Working at the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library, Rudyard Fearon is a long way from where he was born in Clarendon, Jamaica. Fearon came to Canada in 1974 and began working at the library in 1982. That is where he found fertile ground to develop as a writer.
Author of two books of poems: Noise in my Mind and Spin. Fearon is working on a third collection of poems at the moment.
Writing in a minimalist style, the Jamaican poet says a whole lot about our society.
BCP: Why poetry?
RF: Poetry is a form of reflection for me; therefore, poetry is only pure form of dialogue that can express my thoughts.
BCP: What is your process?
RF: I write when I get inspired. I find writing without inspiration to be phony… for me; such as when someone asks me to write on an event in one’s life; birthdays is a good example.
BCP: How long have you been writing poetry?
RF: I have been writing poetry since I was nineteen. I got my first job after high school, ironically, enough in a library. That’s where I started reading a lot of poetry. That was in Jamaica.
BCP: Who are your influences?
RF: In Jamaica, at the time, the poets that caught my interest were Langston Hughes, Claude MaCkay; Robert Frost the most. Now I tend to love the poetry than the poet except for a few exceptions such as Shakespeare, and John Donne.
BCP: Your poetry is emotional, honest, and stimulating. What do you try to convey to your readers?
RF: I suppose those attributes come from the strong emotional, philosophical currents that run through me when I sit down to write. I can not write about anything unless I truly have something to say.
BCP: There are lots of Christian references in your poetry. Does your spirituality play a part in your writing?
RF: Spirituality is akin to poetry. They are both search for truths.
BCP: Do you see poetry as a form of prayer?
RF: One of the greatest forms of poetry is the bible. It is written in verse, in songs. I first learn to read, actually, by reading the Psalms for my grandmother.
BCP: Lots of your poems are about colonialism and racism. Do you see poetry as a form of activism?
RF: Coming from an oppressed race it is inevitable that activism would surface in my poetry. How could it not? We are not a happy people; I leave romanticism to happy poets.
BCP: Much of your poetry is minimalist. Is it harder to write short poems as opposed to long poems?
RF: It is the result of keen intense thinking. I want only the pure essence of philosophical thought; not the rhetoric.
BCP: You piece Shame is hard to define in terms of genres. Is it a poem? Is it a short story? They say poetry and short story are cousins. Do you agree? Shame seems to back that statement.
RF: When I set out to write I never know what route a poem is going to take; in this particular case, it mimics the short story genre mainly because it isn’t written in verse, but it also maintain its literary content to be still called a poem, because it prompts thinking such as who are those three men? What are their connection to the character Steve? Are they responsible for his downfall? Just as a literary (poetic) prose would do.
BCP: You help run the Art Bar Poetry Series. How did you get involved? Why did you get involved?
RF: Actually, I was shocked to be asked join such an esteemed group. I joined because it was a way to contribute to the development of Canadian literature by helping provide a stage and also keep close contact with the literary community.
BCP: You work in the biggest library in North America. What’s it like to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of books? Do you buy books even though you have so many are your disposal? Do you see a sad ending to real books with all the electronic books coming out?
RF: It is very inspirational and educational at the same time. To be honest, I don’t buy books much…what’s the point when any book I want to read is at my finger tips.
BCP: What are you working on now?
RF: I have written some great children stories but have not able to publish them because of a lack of funds. I have not won a grant. It is like I am blacklisted. LOL.
BCP: When do you expect to have a new collection of poetry published?
RF: I just completed a new manuscript of poetry, A Different Way, and would love to have it out as soon I can find some funding for it.
BCP: You self publish your work. Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of self publishing? Where do you see the publishing industry going in terms of poetry?
RF: At first it was the only means to get my work out, but I soon I realized it gives me the room to be more creative in expressing my style of art. The downside to all this is the lack of adequate distribution. If it wasn’t for government grants to publishers, I think the industry would collapse because sales revenue is minimal.
BCP: Do you see a sad ending to real books with all the electronic books coming out?
RF: I think some books will still be published in their classic form; but magazines, most journals, newspapers, and easy read novels will not.
BCP: It’s National Poetry Month. What does that mean to you as a poet?
RF: It is awareness of poetry to the public; but I frankly I don’t think the public cares very much. Sad to say…poetry tends to supported by poets.
BCP: What advice do you have for other writers out there who are having difficulties with their writing, or who have yet to see their work in print, or who are afraid to perform their poetry?
RF: Learning the craft of writing is a start…then reading a lot of good poetry. We are living in an age of performance art so attending readings is beneficial too in that sense.
To buy Rudyard Fearon’s books see rudyardfearon.com.
Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Friday April 15, 2011 for a video of Rudyard Fearon reading his peotry.