Casual Encounter - Wallace, Idaho
The one night stand stood up- or rather, didn't.
Hadn't stood at attention much since 'Nam
but Cialis and a triple bypass are worse-suited bedmates than Ed and Fifty
whom, when he called on her at her home and, it should be noted,
after a red-cheeked redirection to the in-law suite, he might very generously have described as sixty and sagging.
Her taste for chintz was unpalatable- every surface, herself included, subjected to a diarrheal splattering of mismatched floral.
Still, Ed had always been good with numbers- figured, rightly-
that internet literacy had not yet reached pandemic proportions with the mature women of Wallace, Idaho.
He'd cruised Spokane's Casual Encounters daily on dialup and posted biweekly,
indefatigable in his conviction that there had to be at least one silver fox in the silver capital of the world,
one other senior with a hotmail account and a desire for contact in their contactivity.
Ed's family had left the Yorkshire coal mines for the glamour of the Silver Valley in '22-
his native British patience, coupled with an acquired American persistence, paid off.
Here was his sole fluke, a self-described fifty and fit,
sixty and sagging in faded Laura Ashley with a whiff of napthalene,
seventy-one in ungirdled truth on the scratchy Pepto-pink bedspread.
She was as rousing to Ed as the thought of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold night.
(Also, it must be noted, that night hers was colder than the Baroness' Milk-Snatcher must be.)
Ed's already doubtful tumescence was decidedly less rigid
than even the most liberal constitution. He asked permission to smoke, shuddered to think that
were his Parliament a cigar and were his tastes more licentious,
he'd have been hard-pressed to wet it in the preferred fashion of a certain philandering president.
Instead, with his ash grown long as Churchill's during speeches, he took his wordless leave-thinking the while on the prospects of old age, Had I known, I'd have sooner served in Normandy.
"Casual Encounters - Wallace, Idaho" is a counterpoint piece to "Casual Encounters - Vancouver, British Columbia" which will appear in Soliloquies 15.
Paula Wilson: Why poetry?
Candice Maddy: Brevity.
Actually, I held brevity against poetry for a while. I was on team prose for a long time -- about as long as it took me to find a good shrink. I'd been curating sadness for as far back as I could remember, trying to put it all down on paper, and it was easier to justify length with prose. At the same time, I had the brutal-beauty handicap. I wanted it raw, I wanted it perfect. I tried on every confessional tone I came across. The more honest it sounded, the less it was. I spent a long time writing the sort of poetry I thought looked right, like dressing to trend. There was a pivot, where I stopped looking for a voice that sounded like what I was reading, what I was seeing. That's where it started getting honest, when I realized the poetry I was interested in writing was nothing like what I enjoyed reading. My native tone wasn't confessional, it was playful. I'd been fighting against form to find an honest-sounding vernacular, but I kept itching to coin a neologism, to disrupt the surface, to stage-wink at the reader. I stopped stopping myself. When the pressure of aestheticized catharsis came out of the equation, the words had room to stretch. Poetry welcomes the language elastic, because it offsets the formal canon. It's always better to be a troublemaker in the company of rules. I had way more fun acting like a clown when I was taught by nuns than when I went to circus camp (both true, unfortunately). The tension is addictive.
PW: Your poems range from the more conceptual to the more narrative-driven. Do you have a preference? Why go one way or another when approaching a topic or beginning a poem?
CM: The chief criticism I received in my fiction workshops had to do with the relative weakness of my plot-lines. They tend to trail off. I would like to venture, half-seriously at least, that my narrative-driven poems are failed short stories. Indeed, "Casual Encounter- Vancouver, British Columbia" was originally a really lousy short story. All it needed to lose was a thousand words or so. Poetry's forgiving in that way; the language and the rhythm are loud, the plot's a whisper. When I'm writing poetry, I don't usually start with a topic so much as a few words that I can't get out of my head. Sometimes they need a plot, sometimes they don't. Often the poem has a pretty distinct speaker-character pretty early on (if only in my head), and I like to think I trust these characters enough to decide whether they want to tell a story or just spit smugly.
PW: “Casual Encounter - Wallace, Idaho” is a counter-part to one your poems, "Casual Encounter - Vancouver, British Columbia," forthcoming in Soliloquies 15. Both discuss the internet as a means to contact others. Do you find you are presenting an anxiety towards these things, or is the poem embracing the cold-connectivity that the present internet age can offer?
CM: Both. Every time I come back from travels to warmer (read: warm-blooded) climes, I find the North American urban disconnect depressing. Yet when I'm here, I'm no different- perpetually plugged in and tuned out. I have taken plenty of classes with people year after year and never met them. I didn't grow up knowing all (or even most of) my neighbours. The mid-century meet-cute seems destined to go the way of the dinosaurs, but Internet dating is still kind of prickly in the mainstream conscience...we're neither quite here nor there. I've found okay jobs, decent apartments, and great furniture on Craigslist; no regrets except for a lousy gig that ended up not paying what it was supposed to.
Their personals section has been useful to me in a different way; I ended up compiling a book of found poetry entirely from missed connections ads last year. It was actually one long poem- well, two, in a call-and-answer sense- a love poem from Montreal to Toronto, and Toronto to Montreal. What fascinated me was how, taken collectively, each city seemed to have a distinct voice. I guess that's what inspired the different locations of the two Casual Encounter poems, which were written around the same time. One had been a failed short story, as I said before. While I wonder if people ever meet successfully with such a blunt premise, I think it's more funny to imagine the ways in which the meeting could go wrong. I'm a total squirmer- you know the sort of person that can't sit still and covers their eyes when other people embarrass themselves in movies or, worse still, in real life- and probably a bit of a masochist, because I love creating occasions for characters to do just that in my writing. Craigslist dating has to be like Blind Dating 2.0- because really, eleven-year-olds can Photoshop, if Facebook's proof of anything. I wanted to play with the opportunity for deception from both sexes, in two very different worlds, with two very different age-groups. I would like to say that I thought deeply about the issues of Internet connectivity when I first penned the poems, but the truth is I kind of just needed a setting for some of the poor-taste humour I desperately wanted to fit onto the page. There aren't too many poems that will support a reference to Margaret Thatcher's nethers, unfortunately.
PW: Would you like to write more about this? What are the topics that you find yourself returning to?
CM: I don't really have any more Craigslist poems on the agenda, for the time being. The poems I've been working on lately have more to do with the art and fashion worlds, in a sort of mock-critical way... great opportunities for wordplay, there.
PW: Finally, having just graduated from Concordia (congratulations!), where are you going from here?
CM: Well, I'm moving a few blocks away pretty soon. Other than that, not too far just yet. The three years of my degree have gone by as a blur- I've kept really, really busy. It's nice to just bike around, get back to painting, calm down. I might learn guitar.
Candice Maddy is a new contributor. By the time Soliloquies 15 goes to print, Candice Maddy will have graduated in a new dress from Concordia University. She has previously been a special fx and prosthetics makeup artist, a made-to-measure suit specialist, a French teacher, and a Jew in a Catholic school. She writes poetry, nearly nonfiction, birthday cards, and the occasional rap song. Her writing has appeared on paper and elsewhere. Her poems, "Casual Encounters - Vancouver, British Columbia" and "A (Mostly) Macaron-Mellifluous Morning," will appear in the forthcoming Soliloquies 15.