BONUS MATERIAL………..THE Q&A sessions by The Crazy Irishman with Martin Durkin, Author of: SteelTown For Mary, Memoirs From a Dick
Q:It seems like during the interview, there was some more stories, that we just didn’t have the space for. Especially when you talked about coming to Hamilton to live for the first time and living in your father in laws back shop.
A: Well yeah, I guess. We moved there during the Christmas break. For the first week or so, we slept right on the floor with a few blankets for a mattress. We then took off for Nova Scotia to see some friends at the time. When we came back, the first thing we did, was look for a real bed that we could afford. We were married young, no kids, but basically still in school, so with no money, we were doing everything off the cuff. This part of town had some real tough people living there, our first night, someone tried to break into the shop, they rattled the doors and made a fair bit of noise. Now Hamilton I find is a safer place to live than say Belleville, but that’s a lot in part because the city is so much larger, so things are spaced out better. Hamilton has a little bit of everything to offer you.
Q: Did you find any local writers at the time that inspired you?
A: For sure, the main guy was then a local, Adam Getty. He wrote a book called, RECONCILIATION, and it really hit home. It opened my mind up to where I needed to go as a writer. It also made me more aware of the city itself, so like Purdy did in his writing, I realized, I needed to write about where I was living, as much as about how I was living it. Getty’s book is still one I pull out and read each summer
Q: It seems like, dropping names and locations is important to you
A: It is, and not simply to do it just because it’s cool, but because its important to me, to feel out the meaning of the words as much as the meaning of where I am. I think Ian Tyson is credited as the first Canadian singer brave enough to put a Canadian location in a song, naming Alberta in his FOUR STRONG WINDS SONG, and of course The Hip, they have mapped this country as a band and as individuals better than anyone. But to hear more and more bands doing it or still doing it like Tom Wilson or even more importantly, new bands like Harlan Pepper, Whitehorse, The Arkells – all Hamilton musicians, well, it tugs at me each time I hear a song about Hamilton even if it is just one line, it makes me feel something beyond the song itself, so if a song can do that, why not a poem?
Q: You have a strong connection between songs and poetry correct
A: I think that good poems, and good poets should be as respected and cherished as equally as a good musician whether they are rock, roots, or country. There are a lot of good song lyrics out there that are brought to life with music, and a lot of bad lyrics that only do well because of the music. Poetry has to do both in one setting, but at the end of the day, which do you dance to? – Think that’s a Downie question previously proposed. It would be nice though to see better poetry and Canadian poetry read and studied in school, to see a larger shelving in stores, and for any poet whose book has been nominated or won an award, to never leave the shelf. Canada has some great poets, but you wouldn’t know it from the book shelves.
Q:What was it like seeing your book(s) on the shelf for the first time?
A:It was awesome, it was in major bookstores from Ottawa to Hamilton, in Kingston because of alphabetical order, my book sat beside Downies, I could have fell over at the point……….as close to rock in roll as you can get. But whether large stores or independents, they promoted the book(s) and I had individuals in the poetry world who wanted to help, who continue to help me to this day. Without the bookstores and the generous help of promoters in these individual areas, I would never had stood a chance. I hope some day to return the favour, Then you have family and friends, who of course are always there through the thick and thin, who come out and are sometimes the only ones in the audience. Other times, you get a large crowd and you stand around afterwards and sign copies, and you feel like someone important, then of course you jump back in the truck, and go back to work the next day on the job site or horse farm.
Q: You seem to get really excited mentioning singers that you enjoy
A: Of course! It’s not in the same tone as a kid wanting an autograph, but as someone who would just like to meet a few of these guys, shake their hands, and say, ‘thanks’.
What does it mean to you, being able to read at Al Purdy events?
A: It’s a great honour, it’s beyond words. I have been to his grave site, but I have never been to the A-Frame house. My first time out there, I didn’t want to come in as a tourist or simply a fan, I wanted to come in as a fellow poet, not in the same ranking mind you, but it means something to come on the property as a writer, and not just a fan. It’s a privilege to know I will be going out there soon to read with some other fine poets, I compare it to the movie, Field of Dreams, where Ray Liotta’s Character has to kick the white paint each time before walking onto the field, he knows it’s the game itself you gotta love. That’s how it’s going to feel for me when I get to read out there, I’m going to have to kick some gravel before I move far from my truck.
