Lorenzo Reading Series: Brian Bartlett Reads From “Ringing Here & There”

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On Thursday, Oct. 16, the Lorenzo Reading Series featured Canadian poet Brian Bartlett. Bartlett read from his new book “Ringing Here & There”, which is his first book written in the prose form.

With a crowd of over 30 in attendance, Bartlett explained how the book was separated into 366 different entries, the length of just over one full year, with the year beginning in April.

Bartlett read ten different entries from “Ringing Here & There,” some of which referred to his children and his everyday life, while others made reference to the natural world. The book of days is filled with field reports, sketches, commentaries, tributes, laments, quotations and collages.

When asked about quoting his children and how they felt about being included in “Ringing Here & There,” Bartlett said, “Not exactly excitement, more matter of fact… my daughter who writes, she’s 14 and loves writing so I would say there was more of a response from her. She was quite happy when I did the count I made up in the back of the book, so one day I told her ‘you appear in 14 of the entries, you’ve won the award.’”

Bartlett explained that all of the entries in the collection are around the same length, namely because they were first uploaded to Facebook. When the social media site first started, there was a limitation on how many characters you were allowed per post. With a limit of 420 characters for each entry, Bartlett adjusted his prose to meet this criteria. He also explained that instead of using the word “and,” he used ampersands to preserve space. Once Facebook removed this character limit, Bartlett continued to use the same limitations in length. Brian saw this restriction as a challenge, which then developed into an interesting type of discipline, or predetermined form.

When asked who his major influences were, Bartlett stated, “Don McKay… he’s definitely been an inspiration. At times it’s almost the influence to try and not write like him because he has a style that’s sort of infectious… Henry David Thoreau in terms of the work I read from today, I acknowledge him in the introduction to the book. I think that since I started reading since I was 14 and have been reading him on and off ever since and have reread a lot of his work. I admire him very much, not just as a creator of masterpieces, but also as a journalist.”

Bartlett was asked if he aims for a specific audience when writing, and stated that, “In terms of audience for poetry… you do know you’re writing for a small audience, that’s one thing you’re conscious of… I don’t think during the actual act of writing that I’m really that conscious of thinking of an audience at all. You’re more conscious of it obviously when you are literally facing an audience and when you’re preparing for a reading even. You’re more aware of it because then you’re thinking ‘what things might go over well today to this particular audience.’”

For those wondering what advice Brian Bartlett would give to aspiring writers, the poet provided the following answer: “Other than the obvious ones like read, read, read and revise… not to feel too early on that you have found your voice and your style, realize that developing and growing for a good writer happens over decades not over months or years. Don’t settle into one voice too early on. And don’t be afraid to experiment, try a lot of different things.”