Chad Norman’s poetry has been featured here in both Time of the Poet Republic with Mbizo Chrirasha, and in WordCity. This months, in honour of a book he published to support the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we are talking to the poet and taking a look inside his collection.
Darcie Friesen Hossack: I’m a cat whisperer from way back, having tamed my aunt and uncle’s barn cats whenever I visited on weekends. The treatment and inner lives of animals are subjects that mean a lot to me, and I have two very adored girls myself, so Simona: A Celebration of the S.P.C.A. is a collection I’m reading with a lot of appreciation and moments of recognition, like here, in The Rapport:
THE RAPPORT She allows this. A language without meows, a human wanting to place a hand on her, her fur, her ability to know the hand is wanting to say something. She causes this. An ease in knowing the language in the placement, how the human hand comes against her, her head ,tail, ears, and paws. The language she hears in the ability of the human to be gentle, or to be saying this hand, these fingers, want to play. Casa Harris July 2012
DFH: Now that we’ve taken a sneak peek inside the collection, I want to thank you so much for joining me today to talk about Simona. Before we get to that, let’s talk about you for a bit so our readers can get to know you. You’re from Nova Scotia, on the far east coast of Canada.
Can you tell us about where you live and about your life there as a poet?
Chad Norman: First of all, if I may, I am not “from” Nova Scotia but since 2003 I have lived in Truro, a town known as the hub of Nova Scotia. Most of my life has been lived in B.C., having been born in Armstrong, a community north of Vernon, which sits in the North Okanagan. I was born in the same hospital, and delivered by the same doctor as my father. And, of course, Armstrong is known for its exceptional cheese. I almost held a job at the original plant. I still have family there, and my grandfather once owned and operated a dry cleaning business there.
As for Truro, well, my mother was raised in the community know as Masstown, about 20 minutes outside of the town. I once worked on our family’s dairy farm there, and my 2013 collection, Masstown, touches on those years. In 2003 I knew I had to leave Vancouver, so I put the names of three places to move to in a ball-cap, and Nova Scotia was picked. Truro is located beside Cobequid Bay, part of the Bay of Fundy, some of the world’s highest tides occur there. As for the arts scene, well, it is limited to theatre, music, painting, and as for Poetry I often feel like I am on a very small piece of ice. I have tried to grow it, so to speak, especially when I first moved here, creating readings, specific events like Freedom To Read and National Poetry Month, and even went so far as to create a festival known as RiverWords: Poetry & Music festival. However over the years it didn’t really receive the support I believed it deserved. and now due to the virus, who knows what will happen with it.
My life as poet in Truro is quite isolated. I have very few poet-type of friends, therefore what I do I do pretty much alone. It, at times, is not what I’d like, and I really notice that when I go to read in larger centres and have a chance to be with other poets or authors. Mainly, I interact with six crow families I have known for 12 years, my wife, the odd outing with someone, my cat, Simona, and during the growing seasons, my garden. This aloneness lends itself to a lot of writing, which means the most to me.
DFH: Your new book is, of course, Simona: a Celebration of the S.P.C.A., and all of the poems are about cats and cat-dom. As I understand it, the proceeds from your sales are going towards supporting the S.P.C.A. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). I believe I saw an article where you were presenting a cheque to this worthy organization.
How did this partnership come to be, and why did you decide to contribute in this way?
CN: Yes, you’re correct, Simona: A celebration Of The S.P.C.A. is my new collection, and proceeds from book sales have been donated, and I plan on continuing to do that. The joy the local shelter brought to our home certainly deserves to paid back somehow. Fortunately the local papers are very supportive, and have been over the years in regard to what I have tried to make happen with my poems. I always knew if I could get the book published and in my hands book sales would be contributed. My other vision from the beginning, and still is, is to do a nation-wide reading tour to help out as many shelters as possible. But unfortunately to date it hasn’t happened mainly because the manuscript was turned down by at least 10 presses in both Canada and the States. But, Cyberwit.Net (India) has published it, so perhaps I’ll get a chance yet to do such a tour.
DFH: Simona is clearly a precious girl, and I understand that it was love at first sight for the two of you. Her story up until then is one of trauma.
Could you tell us about Simona and how she came to be part of your family?
CN: Simona is a queen living within or home. No, she has been my Muse. What goes on within a type of a relationship like that is sacred. Everything that needs to be said is in the book.
