Kyeren Regehr,
Poetry Board Member

Kyeren Regehr

John Threlfall photo

Kyeren Regehr began reading submissions for The Malahat Review during the summer of 2010 as the poetry board intern. Since then she's had the exciting task of shortlisting contests, taking part in the decision making process at the poetry board meetings, and diving into that endless pile of fresh poetry-filled envelopes! She’s thrilled to have recently “graduated” to poetry board member, and after three years, she still feels just as lucky to be here (and still gets excited about that pile of envelopes!)

She earned her MFA from the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing Program (as Lorna Crozier’s last grad student) and is currently finishing her first poetry collection with the help of a grant from Canada Council of the Arts. The title poem from her manuscript “Cult Life” was longlisted for the 2012 CBC Literary Awards. Her work has appeared in journals including The Fiddlehead, Grain, Prairie Fire, PRISM international, Room, and most recently in the Leaf Press anthology, Poems from Planet Earth.

Describe your ideal poem. Does the subject matter? Where would its strengths lie?

My ideal poem is one that lingers. One that stays in my head for days… or longer. So I guess the question is, why does a poem linger? I think it’s partly to do with its rhythm, with the musicality and precision of the diction, the beauty with which something is phrased, with the freshness and emotional capacity of imagery—but it’s more than that, isn’t it? There’s something timeless about a good poem, something that captures the essences of the human consciousness, or the essence of a thing, or the thingness of a person. And then there’s another intangible element, one that you can talk about, but you can never really pin down. Not truly. Because in the act of pinning it down, you’ve tamed it, you’ve lost what it was that swept you up. I’m personally attracted to poetry that has a kind of rawness, that isn’t carved into an over-polished poetic gem—I want a bit of emotional leakage, or exposure, or wildness in there. I want evidence of craft and poetic control, and a simultaneous falling apart.

Who is your favourite poet? Do you have a favourite poem?

The work I’ve been most enamored with this year is Joe Denham’s book-length poem Windstorm. I haven’t come across anything as emotionally charged and wild AND poetically honed, since discovering John Thompson’s Stilt Jack. There’s passion and abandon and fierce longing, in Windstorm, there’s duende. But there’s also amazing poetic craft: the first several pages are written in a wild terza rima, and there are a dozen or so “torn” sonnets that reflect their content perfectly. The form and content are so fused that you could be forgiven for missing the formal aspects. But I’m not necessarily a neo-formalist— I just want poetry that makes me go wow. Is that too much to ask?

From the time you started on our poetry board, what has been your favourite pick?

I was fortunate enough to open an envelope from Patrick Friesen some time back—that was my biggest wow to date. It made me want to write, and that is a sign! I remember reading it over and over, just being amazed by all of it, and not wanting to pass it on to the rest of the board— I wanted to keep it. I knew we’d take it, but I also knew it’d be months before I had my own copy in print. It got me in my gut, and it thrilled me as a poet. All those elements I discussed above—all present. Pick up issue #174, Spring 2011, and you’ll see what I mean. And I think we ended up publishing his entire submission. It wasn’t much of a discussion at the meeting—no passionate arguments back and forth over what was or wasn’t working. And he went on to win the 2011 P. K. Page Founders' Award for “storm windows,” which was one of my favorites in the batch.

Finally, what are you not seeing in submissions as of late that you would like to see?

We do see, and accept lots of exciting work from emerging poets too. But if anything is lacking in submissions it might be work that has both craft and exposure. And I’m not talking about confessionalist poetry when I use the word “exposure.” I think that every good poem has torn a little something from its maker. Sometimes this gets edited out, or sometimes it’s there, gorgeously there, but the poem is still too unwieldy craft-wise. Yes, I think I want too much. But I do keep getting submissions that astound me and inspire me—why would I want less than that?