“I really feel alive when I’m (writing). It’s like stepping into a time machine.”– Robert Currie
Moose Jaw poet Robert Currie held a reading at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Monday to promote his new collection, One-Way Ticket.
Currie’s book, published in October of last year, features poems about honest human experiences—about poverty, gun violence and even death. Intertwined with the serious topics are heartwarming and funny poems about his father and living in a small town.
Currie is a founding board member of the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw.
His books have been finalists for several awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Award. In 2009, Currie was the recipient of the lieutenant-governor’s award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.
Writer in Residence at the library, Lynda Monahan, introduced Currie. She surprised him by reading a poem written by Currie’s daughter about her dad.
Currie got up to the podium and said his daughter’s poem started his reading on an emotional note.
He then read several poems, inspired by other poetry, paintings, L.M. Montgomery’s classic book Anne of Green Gables and tragedies he’s read about in the news.
Currie said he’s been writing since he was a kid, but he didn’t start out with poetry. He entered writing contests he found in magazines at his church.
Then he came across Irving Layton and Raymond Souster’s poems.
“Those two made me think ‘I should try this,’” explained Currie.
His interest in poetry really sparked when he took a Canadian literature course at the University of Saskatchewan.
The title of his newest collection is inspired by a line in a Charles Wright poem: “We’re all born with a one-way ticket.”
“We’re all going to the same place, so it was sort of meant to suggest some of us…are getting near the end. And I have a poem in there too, which I didn’t read, about getting on a bus and it’s a one-way ticket to the grave, basically, but I don’t want to give the idea that it’s a depressing book. I don’t think it is,” emphasized Currie. In fact, several of the poems he read made his audience laugh.
Currie said not all of the poems are about his own experiences.
“A lot of other poems that are based maybe on something I read in the paper or the experience of someone I imagine. There’s a poem in there about a little girl whose friend is missing from school one day and I was trying to get into her head—the little boy has died, and she doesn’t understand that.”
“I really feel alive when I’m (writing). It’s like stepping into a time machine. It’s 9:30 in the morning, I start a poem and (next) thing I know it’s noon. Time really flies when I’m working on something and I find it exciting, especially if it turns out to be good,” said Currie with a smile.
He gave advice to aspiring poets, encouraging them to dive into books and not get discouraged by rejection.
“Read good poetry and don’t give up because everybody gets rejected all the time. No matter how good you are, you still get rejected. And that’s what makes it tough because you have to be so happy when you get something published and let that carry you over the times when you get rejected.”
The reading was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada.