Steven Heighton’s latest collection of poems “the Waking Comes late” is highly evolved work from a writer who “in the early evening of a life”, is a master of form and sound. The poems integrate with other texts, some anonymous or obscure, others more well known, Celan or Akhmatova for example. Heighton engages with and pays homage to these voices to create a new level of work “beyond gravity, grave, ego”. From one of Canada’s finest lyrists, here are beautiful, wise poems glittering with music, echoes and subtle rhyme.
by Miranda Pearson
MP: How did you arrive at the title of your latest book of poems, “The Waking Comes Late”?
SH: It’s a phrase in the book, and also the title of the poem in which the phrase appears. Sleep and waking–on both literal and metaphorical levels–have been preoccupying me for a long time. I could see that preoccupation arising often in the manuscript, so the title seemed right. (It only now occurs to me that the title of my next book, a novel–“The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep”–is closely related.)
MP: Could you speak to the notion of “approximations”? My understanding is that they are not translations as much as responses, or homages.
SH: Some are traditional translations and some are much freer, looser, to the point where, yes, you might call them responses or homages. I see “approximation” as a rubric that’s roomy enough to comprise a wide range of approaches, from more or less faithful to extremely free.
MH: How did you arrive at the particular poems you worked with in your “approximations”?
SH: Some are poems that I love. Some are poems that I don’t love but that engross and intrigue me and make me want to dig into them farther. Some are poems that I invented, though no one ever seems to notice.
MP: You have been travelling lately, for instance to Scotland. How was that?
SH: Terrific. I love both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Great walking & pubbing cities. And such welcoming people.
MP: Lastly could you talk about your teaching style and any plan or hope that you have for the workshop in Victoria?
SH: I guess you’d have to ask someone else about my teaching style. As for plans and hopes, that’s easy: I want to get writers thinking about poetry and prose in a slightly different way and I want to get them writing in the workshop. Above all, I want them to enjoy it, in the sense of an enjoyable and exhilarating challenge.
Steven Heighton will read Friday, September 23 in Pure Poetry. His Masterclass is now full.