The most important elements of poetry to me are sound and syntax. Vowels carry emotion. The interplay of consonants can be quite sensual, kinetic, frenetic, awkward or erotic. A well-tuned sentence will be meaningful, and beautiful, regardless of what the words might mean. I am always striving to write a perfect sentence. Like Stein, I like to begin again and again. Building context tends towards futility, it stifles sound. Poetry has to follow sound, even when it becomes melismatic, even when connections threaten to fall apart. I want to find the simplicity in complexity, I want to build strong structures, I’m frightened by the fragility of the ways we try to mean. Is it even worth pointing out anymore that if there is something worth transmitting in language, it’s not in what but how? One significant site of how is the axis between syntax and punctuation, how one links and the other separates. How syntax links incessantly, without reason, how badly we need to experience syntactically, how willfully we search for grammatical relationships. How punctuation can abet or frustrate meaning, lend fluidity and flow, or stop phrases short. How much substance comes from the sound of word leading to word to word.
Natalie Simpson was born in London, England and left at the age of six weeks. She lived in Holland until she was about two years old, and then moved to Calgary, Alberta. She’s half French Canadian, and half proficient in French. She has a BA in English (minor in Latin) and an MA in English, both from the University of Calgary. Her MA thesis dealt with sentences and their centrality in Gertrude Stein’s writing. She was poetry editor and then managing editor for filling Station magazine, between 1999 and 2004. She moved to Vancouver in 2004, completed her law degree at UBC, and then moved back to Calgary, where she worked most recently at a non-profit doing human rights research. Her poetry has been published in West Coast Line, The Capilano Review, Queen Street Quarterly, dANDelion, as well as the anthologies Shift & Switch and Post-Prairie. Her first book, accrete or crumble, was published by LINEbooks in 2006, and her chapbook Dirty Work is being re-issued by above/ground press ALBERTA SERIES.