David Barrick has taught creative writing at Western University for the past ten years, including special topics courses about poetry and song lyric writing. He is author of the poetry book Nightlight (Palimpsest Press, 2022), as well as the chapbooks Incubation Chamber (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Two Dreams: Stratford and The Copyist (The Alfred Gustav Press, 2022). His poetry has been published in The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, EVENT, and other literary journals. David won first runner-up prize in Pulp Literature’s 2021 Magpie Award for Poetry. He is Managing Director of the Antler River Poetry reading series (formerly Poetry London).
David’s poems are often lyric meditations in free verse with a particular attention to sound devices. He emphasizes sensory imagery and surrealism in his work, and frequently writes about dreaming, family relationships, animals, and fear. He also explores elements of character/narrative in prose poems, and he writes verses for his own songs.
Three poetry books that inspire him are A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent by Stuart Ross (2016), Model Disciple by Michael Prior (2016), and Quarrels by Eve Joseph (2018).
In high school, I enjoyed the song lyrics of my favourite bands (mostly grunge and alternative at the time) and I read the usual selection of canonical British and American poetry, but I was especially interested in Canadian poets. Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “Dark Pines Under Water” was a favourite of mine. Her language perfectly captured that slippery act of grasping after the subconscious mind and its deeper connections to land and history; I couldn’t fully articulate it then, but the poem seemed to perform the phenomenon that it was describing. Her lush, precise images connected with me immediately, and her underlying ideas sunk in much later.
I wrote little poems throughout grade school, usually about animals or nature or monsters. Poetic forms have consistently fascinated me even when I’ve found them challenging or baffling — I like the compact language, the playfulness, the beautiful leaps in logic and imagination.
My first publication in a significant Canadian literary journal (2006) really helped my confidence, but ultimately, a poet is just somebody who writes poems (as has been said so often). What makes you a writer is your persistence in writing— that commitment to learn and to improve your craft, to be curious and to try out new ideas. For me, that commitment came late in high school. I was one of those few kids who had carried an interest in dinosaurs beyond grade school, and my career goal was actually to become a paleontologist. An upper-year calculus class made me realize that I was not interested in the math and science required to study fossils, but rather in the fantastic, imaginative possibilities that dinosaurs held. That year, I dropped biology, physics, and algebra/geometry, replacing them with the English classes I hadn’t yet taken. Thankfully, my parents were incredibly supportive.
Poetry encompasses such a diverse range of stylistic approaches and rhetorical tools that, really, each writer can decide on his/her own poetic goals. For writers who are just starting out, I think it’s crucial to read as widely as possible (historical and contemporary, traditional and experimental) to discover the sort of poetry that you connect with, and then try to understand exactly why those poems are so impactful. Of course, that latter point is much easier said than done. In my view, whatever his/her choice of style or subject matter, a poet should attempt to show readers something they haven’t seen before, or perhaps illuminate something that has been overlooked/forgotten, or evoke a feeling that can’t quite be pinned down—to make readers see the world in a new (or renewed) way.
This is a very tough question: so many great options. I'll go with Stephanie Bolster's “Portrait of Alice with Elvis” (from her splendid book White Stone: The Alice Poems). As in so much of Bolster's work, the imagery is vivid and crisp, and the musicality of the lines make it a pleasure to speak aloud. The poem also develops a compellingly odd narrative that moves through a range of tones: hilarious, sympathetic, unsettling.