Checking In: With Monty Reid

Monty Reid is “former Director at VerseFest, former Managing Editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, former guitar/mandolin at Call Me Katie, what now?” Which sounds like he’s fielding suggestions. Intelligence agency poems? Small biology poems? New Covid poems? What do you want to see, folks?

He has published a whack of books and chapbooks, almost all of which I have.

Monty Reid had Kissing Bug out with phafours in 2014. He was also in the 2011 Air Out/In Air, a chapbook anthology for the Guatamala Stove Project . (The GSP made 7,600 family cookstoves, 22 backpacks with school supplies this year and over $31,000 in microloans for Maya farmers. Wonderful when people work together.)

PP: So Monty, what have you read lately that’s lit you up?

MR: There’s always something lighting me up. I really liked Jorie Graham’s breathless Runaway. I liked her early work, but after a while everything she wrote just became so routinely portentous its power faded.  But Runaway, urgent with climate change and so many failures of meaning, is inspired work.  

PP: (Let me interject: her opening poem about rainstorm is particularly apt at time of writing.)

MR: For the past few years I’ve been making a point of reading poets from non-anglo languages (mostly in translation) in part just to get away from our overwhelming self-regard.  One of my recent favorites is Antonio Gamoneda’s Book of the Cold.  A Spanish poet, who grew up in (and resisted) the Franco era, taught himself how to read by studying a book of his father’s poetry, worked in a bank for some 25 years and went on to win most of the literary prizes in the Spanish speaking world, his Book of the Cold has only recently been translated (by Katherine Hedeen and Victor Rodriguez Nunez).  A chilly hell, full of remarkable imagery, it charts the instability of post-Franco Spain, and more broadly. A snowball earth, as opposed to an overheated one.

I’ve also been dipping into Dionne Brand’s new Nomenclature, New and Collected Poems.  I wasn’t familiar with some of her early work, so I’m grateful to have it all in a single volume.  A particular pleasure to read the epigrams from 1983. And it’s intriguing to trace some of her language from the early books to the new incantatory long poem – ‘Nomenclature’.  

PP: Wonderful to see someone stretching past English poetry and Canada’s poetry. What’s your general focus these days?

MR: I no longer work with VerseFest or with Arc but I’m writing a lot, about hospitals and medical procedures most recently, since both my wife and I have been dealing with some health issues, altho we seem to have gotten past the worst of it now.  I can’t play music for the time being, and that’s a real loss, but I can still garden, and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good year.

PP: Excellent to hear you’re writing, and got past the worst of the health hurdels. Do you have things forthcoming?

MR: Three different mss hunting for publishers at the moment, but none accepted yet.  Poems forthcoming in a few magazines (online and in print), and probably a new chapbook from above/ground in the fall.  

PP: Wise publishers should snap them up. What can people read now/soon?

MR: Some poems recent/soon at  @FillingStation, @TrainJournal, @talking_time, @IcefloeP, etc.  My books are slowly disappearing from publisher websites (and a few are long gone) but many can still be found online and I still have copies of most of them, should anyone be looking.  I’m still pretty happy with this one,

Garden by Monty Reid.

PP: Thanks for your time. Monty and for sharing what’s on your plate these days. Looking forward to what comes next from you.