Being Here: the chemistry of startle (Downloadable PDF)
by Barry Dempster
Being Here is a kind of travelogue, focusing on two trips I took to places that were not on my bucket list: Chile and Berlin. I soon started to dive deeper into history and imagination. what the locals’ lives might be like, what waited beyond their closed doors, still searching for our commonalities, but wondering about our disparities as well, Soon, I was writing memories from other trips, other countries, some of which I’d never actually visited, experiences I’d often longed for, but had never found the right key.
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Barry Dempster, twice nominated for a Governor General’s award, grew up just a few blocks from the Scarborough Bluffs. He has published 18 collections of poetry, 3 volumes of short stories and 2 novels. In both 2005 and 2010, Dempster was awarded a Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
His powers of lyric observation and analogy have never been sharper – and, for a poet who’s eighteen collections into a distinguished career, that’s saying something. But details and metaphors, however striking, don’t make a poem. Emotional truth does – and Barry’s poems have it.
~ Steven Heighton, author of Selected Poems 1983-2020
In Barry Dempster’s Being Here, we embark upon a shared lyric pilgrimage. Here is the world, from Florida to British Columbia to Ireland to the Andes through Dempster’s astute and beautiful observations of our varied world. In these poems we experience the place of the mind in creation and through its position we witness the embodiment of the soul as an experiencer and organizer of the world. Coming from our times of isolation, we enter into a profoundly personal relationship with the speaker of these moments, rebuilding interpersonal connection. And we witness a soul freed, given to wander over the totality of the gift Creation is to all of humanity, and the sights and sounds and emotions of that consciousness is nothing less than wonderful. Dolphins on a Japanese beach, street dogs in Chile, this is the world that we long to see and feel again.
~ D.H. Lockhart, author of Bearmen Descend Upon Gimli
Being Here walks through time and memory, history and metaphor. Barry Dempster makes for a wise and witty companion in awe of the world we have created. He pauses in village and city amidst an assortment of friends and acquaintances to ponder life, note the norms, the blemishes, the tics, and wonders if “what I chose to remember might very well / constitute a way to live.”
~ Yvonne Blomer, City of Calgary Poet Laureate 2015-2018