Short Story Prize: Readers
Meet the readers: Matt Rader
We're introducing you to the 10 talented Canadian poets who helped narrow down more than 2,300 entries for the 2011-2012 CBC Poetry Prize and create the longlist.
Up next, Comox Valley-based author of the recent book A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno, chats with us on how his own surroundings tend to seep into his writing.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live and what do you write?
I live in the village of Cumberland in the foothills of the Beaufort Range on Vancouver Island. I was born and raised on the island. I write poems and stories. Often enough my writing has the Comox Valley (Cumberland is on the west side of the valley) as a background.
What's your day job?
I've been a college instructor in English for the last few years. Right now my day job is researching labour history and social revolutionaries in BC in the first part of the twentieth century. I call this writing, and it mostly means I hang out in archives and when possible in pubs and coffeeshops with a pile of books.
What's your literary street cred?
I was once on a panel at the Denman Island Writers Festival with Gabor Mate, Eden Robinson, and William Deverell. The topic was "Mean Streets." Everyone, especially me, wondered why I was there.
Why did you want to be a reader for the CBC Poetry Competition?
Wanted to, as the Wobblies say, "help the work along."
What do you like most about poetry?
Mystery and sex.
Where did you read the entries?
At my desk looking out at the mountains. In the Wandering Moose Café and Darkside Chocolates on Dunsmuir Street in Cumberland. At the Zocalo Cafe on the corner of Fifth Street and Cliffe Avenue in downtown Courtenay. The Grind Cafe on Church Street across from the Legion in Comox. My dad's camper on Carnarvon Street in Victoria.
When you’re reading hundreds of poems and trying to choose the most exceptional ones, what are you looking for?
An elixir of surprise, generosity, cunning, beauty, empathy, strangeness, cruelty, love, desire, and the ineffable. Often enough I was trying to not be overwhelmed by the vast abundance of these qualities in the poems I was reading.
What is it about a poem that makes you put it in the YES pile?
It came down to a glimmer of intuitive recognition in a poem that became more and more recognizable (but not familiar) when I held it on its own, away from the other poems.
Having read all these poems, do you have tips, any dos and don’ts for aspiring poets?
Be brave. Write for yourself. Be humble. Send only what you absolutely
love. After love, all outcomes are secondary.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
It was an honour to imagine so many people writing their hearts and lives into these poems. I felt privileged to experience these poems.
Matt Rader's latest book is A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno (House of Anansi, 2011). His poems and stories have recently appeared in The Malahat Review, Arc, Riddle Fence, and Forget. He lives in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.