I’ve always believed that being a writer, a poet – being an artist of any kind – means that our art expands from our souls to the page to the canvas or brick wall – into the world where others can experience it. In doing so, in the sharing of our art, we can connect with each other in ways not possible through any other work. I’m pretty sure that poet David Brydges believes the same thing! I met him at the League of Canadian Poets conference this past June, but I’d heard of him previously because of the outstanding work in gathering and sharing poetry in communities across the world. Yes, the world. We shook hands, shared a smile, some words and a promise to connect via email to talk about – and share! – the Great Canadian Poe-Train and some of the other poetry events David is at the heart of bringing to life.
VS: What is the Great Canadian Poe-train?
DB: The Great Canadian PoeTrain was a cross Canada Via rail train travel adventure in 2015. We began in Ottawa then headed to Toronto to pick up more poets and musicians. Due to freight train derailments in Northern Ontario Via cancelled the transcontinental train so we had to fly to Winnipeg. From there we took the train to Edmonton staying for 3 days during their poetry festival. Then headed through the Rockies to Vancouver. All in all, 22 travelled with us during National Poetry Month in April to promote and praise poetry’s power to build community and celebrate the written and spoken language. We published a PoeTrain anthology that was the first-time Canadian poets collectively shared experiences of train travel.
VS: How/when/why did you come up with the Poe-train idea?
DB: Tyna Silver an artist friend suggested bringing poets to my poetry festival [Spring Pulse Poetry Festival] in the spring. So, in 2012 I leased an Ontario Northland Train car and brought 28 poets/musicians and a film crew of 4 from Toronto to Cobalt in Northern Ontario. It was an extraordinary trip that confirmed the passion of poets/musicians for train travel and having a literary adventure riding the rails.
VS: Tell us about your involvement in the poetry community in Canada. (Obviously, with the Poe-train, but please share about the spring pulse poetry festival, and your own writing.)
DB: I feel like an unofficial ambassador for the Canadian poetry community. I’m a member of both the Stroll of Poets and The Edmonton Poetry festival and try to visit and participate in event from these 2 organizations. Have organized for 10 years Northern Ontario’s only poetry festival called Spring Pulse Poetry Festival. Included is administering Canada’s oldest non-governmental poetry contest, The Dr. William Henry Drummond Contest established in 1970. Also own and manage Canada’s most historic community poetry park in Cobalt Ontario. PoeARTry North is another project that in 2018 will be a painting /poetry competition for all Ontario artists.
Have published 4 chapbook style books and am working on my first full length book to come out in the fall. Own a publishing company called Brydge Builder Press that will publish and distribute my books.
VS: What do you think the role of the poet is in today’s arts landscape? Do you think it shifts over time?
DB: The poet in these turbulent times is to be a voice for justice, reason, and passionate storytelling. Poetry as Insurgent Art was Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s book title and it sums up an activist role poet can play in helping right this sinking ship called civilization. Have created PoetsCare (whose motto is inspiring write action) the philanthropy wing of my publishing company that will publish anthologies as fundraisers for good causes. Last year raised over $1200 for the Wood Buffalo Regional Library Fort McMurray, and did 3 book launches in Fort Mac, Calgary, and Edmonton for the Fire and Sky anthology.
VS: What is it like to travel with poets? Are we a unique part of humanity?
DB: Poets are journeyers within and without. We come to explore, challenge, keep curious a white flame of discovery that burns in our bellies daily. From this expansion craft stories of intensity that reflects and recalls what has been inspirationally seen. Poets have a dual nature of being highly individualistic and yet wanting to socialize and be in public. Giving this gift of poetry to strengthen humanities bonds is a unique calling that all artists receive.
VS: How do folks respond to poetry on a train? In this regard, do you feel that poets make a positive impact?