Q:Tell us about you Sound of Quish book cover
A:The front cover was a painting done by my cousin from Toronto. Hell of an artist and playwrite. The back cover was door way into Al Purdy’s childhood home in Trenton at 134 Main street. I don’t even know if the house is still standing. When I went there it was in rough shape and the tennants thought I was some yahoo all excited and wanting to take a picture of the door way. At the time I was living at 134 Main in Brighton, and I couldn’t get over the coincidence. The inside shot of myself, I was sitting at the old Trenton Collegiate Institute where he and Farley Mowat went, just before Purdy was kicked out. A buddy of mine was from Trenton, and on the weekends we would go searching for the dynamite factory foundation that blew up and which Purdy wrote about in Splinter of the Heart. We often joked that we should climb to the top of the water tower and spray paint his name.
Q: You mentioned something about, Work Smart, not Hard. Can you elaborate?
A:It’s referencing the old posters back in the day that showed a college grad on one side happy and a welder on the other side, miserable, with that slogan underneath. Which of course is a load of crap. Work Smart, and hard, seems to make more sense, it’s up there with the frog strangling the heron that is swallowing him, with the slogan, Never, ever, Give Up. Anyways, I saw the poster once in a Mike Rowe documentary, and it has always stuck with me.
Q: Any other words of wisdom?
A: Nope, I do believe in what author Dennis Lehane said, about making sure at the end of the day, your job which is bringing in your pay cheque is not so overwhelming that your full time job which should be writing, suffers.
Q: You seem to follow great American writers as well as Canadian
A: I believe in great writers period, or great singers period. The minute you put American or Canadian before the name, that artist loses something in my mind. It’s like you are saying they are great in this country – else where who cares. We don’t say Canadian Legend Al Purdy, we just say, Al Purdy, Period, his greatness is worldwide. So in my mind, Dennis Lehane or who ever, they’re just great, people to pay attention to.
Q: I understand the cover of your new book has some profound meaning
A: It does. My wife designed the over all cover, but the picture of the woman on it, who represents, Mary within the pages of the book – it was actually drawn by my grandmother when she was just a young teen in the early 1900’s. Her name was Mary and although the title was already conceived before I knew of the picture, it all tied in neatly. Before my grandmother passed, she was quite pleased to know her artwork was going to be used for my book.
Q: She was an impressive artist then?
A: Her paintings are well known within certain circles. When she was a teen she used to write into the local radio stations and ask for 8×10 of local movie stars like Jimmy Stewart or Marilyn Monroe, she would sketch them perfectly. She was then offered a chance to go to school in the States, but she was needed at home. She painted all her life, and a lot of her work was sent around the world to private owners.
Q:One last question about your book, what is the name of your detective?
A: I don’t actually give his name directly other than in one segment while he is bickering with the lead detective outside of the Centre Mall on Kenilworth, but suffice it to say, it’s simply a play on words, he’s a detective, a dick etc. So his name is fairly obvious once you purchase the book and read it…..
If you are interested in reading up on part one of the Q&A go to: https://www.facebook.com/crazyirishmanpoetry/posts/10151899012441920. Learn more about how the book came together
If you are interested in reading up on part two of the Q&A, go to: https://www.facebook.com/crazyirishmanpoetry/posts/10151902126971920. Durking speaks on a little bit of everything, from his roots to being part of a spring anthology in New York with 2 poet laureates.
Touted as a working man’s poet, Martin Durkin has been writing professionally for the last 12 years. He has appeared in over twenty anthologies across North America, including, “And left a place to stand on”, a collection of poems and essays about the late great Al Purdy. Durkin has also published two collections of poetry, “Hypnotic Childhood”, and “The Sound of Quish”.
In 2013 Durkin was part of the Purdy Rednersville show, reading some of his latest work.
In 2014 a new book of poems called, ‘Steeltown for Mary, Memoirs from a Dick’ should be hitting the shelves. The book was edited by Richard Turtle whom Martin met during the Rednersville show. Thus far,the reviews for this book have been very positive………
Steel Town is so much more than a book of really good poems. It is a graphic novel without the artwork, a Sam Spade movie without motion or sound, a compelling social commentary without complicated language and a detective story without any of the boring bits. It’s also one hell of a good idea and an even better read……..RICHARD TURTLE (editor)
“An unusual and remarkably rich and evocative narrative told so adeptly by an author who knows how to use in almost impossibly few words to engage the reader. Durkin brings Hamilton and its characters to life, stanza by stanza.” -Graham Crawford,Owner Hamilton HIStory + HERitage
From Lindi Pierce, Heritage writer, researcher and member of the Local and National Al Purdy A-frame association boards….”If Dashiell Hammett had written poetry, he would have written this!”
“With this book he takes a long step forward into the ranks of Canadian poets of consequence.– Chris Faiers, Canadian Poet and Recipient of the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Medal