“I think a lot of the poems are better now,” Robert Currie says with a laugh.
Currie, the award-winning writer, teacher, and former chair of the Saskatchewan Writes Guild, is on the phone to talk about his newest book.
‘Shimmers of Light: New and Selected Poems’ was released in March by Thistledown Press, and includes poems written as far back as the 1970s and as recently as the last four years. On Tuesday, Currie will be in Prince Albert to give a reading, and take a look back at five decades of poetry.
“I’ve been putting together poems for a reading, trying to give people a selection of poems that I think have been an important part of my career,” Currie says from his home in Moose Jaw, where he taught English and creative writing at Central Collegiate for 30 years. “I think there’s a lot here that suggests, referring to the title of the book, that poems are like shimmers of light in the darkness that sometimes surrounds us.”
Currie focuses on a variety of events and experiences in ‘Shimmers of Light’. Subjects include everything from father-son relationships to old cowboy movies, to his experience visiting idyllic locations in Northern Saskatchewan, like Waskesiu or Emma Lake. It also includes more eclectic topics, like one poem about what he calls ‘a rather strange reading’ poet Robert Frost gave in California.
Whatever the subject, Currie aims to show readers the reality of life.
“I used an epigraph in the book from an American poet Wallace Stevens, and he said, ‘poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right,’” Currie says. “What I’ve been trying to do all these years is show the world the way it is, and the way it affects me and people like me.”
The newest poems in ‘Shimmers of Light’ were all written after 2018, but there was a hiccup along the way.
Coteau Books, the publisher Currie helped found in 1975, folded just short of its 50th year of operation. Currie served on Coteau’s volunteer board for more than 40 years after helping found it. The shut-down was demoralizing.
“It really hit me and kind of depressed me,” Currie says. “That happened right before everything shut down in March of 2020. For a while there, I don’t know, seven (or) eight months, I didn’t write anything. I’m not sure if it was because of COVID or it was because of what happened with the bankruptcy of Coteau Books, but after that, I got over it and started writing quite a bit.”
Getting back into the habit of writing proved a challenge. Currie’s regular writing group has always met in person, but was forced into Zoom meetings during the lockdowns.
While meeting virtually wasn’t the same, Currie says it eventually worked out quite well, and helped build on his selection of new poems, which cover enough material to fill a small book of their own.
He hopes the poems will bring back some good memories for residents who attend Tuesday’s reading.
“I hope that it might increase their interest in reading and specifically in reading poetry,” Currie says. “I think that many of these poems will speak to them and may leave them thinking, ‘ya, I remember things like that’ or ‘ya, something like that happened to me once.’”
The Robert Currie author reading is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the John M. Cuelenaere branch of the Prince Albert Public Library.