D. S. Martin is a Canadian whose poetry has appeared in many journals in Canada and the US, such as Arc, Canadian Literature, Christianity & Literature, The Dalhousie Review, The Fiddlehead, First Things, Mars Hill Review, and Queen’s Quarterly. He has two poetry collections to his credit: a chapbook, So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed – published by Rubicon Press (Edmonton, 2007) which received an Award of Merit from The Word Guild – and his new full-length book, Poiema, from Wipf & Stock (Eugene, Oregon, 2008). D.S. Martin has written about poetry for several publications including: Books & Culture, Faith Today,Rock & Sling, and Ruminate. In 2004 he interviewed Margaret Avison – one of Canada’s most significant poets, in the final interview she granted – for the audience at the Write! Toronto conference; the interview later appeared in the American journal Image. He is also the Music Critic for Christian Week. He lives in Brampton, Ontario with his wife and two teenage sons, and is a teacher with the Peel District School Board. Visit his website: www.dsmartin.ca
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
Probably the most significant point—in the midst of a long period of time where I was very gradually moving towards writing poetry—was when I was taking a creative writing course at Humber College. I was in the Radio Broadcasting program there, and had had some very creative moments in writing radio advertising copy in the program itself; in that course the very first piece I wrote was extremely well received. That convinced me that I could write. The piece wasn’t a poem, but had poetic elements, and those aspects were what I liked best. Poetry has been the natural outcome.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I find inspiration from the things I read, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and the Bible. I also find inspiration from my observations of nature, human-beings, music, and anywhere else I encounter beauty and befuddlement. For me, poetry is about finding meaning.
What is your writing process?
I begin by thinking reflectively about something I’ve seen or read or heard. I play with potential lines in my mind, writing them on paper, and playfully expanding upon them. When I get to the point where I’m rearranging the order of things, I often put it all on a word processor to make rearranging simpler. At this point I sometimes note potential musical ideas that seem to present themselves. I am a real putterer. I rarely finish a poem the same day I began it. Most of the time it is on my computer, and it keeps getting fine-tuned on a daily basis for a few weeks.
What is your revision/editing process?
Often I will rewrite a stanza in a completely different way, and then look at the two versions side by side. Frequently I will chop the weaker stanzas or lines away to later be replaced with something stronger. Once the poem is somewhat done, I share it with my writers group; they help me to know how the poem is viewed from the outside. Sometimes I will then revise a poem before submitting it to a journal. Sometimes the poems will even be revised after having been published. Many poems in my new collection, Poiema (Wipf & Stock, 2008) have appeared in magazines, and yet have been revised for the book. American poet Luci Shaw was particularly helpful to me in this process.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
No. I didn’t have enough confidence. I remember writing a humorous radio play script, in those days, along the lines of the British program The Goon Show. I never had the nerve to show it to anyone. My skin wasn’t thick enough.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
The best resource is to have a group of strong writers, who will tell you honestly their thoughts on your writing, so that you can see what they see.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
I would have appreciated the opportunity to hear a poet reading their words live. I didn’t experience that until I was at university.