David W. McFadden began writing poetry in 1956 and began publishing poetry in 1958. Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden (2007) was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize and Be Calm, Honey (2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry (his third such nomination). McFadden is the author of about thirty-five books of poetry, fiction and travel writing. He lives in Toronto.
McFadden’s 2012 collection What’s the Score? won the 2013 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize.
David McFadden has been a major underground poet all his writing life, and the young poets discover him every year.
David McFadden has been a major underground poet all his writing life, and the young poets discover him every year. He has always been the darling of the avant-garde, but he is the most readable poet on the planet. Like his hero William Blake, he lives at ease among the most supernatural of events, and gazes in wonderment at everyday things. As a poet he reminds you to be yourself, to be yourself in the world, and give it a chance to amaze you. While reading his beautiful clear language, you sense that he is a trickster, but you cannot help believing every stanza he writes. If there is any such thing as an essential poet, here he is.
With their arch yet affable tone, these ninety-nine irreverent and mock-earnest poems lay siege to the feelings of boredom, anxiety, and alienation that afflict a culture obsessed with wealth and prestige, leading us, again and again, down the road of excess to the palace of wisdom.
If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise,’ advised William Blake in his Proverbs of Hell. As if whispering through the ages into the ear of Canada’s deadpan court jester, Blake’s radical spirit slyly presides over David McFadden’s exuberant thirty-fifth publication, What’s The Score? With their arch yet affable tone, these ninety-nine irreverent and mock-earnest poems lay siege to the feelings of boredom, anxiety, and alienation that afflict a culture obsessed with wealth and prestige, leading us, again and again, down the road of excess to the palace of wisdom. ‘My poems go leaping from crag to crag,’ McFadden boasts in one poem, before quickly, and characteristically, scuttling this Romantic image of the egotistical sublime ‘like a stubble-faced crybaby, it’s probably / because I’ve been writing for so long, / forty years of poems to various friends.’ The easy, casual intimacy of these poems will befriend you on the first page. Their astonishing leaps and their genuine philosophical urgency will compel you to keep reading. ‘Stick around,’ invites this artful and knowing wise fool, ‘everyone should have a chorus / following his steps and reminding him / of his central role in some great dream.
by David W. McFadden
I’ve never seen a raindrop fall on a frog’s head but you have. You say the frog wiped away the water with his wrist and that’s good enough for me.
Ever since I first heard it fifteen years ago your poem on the death of your son has been flitting in and out of my mind. And now I see there are two versions, the first having been revised on the later death of your daughter, in 1819, of smallpox. And now I want you to know that I hope you’ve been reunited with your sons and your daughters and your wives and your father, and that I prefer the first version.
The sun has dropped behind the mountains and the tiny cars on the long winding road way over on the other side of the lake have their lights on. And a sense of amazement springs up, amazement that we live in a world where the sun continually rises and sets.
The Marasmius oreades (delicious when fried with bacon) have formed a fairy ring in the shape of a giant number 3 in the courtyard lawn, reminding me of the time I saw three motorcycles parked diagonally at the curb in front of 111 Brucedale Avenue.
In October you can look at the sides of the mountains and see the patterns made by the deciduous trees which have become bright yellow or orange among the coniferous which have remained dark green. Sometimes it seems like a territorial war up there but the conflict between the two types of trees is probably more in my mind than on the slopes.
This morning the sky is blue but the tops of the mountains cling to thick giant puffs of pink and grey cloud. A small white cloud rises from the surface of the lake and tries to reach the big ones up above but by the time it gets halfway there it has almost completely disappeared.
It’s pleasant to be so unhurried that you can see even the slowest-moving clouds moving. A part of me says I should be ashamed of myself but you know the more time you waste the more you get. It’s like money.
On a rainy windy October moring a grey Volkswagen sits at the side of the road. It’s covered with hundreds of small wet yellow leaves plastered on the trunk, on the hood, on the roof – in a strangely satisfying pattern. Was it the rain and the wind or was it a subtle and patient artist with a pot of glue? Of course it was the wind and the rain and of course it’s a hackneyed idea. But for a moment I wonder. As you would have.
It’s pleasant to have a cup of tea and think of you, Issa, and to think of others in the twentieth century having a cup of tea and thinking of you, Issa.
Copyright © Poems David W. McFadden 2007
Going to stay some time before hopping
on the train all the way to Como.
Disoriented in London. It’s so warm,
humid, but human, overcast and muggy.
Joy’s not well, she got sick in Egypt.
String quartet at St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street.
Violinist cut her finger in a kitchen
accident and hadn’t played for a year.
Microscopic surgery. Cut nerve.
But now she thinks she’s going to be fine.
After the wine and cheese reception (tacky!)
(but nice) took picture of an old statue
of Queen Elizabeth (the first) that had just
been discovered in somebody’s basement
and installed over the sacristy door.
Walking all through Westminster buying slides.
Weatherman on BBC-1:
Today most wet spots will become
dry and most dry spots will become wet.
Of course he said this with a smiling face.
Copyright © 2012 David W. McFadden
Meditating in the back
of Jack’s green Volkswagen
rolling along Highway 2
east of Paris
I’m conscious only of the motion
of things speeding against me
on both sides of my head,
eyes closed, and a sudden braking
and a breaking of that dream.
I’m in a moving car among green hills
and cow grazings of the world,
motels, gas stations of Ontario
and a dog slowly walking across
into our speeding lane, a black dog,
and in tall grass at roadside, a boy,
waving his arms, screaming.
Copyright © David W. McFadden 2007