Writing and Photography

Amatoritsero Ede

AuthorI had it in mind to write a completely different editorial for this issue on a totally divergent subject. Two scenarios changed that one idea. First, a photo shoot with John Macdonald, veteran chronicler of the lives and times of Ottawa literati, towards – according to him – the promotion of my new poetry collection; second, the delightful shock of seeing a professional photographer at painstaking work. It opened my eyes to the similarity of craft between photography and writing; well, at least that kind of writing – literary fiction, poetry, the well-crafted creative non-fiction or the classic essay – which insists on mathematical exactitude.

Precision was what the professional photographer demanded. He drove around seeking that elusive balance of light and shade to aid his craft. For some time he perambulated, stopped, hesitated, changed his mind; then one final foray towards a completely different part of the city before he finally found a good spot where the mixture of air, light, shadow and space was perfect. One was struck by the truth of the anonymous truism that “finding the right syntax for a poem” is “like finding the right light before you take a photograph.” Therein lies the intersection between one art and the other.

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The Cosmopolitan Muse

Poet, Amatoritsero Ede in conversation with Novelist and poet, Cyril Dabydeen,

AuthorAmatoritsero Ede: You have worked in almost all the genres of writing; in which one do you feel more at home?

Cyril Dabydeen: I began writing both poetry and fiction at an early age, and after winning the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal for poetry in British Guiana (now Guyana) where I was born, I became more comfortable with poetry because my confidence grew in it. And, you see, for me the image is all in being a creative writer; metaphor is what it’s all about, and the sense too of the “absolute interiority of the poem,” as Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes describes it. In Canada I’ve been writing both fiction and poetry for years, and both keep being published in the small literary magazines. And, of course, when I was appointed the Poet Laureate of Ottawa in the mid-eighties, I began to be labelled primarily as a poet, and kept writing poetry in the main, as seemed expected of me. I know, too, that I do like reading poetry more than I do fiction to public audiences (I am just better at it on the stage). Nowadays I seem to write more prose than poetry, as the mood seizes me. And, the short story form I am comfortable with, the story being “something apocalyptic in a teacup,” and the good short story combines the poet’s sense of style and the novelist’s sense of drama. Underlying this too, is the fact that poetry is not read widely for a number of reasons, perhaps because of the way it’s taught, or the poet’s penchant for self-reflexive angst, and so on. Fiction does command a wider audience, so common sense tells me that if one wants to reach more people, fiction is what you should focus on. What is interesting to note is that most Canadian poets tend to have moved from poetry to fiction, maybe with ease, e.g., Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and so on.

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First Sight

Salim Gold

A blast of sunlight haloed your entrance— / Or shadowed you, all that gold drenching you, / Starting with your hair—copper-fire, alive.

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Dennis Cooley's fictions:
“love in a dry land”

Rob Mclennan

For years now, readers have been waiting for Winnipeg poet Dennis Cooley's long-promised poetry collection, “love in a dry land”

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A Father Like That

Olive Senior

Well I never know I would make it back much less get in without Matron seeing me and cutting my tail for being outside without permission.

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“A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things.”

– Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Featured Artist


–Suzie Veroff