Mark Martyre - Spring 2018 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Verdancies.com wanted to learn more about the mood-driven, calmly brooding yet remarkably accessible writing of Mark Martyre. So in the early Spring of 2018, Verdancies Journal editor Christopher MacKinnon exchanged a series of emails with the Canadian poet and musician to get Martyre’s take on creativity, inspiration, and the poetic process. The result is a record of insights and observations from an artist carving a unique niche in the literary culture.
VERDANCIES JOURNAL: On the cover of your latest album, Rivers, you're shown sitting by a riverbank, just taking in the quiet sunlit scene. One imagines you might have composed a poem or two in that kind of setting. What locations do you find best for your writing?
MARK MARTYRE: The times and places that I've written in are varied, but I suppose there is also a similarity between them. It's often somewhere, and some time, that offers a quiet, solitary moment. Sometimes that's sitting by a riverbank, other times it's at a station waiting for the train. Or sitting at a cafe in the morning, or lying on a mattress unable to fall asleep at night. Sometimes, while I'm walking, mid-stride, I feel the need to stop and jot down a few lines that pop into my head. I've sat at bars, listening to music, with a drink and a notebook in front of me. And I've worked many different jobs over the years, while carrying a pen and paper in my back pocket. Though, I haven't crunched the data to determine which of these locations has provided the best results.
VER: As a musician, you’ve previously done live performances in unusual venues, such as the Toronto bookstore Sellers & Newel. What books have influenced your poetry and which poets if any can be found on your own bookshelf?
MM: When I'm asked to list poets, or books, or albums, or anything like that, my initial reaction is to just not do it. Because I know that I'll inevitably leave some important names off the list. The second impulse is to list some of the singer-songwriters, and musicians that I've admired. They were my first, and are still, my deepest connection to poetry and writing. After I've exhausted that list, I'll try to think of some of the books that have deeply impacted me. And, finally, once all those names and titles have been written down, I'll go back and erase it all, knowing that there are really too many to name, and I've surely left some important names off the list.
VER: Your poetry has appeared in various journals such as Postcard Shorts, The Littlest Voice, Adelaide Literary Magazine and of course, Verdancies.com. How do you know when a Mark Martyre poem is complete and what is the quality you admire most in a poem?
MM: For me, a poem is complete the second the pen lifts off the page. I don't often tinker and toy with the words once they've been laid down. Though, it's common for me to then look down afterwards and not see anything worthwhile. But, that's ok. The words will come again. The signal will come in again, and I'll do my best to transcribe it. Once in a while when the signal is strong enough, and my notation is clear enough, I might be able to get something worth hanging on to.
VER: The late Gord Downie is an example of Canadian singer and poet who notably released a volume of poetry in conjunction with a solo album (Coke Machine Glow). Any plans to do something similar with one of your future projects?
MM: A book of poetry has been simmering on the back burner for quiet some time. Each year it seems I'm getting closer and closer to serving one up. But, then a new album has always taken precedence, while the poems were something I felt more comfortable sitting on. I guess I just can't leave new music simmering for very long. But, maybe this year? Currently, I've got another batch of songs, and I've thought about the next record. So, we'll see what happens. I know at some point that simmering pot will have to be addressed. But, in the meantime, I'm glad some of the poems are getting out there. So, thank you.