I spent a good bit of yesterday, and almost all my working time today, reading poetry.
I am looking for something for a Canadian composing competition. There are a few this year, because of the 150th birthday celebrations, and they tend to be open to Canadian citizens/permanent residents: this is a rather smaller pool of entrants than some competitions have, so it feels more important to enter.
But, well. What's an appropriate text? These aren't sacred choirs or competitions for the most part, so something secular would be good; yet, I'd still like it to feel transcendent enough that I relate to it as I might relate to a sacred text. I'm not much of a patriot and I'm uncomfortable with nationalism, but something Canadian-themed seems like a good idea. But I also don't feel I can do justice to anything touching on the genocidal colonialism that is part of Canada's history and still results in serious oppression for First Nations people today; nor do I want to pretend that didn't happen by only focusing on aspects of Canadian history that are seen more positively.
So, then, a text on a nice safe topic by a Canadian author seems in order. Great! But most of the good stuff isn't in the public domain; and what is in the public domain has failed to grab me, so far. I can't tell whether that's because it's doggerel, or whether it's simply that I've read so much that everything seems like mush now.
I could use some of my grandmother's poetry. I've not previously found it easy to get an official-sounding signed permission form from my father regarding the copyright; the closest is an e-mail along the lines of "Of course you can use any of Gramma's poetry, dear" which... won't really cut it. I can probably ask him to just sign something if I can come up with some wording, but the likelihood of managing that before this particular deadline is low. I also don't speak enough legalese to know where to start with this; and if I then want to release the music itself under a Creative Commons license, which is my preferred practice, it gets even more complicated.
So, I'm probably going to have a bash at setting one of my own poems
. I'll need to make some changes to the language: nobody in Canada talks about a terraced house, really. And it feels very, very vulnerable, setting this poem, which is about a real person in my life. Also, it's a bit of a sod to set: a lot of sudden contrasts between the fantasy and reality sections, and wordy in places, and with no real resolution. But I have been meaning to set it for quite some time.