Michael deBeyer was raised in the small farming community of Ayr, Ontario. He received a B.A. from York University and an M.A. from the University of New Brunswick. His first book, Rural Night Catalogue (Gaspereau Press, 2002), is largely the product of his M.A. thesis. His second book, Change in a Razor-backed Season, was published by Gaspereau Press in 2005. His poetry continues to appear in literary journals across Canada. He currently lives and writes in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
There was no specific moment that inspired me to write poetry. There was, however, a specific poem: T.S. Eliot’s “Preludes.” Something about that piece was very real to me, very intuitive, like I was contributing to it as I read. Further reading in Eliot, especially “The Wasteland” and “The Hollow Men” only inspired me more. The rhythm of opening lines of “The Burial of the Dead,” the first part of “The Wasteland,” remain the rhythmic archetype for the vast majority of my writing.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
Today, I find inspiration outdoors. I’ve always found inspiration outside, particularly in a “natural” landscape, which is to say one not defined by the human touch. I’m interested in the way the natural world can sometimes appear so incongruous to what I already know or understand. Outside, I’ll reach a kind of contradiction with nature, mentally, that is a common source for my writing, like I have to write the reconciliation between Nature and myself.
What is your writing process?
I really have two completely different writing processes.
- In the first, I encounter some unusual subject matter, or come across some opening lines, and I write them down and gradually build on them (for an hour or for weeks and weeks). I scribble notes to myself and draw arrows all over the page.
- In the second, I have some subject that I know I want to write about. I will think about it for a long time and try to come up with a way into whatever I consider unique about the subject. Eventually, I will jot something down just to create a starting point. I’ll work off that fixed point for a while. When I’m done, I usually have a number of messy pages that may or may not make the poetic cut.
What is your revision/editing process?
I’m an editor. I usually write and rewrite a poem three or four times in a notebook before I take it to a computer. On paper, I’m concerned with the sound and concept of the thing. I write in a kind of block form until I take it to my computer. Once on the screen, when the mess suddenly becomes very clean, I start to play with the structure. I prefer common stanza and line lengths as a means of organizing a poem, so much of my editing comes from trying to “make it fit” into an identified stanzaic form. Often, too, this “making it fit” is a source of new ideas, creative thinking, etc.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
I did write poetry in high school. Not at first. I was in a writing class where I usually wrote fiction. Assignments forced me to write poetry, however, and I actually came to like assignments that forced me out of my comfortable, fictional skin. That, and I came to really enjoy the density of poems: how the story or idea of a poem finds such compact expression, like diamond making.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
The only resource I use regularly is Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (about 15 years old). A student should find this useful. I also visit www.poets.org often.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Don’t be afraid to surprise yourself in your poetry. Welcome the unpredictable phrase or uncanny image when they come up. You can test them later to see if they hold up.
That, and adhere to your own standards of what your writing should be.