Wayne Keon

Wayne Keon's picture
b. 1946
Biography: 

Wayne Keon is the author of My Sweet MaizeStorm Dancer, and Sweetgrass II. Keon’s poems have been widely anthologized. He is a member of Nipissing First Nation.

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

I grew up in a Northern Ontario mining town during the ’60s. There was no such thing as readings per se in the local high school or in any other forum anywhere. The hardnosed, brash nature of this kind of a mining town was not kind to such a pastime. My adopted father was Irish (Fermanagh County, Ireland) and he worked in the mines. One time when I was quite a bit younger, he gave me a book of the complete works of the greatest poet ever, William Butler Yeats. We did not share any of our closeness to this venue with anyone at that time, save him and I.

I really liked this poem in younger times, and even now, called “Go By Brooks””[by Leonard Cohen] and I still remember it pretty good.... Whilst I don’t think much of the Christianity trilogy in it, I still did so enjoy it. It sort of got me going on a kind of a native response i.e., using the magic number four of native peoples (the four directions north, south, east, west; the four seasons spring, summer, fall, winter.  ........... etc etc etc).

if i ever heard   

if i ever heard

your love had gone pale

i would come out of this wilderness

with ojibiway majik for you   

 

if i ever heard

your love had gone without rain

i would come out of this wilderness

with my ojibiway river

for you

 

if i ever heard

your love had gone in the sea

i would come of this wilderness

with ojibiway earth

for you   

 

if i ever heard

your love had gone in the nite

i would come out of this wilderness

with my ojibiway stars

for you

 

It seems many were attracted to this small poem and it became the most published, anthologized and translated of poems I had written. I so-so enjoyed an anthology by McGraw Hill which featured “if I ever heard” next to Willie boy’s “Sonnet XXIX.”

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

Probably ten years old-ish ... ???? I know we were still living in Pembroke, Ontario and I was humming & singing the song “Oh Boy” as sung by Buddy Holly, who recorded it in the summer of ’57. I was singing verses of the song to a couple of my buddies at Holy Name Irish School where I told them we could sing the song to our beloveds Pat Sullivan and Patsy Ryan who were in our class. Was fun with the Irish folks (lol) and of course we never did.  We moved in January 1958 to Elliot Lake, Ontario and I know I was trying to write verses then .... like Buddy Holly (except we all know he didn’t write that song .... lol). 

When did I start thinking of myself as a poet? I never had such impure thoughts, ever ......... (lol).

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

Don’t know. Maybe you could ask one who works.

If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?: 

Confrontation with horror is probably a way to cite inspiration for this [poem, “howlin at the moon”], if it can be equated to that. When horror becomes reality, the resolve to go on, could be an excruciating confrontation of such a dilemma. In any event, this is not a fun place.

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

I almost feel embarrassed here but what the hades ...... I do really like this oldy, mouldy but goodie ...... lol: “Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.