Barton, John and Nickerson, Billeh, editors. “Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets”, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007.
Quite a Collection
Reading poetry can be a very rewarding experience and it becomes that much more rewarding when we read poets of our own. John Barton and Billeh Nickerson have assembled the first anthology of gay male poetry from Canada and it is not to be missed. Their comprehensive work gives us all kinds of poetry—from the funny to the most romantic, translated from the French or written in English—it is all here and it is a wonderful way to muse over life. Covering the time span from 1890 to the present, there are poems for every occasion. The central motif is queerness and reading the poetry gives us a sense of beauty and originality not unique to just Canada but universal.
Poetry can also give us a sense of history for whatever is learned by the past poetic tradition in many cases remains true to the present day. Traditionally the poetry we read in school is heterosexual as our poetry has been hidden for so long. Even now, when we have achieved so much in the societal sphere, our poetry, unlike other forms of our literature, has been missing. The poet has a hard time finding an audience and a publisher so poetry has been kicked to the side. Barton and Nickerson worked to make that poetry visible and here it is in one beautiful volume.
If you have ever been interested in reading gay poetry, you know how difficult it as been to find it with the exception of those crossover poets like Mark Doty and others.
Poetry appeals to the emotions, it affexts us and we naturally respond to it. Poems aesthetic reflections of the times in which we live and is perhaps the most open and erotic of all forms of literature. “Seminal” has that central commonality in which all of the poems are gay men who write beautifully about the gay subjects about which we know and care and it deals with the human condition.
Because our human condition is a shade different from everyone else’s, it is appropriate and necessary that our poets bring this home. We want to belong to the larger picture but we also want our unique traditions-one of which is our poetic language.
“Seminal” has one fault and that is that it deals only with Canadian poetry—but that is its goal so it is not a point to be argued. It is a starting point and hopefully the publication of this book will present a challenge to others to bring forth their poetry as well.