Monday 9 May 2011

Amy Lavender Harris writes: "Terrible Beauty: The Poetry of Paul Vermeersch"

In her tenure as writer in residence at Open Book Toronto for May, 2011, cultural geographer Amy Lavender Harris takes a look at the evolution of my poetry over my first four collections. Here is a sample:

Paul Vermeersch has had a long and instructive apprenticeship as a poet. His first published poems began appearing regularly in respected poetry journals in the late 1990s, around the time he founded the I.V. Lounge reading series in Toronto. For about a decade Paul has been the poetry editor with Insomniac Press. During this period he has published four trade collections: Burn (ECW, 2000), The Fat Kid (ECW, 2002), Between the Walls (McClelland & Stewart, 2005) and The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).

In each collection there is a measurable, and pleasurable, improvement in his craft. Over time Vermeersch's poems grow tighter, even more terse. Many of his early poems are descriptive, seemingly autobiographical. They find meaning in prosaic, if pointed events: the death of a dog, a kid who shoots himself with his uncle's gun, the psychological consequences of childhood obesity. These poems are fascinating and often powerfully written, a kind of southwestern Ontario Gothic that reads like a poetic counterpoint to the stories of Alice Munro. 

Read the rest here.