DB: Trains create an intimate space for poets to socialize and perform. Difference is you are in motion. Someone once said a train window is a moving documentary with wildlife and other wonders only a view way. One poet on the Northern Ontario trip wrote a poem about not seeing the bear. Poets make a positive impact by bringing their craft from the page into the public domain and finding new homes for poetry to be appreciated.
VS: When did you self-identify as a poet? What does poetry mean to you?
DB: Have always been an observer with a high dose of curiosity. Also, major influence has been living in the Cambrian Shield wilderness of Northern Ontario and playing /exploring many trails of discovery. Had a love of words and reading an early age that helped shape my passion for writing. Later in life would spend much of my time travelling the world on the continual hunt for beauty. In 2006 in Edmonton started to feel a strong urge to share my poetry and joined the Stroll of Poets. Since then have taken my craft of expressing this adventuresome life with more seriousness and sharing.
VS: Share the best advice a fellow poet gave to you about writing/being a poet.
DB: Sheri -D Wilson said once to read your poem 100 times before you perform in public. Also, to go deep into nature, spend hours close to its core when I told her I was struggling writing a poem about a lone tree.
DB: Am a member of LCP, Cobalt branch manager for the Ontario Poetry Society, Stroll of Poets, and The Edmonton Poetry Festival. Joining an organization has been the single most important reason and influence in generating success in the poetry world. Would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to become an empowered poet while supporting others.
VS: Share one of your poems with us! Perhaps one that you wrote while on the Poe-train tour.
DB: Most of the poem came to me just before we took our cross Canada train tour in 2015.
I Am a Train
I am a train carrying 11-year-old northern boy to Toronto.
I am a train whose forever spirit name is journey.
I am a train traVERSING wilderness of words.
I am a train seeking headlights of truth to stay on track.
I am a train whistleblowing for a world derailed.
I am a train conductor of a rock and roll symphony.
I am a train hurtling steel into snow tracked space.
I am a train, geographies constant artistic visitor.
I am a train giving Group of 7 a painted gift
from a Lake Superior, lone pine tree canvas.
I am a train beast who bloodies many a moose.
I am a train hearing ghosts of horses galloping.
I am a train defiantly romantic, on once CPR and CN
continental tracks as memory caboose rusts.
I am a train passing Winnipeg train station railway
museum where the pioneering engine “The Countess
of Dufferin” who arrived in 1877, rests in a silent shrine.
I am a train flattered by a pink evening prairie sky.
I am train terrifying herds of buffalo.
I am a train near Blackfoot teepees, fire pits,
buffalo bones, babies awakened not by raven’s caw,
but a new horizontal flying machine of progress.
I am a train of black only porters, with decades
of blistered reminders, lifting money class suitcases.
I am a train on Fraser Canyon shadow side of the Rockies.
Hard working Chinese named “coolies”
died blasting those tunnels.
One returns to Chinatown as a one-armed dishwasher.
I am a train, blowing a quintessential long whistle.
I am the “Canadian” train riding the roots of a nation
forged by the rail and its way.
I am Pacific Central train station coastal breezes,
as Vancouver seagulls sway to North Shore
mountain music. My journey is over, yours will never
end, for there is no “last spike” in a poet’s heart.
Next up for David Brydges, and maybe YOU, dear poet, is David’s new traveling adventure the Wild West Poetry Festival. Here are the details:
The Wild West Poetry Festival is a moving adventure that will include a bus trip, Via Rail train journey from Jasper to Prince Rupert (with stopover in Prince George) a BC ferry trip down the west coast to Port Hardy and finally a bus trip to Nanaimo for our final event. Included will be Jaspers first poetry festival from Oct. 15 to 18. Have no website yet but anyone interested in celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday with a grand venture into the heart of Western Canada’s wilderness with a group of poets/musicians and adventurists.
Contact me Dave Brydges at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Be forewarned there are limited spaces to keep the group intimate.
Thank you David for your dedication to the craft of poetry and creative writing – and for continually gathering people together to share!