Shelagh Rogers interviewed many fabulous authors this past season on The Next Chapter. Every now and then, she would have a conversation so compelling, juicy, riveting or fascinating that it deserved more time than the radio show could allow. So, The Next Chapter has offered up extended versions of those conversations as special webisodes and podcasts.
Every Thursday in July and August, CBC Books will bring you Shelagh's Summer Specials, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.
Shelagh's Summer Special this week is her conversation with poet Patrick Lane, whose body of poetry was recently compiled in The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane. An edited version of this interview originally aired on the January 30, 2012, episode.
We hope you enjoy!
You can hear The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One every Monday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. (a half hour later in Newfoundland).
As of this year, Patrick Lane has published some 796 poems. His career as a writer has spanned more than half a century and several "joe jobs," including sawmill worker, truck driver and industrial first-aid worker. A 544-page collection of Lane's poems was published last fall, featuring the poems that Lane himself most wishes to see preserved.
"It really is a gathering of my life," Lane told host Shelagh Rogers. "In some ways it was kind of depressing, initially. It scared me, it was a mortal life. So I was really daunted by it." But when the book came out, he sat down with it and the feelings of intimidation turned to pride. "I came away feeling really proud of what I had done. I thought, 'this is worth a life.'"
Lane started writing in 1960 because, he has said, it gave him something that he didn't have in his life. "I always wanted to be an artist," he explained. "I started to write because I couldn't afford to paint." Paint and canvases were expensive and Lane was poor: he was supporting his wife and kids by working at a sawmill. He worked all day, came home and spent time with his family, and then wrote late into the night. "I did have this tiny little typewriter," he said. "And I tapped and tapped away on them [the poems]." He sent a few poems off to Canadian Forum magazine, and they published them all. "I was suddenly bitten," he said. "I thought, 'Wow, this is what I want to do with my life.'"
Lane credits that creative drive with saving his life. "I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't had that," he said. "My life has had its terrible moments, you know, with its alcoholism and drugs as well, and break-ups of marriages and my father's murder and my brother's early death. These were just disasters in my young life...It was tough. But the one thing I could hold on to, that kept me alive in those days, was my writing, was my poetry."
Lane has borne witness to many violent and disturbing experiences over the course of his life, but he has been able to transform some of his darkest moments into works of beauty, thanks to poetry. "There's nothing more amazing than to make something beautiful."