira will be offering a workshop “Line Breaks/Line Endings: A workshop on the poetic line” on Saturday October the 10th as well as reading at the Robson Reading Series on the 9th. Peter offered up one of his poems that show his playfulness and attention to line breaks, and we asked him a few questions on poetry, line breaks and his work.
Anagrammer #2 I'm interested in the space between detonation and denotation. I'm curious how things move from ignored to eroding, and from eroding to redoing. How it is we make danger into garden and words into worlds. So much depends upon a letter lost or gained. How we choose to parse a phrase, spare or spear a thought. I want to know how demotion leads to devotion and poverty to poetry. How we find the g that makes enraged engaged. How we know whether to flee or feel.
Geist.com: What interested you about doing a cross-border reading?
Peter Pereira: I love coming to Vancouver. It's so close to Seattle, but it really feels like coming to another country. The mix of cultures and languages is so stimulating. And it's great to meet some of the writers north of the border.
G: Have you noticed any similarities or differences in teaching poetry and teaching personal health as a family physician?
PP: Poetry and Medicine are actually very similar pursuits: they both depend upon careful listening, careful observation, an ability to dwell in uncertainties, to suspend one's disbelief, and to really open yourself up to another person's story or life, another realm of experience. One quote that I like to share with student doctors is "A history is not obtained, it is received." Being a good writer, or a good doctor, both start with empathy, for your patient or for your subject.
G: Your upcoming workshop focuses on poetry versus prose and line breaks. What interested you about focusing specifically on line breaks?
PP: Probably one of the most essential differences between poetry and prose is the line breaks. Especially in free verse poetry, the pauses at the end of lines, and between stanzas, are one of the most subtle and nuanced ways of adding moments of suspension, multiple readings, changes of tone and pace and voice, into a poem. The exercise that is planned for the workshop is really fun: I use a well known poem to show may possible ways one could have broken the lines, and then participants get a chance to experiment on another poem.
G: What are your thoughts on the current state of poetry? Fading, dead, flourishing, ready for a re-birth?
PP: I agree with the great poet and editor Sam Hamill, who once said he believed that we are in a Golden Age of poetry, similar to the Tang Dynasty poets of China. There is so much good writing going on, not just in America, but all over the world. There is everything from personal lyric and historical narrative and formal poetry, to language poetry and non-conceptual poetry and flarf. There are books of poems from doctors, Iraq war veterans, and ex-mutual fund managers. Hundreds of years from now people are going to be looking back and saying, wow -- what an abundance of riches here.
G: What do you consider one of the modern "must reads" for poets?
PP: I couldn't give you just one! Heather McHugh has always been a favourite, I love her humor and wordplay. She just won a MacArthur and has a new book coming out called "Upgraded to Serious" that I can hardly wait to see. And then there are the three Wrights: CD Wright, Charles Wright and Franz Wright, who have no relation and are all quite different poets, each doing some amazing stuff. Louise Gluck has always been a favourite of mine, and I believe Carolyn Forche has a new book soon too. Regarding newer younger poets: there is a lot of really fun experimental and challenging work happening: Ben Lerner, Paul Guest, Michael and Mathew Dickman (twin brother poets), Olyna Katiak Davis, and others.
Peter Pereira’s most recent book What’s Written on the Body (Copper Canyon 2007) was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. You can find out more by visiting his website. Peter’s workshop will be held from 6-8 p.m. at Bean Around the World Coffee on 5601 Dunbar Street, Vancouver BC. Cost will be $20.00. RSVP to email@example.com.