Checking In: phafours poet: Guy Simser

Today in Checking In, Where Are They Now: phafours poet: Guy Simser, the current president of KaDo Ottawa, a haiku group. Guy has 2 published books and a chapbook and is a long-time member of Ottawa’s poetry scene. He has stood as contest judges. He has won the Diane Brebner Poetry Prize, Carleton University Poetry Prize, AHA Books Tanka Sequence Prize (USA), Keji Aso Senryu Prize (USA); Hekinan Haiku Special Prize (Japan); and the IODE Ontario Short Story, CBC Ottawa Radio Documentary, and Alberta Culture Radio Drama Prizes. 

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how?

GS: Just finished CAIN (hard cover edition,150 pages) by Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago. His last published book. I can imagine him laughing his way into the grave. CAIN offers a rib cracking parodic donkey ride through the Old Testament according to Saramago. If only my Sunday School teachers had had the chance to read it in the late 30’s & early 40’s; and would they have done so if it was available to them??? Thank Heaven for humour, particularly in these days of wars and Covid and Monkey flu, et al. 

At the same time, I have been reading Cdn Military Historian Tim Cook’s At the Sharp End. An examination of WW1 through the eyes of the soldiers at the front. As a Cold War infantryman on duty in Germany I find this a worthwhile reminder of our human weaknesses and strengths under the worst deprivations, moral and physical.

Lastly, I just finished local poet David Blaikie’s A Season in Lowertown (Wet Ink Books): winner of the 2021 Don Gutteridge Poetry Award. David has a mature reporter’s eyes and ears which brings his 70’s Ottawa city “gritty” memories vividly to reader. Gritty yes, but so human too as expressed in the last poem of the book, ‘The Bridge’, “where we mellowed without resistance in the soft slow melt of time and words walked lightly on our tongues in the crevices of our days…” I’ll leave that poem’s final stanza for the reader to appreciate in the quiet of his/her reading. David is an Ottawa Mother Tongues group poet, originally from “Down East” and that geographical origin for me is frequently evident in his poetic voice. Not surprisingly, his book is dedicated to G.G. Award winning poet Alan Nowlan.

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

GS: Well Pearl, I’m stepping outside of my box at 87…I have a collection of 153 pages of poems/prose nearing completion, yet… now seriously considering reframing this as a short poem/prose novel of a child-mother relationship “do no harm” and that child carrying an unexplained guilt to old age. “Hast thou forsaken me?” I figure one is never to old to experiment and I have no reputation to try t o protect, so why not give it a try?

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

GS: I do spare time work on polishing some draft ekphrastic poems… I enjoy the creative buzz certain works of art/artists give me in my unfinished work pile, however most of my writing is now focused on the draft project noted above. 

PP: What work do you have out? 

GS: She Don’t Mean a Thing if She Ain’t Got that Swing by Guy Simser (Catkin Press, 2016), Shaking the Basho Tree (essays on haiku) by Guy Simser (Inkling press, 2017), War is the Father of Us All (phafours press, 2015) and Chromatic Beliefs (group chapbooks, phafours, 2011)

PP: Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop? 

GS: Note Blaikie’s book mentioned above.

Thanks for the opportunity Pearl.