Thursday, October 19, 2006

Interview: Chad Davidson and John Poch

Poets Chad Davidson and John Poch teamed up to write their new book, Hockey Haiku: The Essential Collection, and I may not know much about hockey, but I do like the haiku, am a big fan of Chad and John, and happen to know they're writing is excellent. They were kind enough to brave the time zone differences (me in California, Chad in Georgia, and John in Spain) to talk about their book with me.

MD: Are you afraid of Canadians?

Chad: It's not so much fear as a guarded fascination. During my years researching for this book at the Hockey Haiku Institute in Nova Scotia, I came to be drawn to their peculiar customs. I once perchanced to see two Canadians conversing in what appeared to be a foreign tongue. Turns out it was a form of French spoken in part of that great land. Who would have guessed the Canadians possessed so much interest! Endlessly evocative, I must say. Stories of cannibalism circulate, of course, but these seem mere rumor, near myth, in fact.

John: I’m afraid of many Canadians but not of anybody from Winnipeg. With hockey haiku, in general, one learns not to be afraid, but to embrace ones fears. What is a tough check on the boards to me? Nothing, I get back up. The same goes for writing a difficult haiku and failing to find that third line. Back to the question, though, one should generally fear Canadians more than Americans.

MD: Who is the bigger hockey fan of the two of you?

John: I know very little about hockey. Wallace Stevens said that one of the sources of poetry is ignorance, so I find myself more adept at understanding hockey haiku than Chad, at times. We are different kinds of fans, for sure. Chad likes to sit in fancy schmanzy press boxes with private bathrooms while I like my face pressed up against the glass, feeling the percussion of the sticks on the ice, the vibration of the Zamboni as it sweeps by, the blood sweat and tears of the players and my fellow comrades in the pit. It’s primal, really. Chad does spend time down below with us, but he does like to hang out with the bigwigs now and then. He wears cologne while I prefer Speedstick alone.

Chad: I am, of course. John has no skill at all. Fan skill, that is. He has no sense of rhythm when we have to clap our hands at games after a goal, has no real taste for Molson Ice, and also hates hot dogs.

MD: Do you think people who aren't schooled in poetry (but are very schooled in, say, the San Jose Sharks) would enjoy this book?

Chad: Definitely. Look, there are two kinds of hockey haiku fans out there. There are the fiercely aggressive and loyal fans--the type who tattoo certain hockey haiku on their thighs and chant them to the harvest moon. There are also, though, the more common, staid varieties, people like you and me who, as chance may have it, work in San Jose, St. Paul, or New York, who work at desk jobs, perhaps, whose only source of joy is that fleeting sense of satisfaction amid the workday when a moment of clarity transports us to that peaceful realm known as hockey haiku. Religions have been formed around less.

MD: I think hockey season is just starting up, is that correct? Did you guys plan for the book to be released at the beginning of the season?

John: We planned for it to be released during the playoffs and the run into the Stanley Cup, but the editors at St. Martin’s realized what a good stocking stuffer it would be for every little hockey hooligan out there just waiting for his boot (in Canada they hang boots over the fireplace rather than stockings) to be full of hockey haiku. The kids love it. They can’t get enough, and we should be thankful to St. Martin’s for realizing this. We get caught up in the game and forget about things like money. We’re poets, after all.

MD: I have to say that there are people who are bigger hockey fans out there than me. I'm a baseball girl myself. Do you see a baseball haiku book on the horizon?

Chad: After Davey Lopes' classic Baseball Haiku Quarterly went under in '79, I am sure we all had visions of reviving it, or, better, trying ourhands at an anthology. Really, though, if you look at the baseball haiku that have been promoted as of late--mostly in the Northeastern schools, I think it's fallen away. It's become too disembodied. They've lost a sense of the populace, what Williams called "the pressure of reality." Some of the South American baseball haiku, especially those indebted to Marquez and the magical realists, are quite stunning.

MD: Can you write a haiku for me about the sad state of this past Cubs season and perhaps their hopeful rebirth for the next?

Chad: No, but what comes to mind is Yezzy Gradebill's classic haiku on just that subject: Chicago snow falls / long past spring, past summer cubs / still at mother's teats.

MD: Thanks for that. Back to hockey, any predictions for this season?

Chad: What with the book's release and our Japanese tour poised to begin, I haven't had a chance to look over my stats, yet. I hope, childishly, for Modano to play on another winning Stars team.

MD: I think it’s great the two of you did this project together. Do you see any other joint projects in the future?

John: Well, we can’t talk about too many of them, as others will want to swoop in and try their hand at what we alone can do. I do know that we’re a little dismayed that we’ve left out the Kyoto school from this anthology, but the poems are so singular and foreign to the American cultures, we just didn’t think anyone but a scholar would realize the beauty. But we’re beginning to think otherwise. You can’t underestimate hockey fans. Zamboni, after all, the word itself, comes out of an ancient Kyoto haiku. Most people think it’s Italian.

MD: Given this is for a website about book reviews, could you recommend a book?

Chad: I think Fivolovic's last collection of hockey haiku, The Path Sick Senators Took, is perhaps his most challenging. It's not the type of hockey haiku you relax with. It demands a lot of its readers, sort of the Scotty Bowman of recent hockey haiku collections, but it pays off in spades.

John: Black Ice. It’s the story of the rise and fall of former Dallas Stars net minder Eddie Belfour and his current recovery from substance addictions. Do you know what’s bringing him out of his depression and addiction? Yes, of course, we all have heard. Practicing hockey haiku in the mornings and evenings, when he would normally be out cruising the seediest parts of town looking for the biggest bouncer he could find to challenge to a bare-fisted brouhaha. Eddie Belfour has also started quoting famous Presidents at lunch. I’ve heard this is a favorite of his that he is bringing onto the ice this season to mess with the offensive linemen who deign sidle up to him: As FDR said: “I’ve seen war and I’ve seen Eleanor. I’ll take war!”


Anonymous said...

CLAUDIA!! You still remember how to read from our tutoring sessions lo these many years ago. Have you tried Mom's SI Espanol?

Anonymous said...

We want more interviews. You go, Girl!