What we heard about poetry

Rachel Rose and John Barton celebrate the launch of their new books of poetry. 

By Tara Azadmard
Photos by Mark Burnham


“Something that really draws me in writing is saying what is not supposed to be said. Breaking silence, breaking taboos,” says Rachel Rose at the launch of her third book of poetry: Song and Spectacle. At least 60 people cozied up on Sept. 23 together in a jam-packed room at The Beaumont Studios on West 5th to celebrate.

Rachel Rose, former mentor at The Writers Studio at SFU, describes poetry as her first love, despite not having a preferred genre in terms of reading or writing. Readers and listeners of her poetry will pick up on the inspirations from Rumi, Lao Tzu, the Zen, and “many other myths” entrenched in emotion.

[pullquote]“Something that really draws me in writing is saying what is not supposed to be said. Breaking silence, breaking taboos.”[/pullquote]

“All of that, I think, is really powerful and important, and so I always try to do it. And I think it is healing for people to see that example. It’s good to do it because it connects you even if it begins in anger. Anger is the hope that you can change society. If you don’t have any hope, you don’t even bother getting angry,” she says of her writing.

The event, A Poetry Reading by Rachel Rose and John Barton, opened with a reading by Barton from his latest book, For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin, released earlier in September by Nightwood Editions.

Barton describes his book, comprised of 41 poems drawn from nine different collections, as a demonstration of the “evolution of [his] artistic sensibility, and the growth of a gay voice.” Written in 1977, the opening poem, “The Pregnant Man” makes change expectant. “It was the first poem that I wrote that I felt was a real poem. I felt that I found something that was worth saying,” Barton said.

Next, Rose, who claims to be one of the many poets Barton has inspired, read a few poems from Song and Spectacle, before moving on to an engaging duet recitation with Vancouver poet Renee Saklikar of “What We Heard About the Americans” and “What We Heard About Canadians,” also from Song and Spectacle.

[pullquote]“The Pregnant Man” makes change expectant. “It was the first poem that I wrote that I felt was a real poem. I felt that I found something that was worth saying”[/pullquote]

Emotions reached their height when in a collaborative experimentation with The Jefferson Rose Band, Rose recited “What We Heard About Death” and “What Death Perhaps Heard” along to tranquil and haunting melodies played by Jefferson Rose (Rachel’s brother) and Tobi Stone. The evening culminated with mingling over glasses of wine while The Jefferson Rose Band maintained the ambient mood.

Both Rose and Barton’s books can be found at Chapters, and at many independent bookstores on the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island.

SHARE