However, to know what she is up to today, well, that isn’t much different from what she was trying achieve back in 2009, which can be briefly described as safety and a further belief in the human species. She came to be part of our family because we went to the shelter and revealed our wishes to adopt/rescue a cat, it is as simple as that. We showed her, even though she was in a cage, our hopes that she was the one. No time passed before we knew she was the one. But then, I had no idea she would become my Muse. Simply, her needing to tell me her story.
THE HUMAN'S CHAIR for the Truro, N.S., S.P.C.A. What ends up with a history of travels seems to include not only vehicles and explorers but a chair, ugly and used, once in an office, only to be given up, and given away, plucked from a dumpster to comfort dutifully, yet another strange rear-end. How the human made the choice came down to the one with castors, and obviously the colour, a worn green, the colour that means so much to them connected to their attempts to save their properties, and perhaps, the planet. What ends up being the important act seems to include leaving the chair, decide to bring home a different comfort, she whose name is Simona, also given up and given away, a different choice finally found in a room of open cages, with a look in her yellow eyes saying only one thing, " Please, choose me, all I want is to sit close, stay warm in the chair I know you have at home." Casa Harris April 19, 2012
DFH: We’ve previously featured poetry by animal rights advocate and Poet Laureate of the Yukon, pj johnson. I’m so pleased to bring animals into our spotlight again, because I truly believe that the way we treat animals says so much about who we are as the human race. We’re capable of such cruelty, but also of love, and this book is clearly an work of love.
Were you always someone who cared for animals? How did you come by your affinity for our co-beings on this planet?
CN: I have always listened for the voice of any animal, bird, other than human. And it has always been given. I don’t live on any plane as the human. Never have. And spending the years I have writing poems, capturing my Muses’ guidenance proves it. So when it comes to care, mine remains so deep. So down deep in me. But I don’t need anyone to see it, or verify it. Nice question. When I first moved to Masstown in the summer of 1970, having left the Vancover suburb Coquitlam,
I began to rove around the pastures of my grandfather’s farm, speaking to the cows who had just been milked, and the sunsets there on the unchewed grass, and all the eventual fireflies so vocal, like they all knew I was the poet to preserve the past they all were going to be part of. So, as far as Simona goes, well, I guess I was intelligent enough then to honour her with what all my past taught me.
DFH: You write with so much compassion for Simona’s experience, including in Under the Human’s Bed.
Under The Human's Bed A big truck is delivering, a truck too big for the street, delivering the oil, the oil, the oil....Winter has us, has closed the patio door, her favourite, her chance to be outside, a little roam on the deck, a little chase with the bugs-- Winter, scaring her, Winter, now with her under the human's bed, under their bed to make her's, a bed under theirs, a chance to be away from the loud noise, a noise bringing loudness she, for her reasons, runs from, runs, slinks down, removes herself from, what another human cast into her day, a day she cannot speak of, unless the human can translate a single meow, can see into what abuse she withstood, an abuse she still remembers under a bed she knows they wish to keep free of hairs, they accept as a daily necessity, where she has to go, where she can hide and forget.
DFH: What has Simona taught you about the human relationship with animals and how we might begin to repair it? How did writing through her eyes take you deeper into your understanding?
CN: Simona, taught me. It is all in the book…hahaha. If a poet misses out on what the Muse has come to give them, too bad. I have no patience hearing about it. Too many books have been brought to me by Muses. It is the old way for Poets, but maybe all the university ways aren’t. Unfortunately, this is what dominates Canadian Poetry right now…an inability to wait for what the Muse wants to be written about. Academia is nothing but a person giving you the wrong direction. I didn’t follow them.
DFH: Are there certain epiphanies you hope readers will take away from their experience of reading Simona?
CN: I never wrote through her eyes. I wrote through my eyes, hopefully that should be apparent after reading my book. I watched her . She gave so much. I was able to be a human, man enough to get it down. Honour her life, and joy the Muses leave behind.
As for epiphanies…well, they are all there in the poems. But I can only hope what has been given and shared in them will allow cat owners to stop and place their cats on their knees, or against their bodies somewhere, to smile and soothe.
DFH: Thank you again for being with us here today. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
CN: Don’t be afraid to support a poet. Buy my book! Be supportive and contact me or my press, CyberWit.Net. Thank you!
Chad Norman lives beside the high-tides of the Bay of Fundy, Truro, Nova Scotia.
He has given talks and readings in Denmark, Sweden, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, America, and across Canada.
His poems appear in publications around the world and have been translated into Danish, Albanian, Romanian, Turkish, Italian, and Polish.
His collections are Selected & New Poems ( Mosaic Press), and Squall: Poems In The Voice Of Mary Shelley, is now out from Guernica Editions.