by Stephen Dafoe
The Morinville Community Library is hosting the launch of Vacant Morality: Poems of the Past by Christopher Raine. The event takes place Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. and will include a live reading and book signing with the author.
Author Christopher Raine, who we profiled in October of last year, says Vacant Morality is about having a hard and honest look at ourselves; our shortcomings, our failures, our regrets and the way these things shape our reality. Raine says, in many ways, the book is a “comment on our lives and our experiences as individuals trying to navigate through life, love, and spirituality.”
When we profiled Raine last fall, the author was putting the finishing touches on the work ahead of its publication.
Raine chose the title Vacant Morality due to the number of poems in the book that speak to social issues.
The author said the book in particular and his writing, in general, would not be possible without the important role his wife, Gail, plays in his craft.
Now that the book is done, he is feeling thankful for that support and the expected sense of accomplishment completing his book. That feeling came particularly to life after opening the box of books with his name on the cover.
“I’ve been writing since I was thirteen and I think I knew even then that it was something I wanted to do with my life, but somehow it all just got away from me,” Raine said. “You have the kids, the mortgage, the job and then what? The years go by and then you suddenly ask yourself, ‘Where did the time go?’ This is an area that I’ve written about in a chapter entitled ‘Trip for Biscuits;’ being an old hard-boiled term for a waste of time. It’s different now though, I know what I want to do and I’m doing it. I guess that, more than anything else, is what I got from it. I opened the box and there it was, the realization of it all.”
Although most of the poems in Vacant Morality were written since 2010, some of the work dates back to the 1980s when Raine was in junior high school and high school. It is there that his love or poetry emerged.
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But why poetry over prose? What is it about poetry that the author finds appealing and the genre best capable of telling his stories?
“To me, poetry is all about the sound; the rhythm, the cadence, the rhyme,” he says. “It comes from an oral tradition, and those elements were essential in that they made the work memorable.
You can find some of these elements in free verse, rhythm and cadence for instance, but I think many amateur poets today have lost even that. Don’t get me wrong, prose can be poetic, it can be emotionally raw, but to me, it isn’t poetry.”
Raine said he also believes there is a cerebral challenge to creating solid rhyme, one that makes the author stretch the language for all its worth to say something. “It keeps you on your linguistic toes.”
The author said he believes there is a lot of negative association to poetry among people.
“When you were young, did you want to read books by dead people written in dated archaic styles, with rules and analysis and essays to follow? Of course you didn’t.”
In fact, Raine believes those dead poets would be mortified by the idea.
“Save that for the Universities,” Raine said. “Poetry isn’t about being scholarly or elitist, it’s about reaching people. It’s about making contact with another human being in a very real way that says ‘Yeah, I know that feeling.’ There are a lot of emotions and situations and experiences that can’t be summed up in a single word or phrase. If you say that you are sad, well there isn’t a lot of understanding in that is there?”
For Raine, the word sad and words like it are not nuanced enough to convey anything more than a vague generality.
“I think good poetry takes you to that place of experience, defining what it means to be human,” he says. “I hope that what I write will speak to you. I hope that it will give you a moment of insight, and mostly I hope that you will enjoy it.”
Morinville Community Library program coordinator Stacey Buga says book launches and author talks, like the Feb. 10 launch, are a natural fit for libraries.
“Libraries are a place to nurture a love of literature and where a community comes to connect,” she said. “Hosting author talks and signings are great opportunities for the authors, aspiring writers, fans, and colleagues to network and support each other.”
For more information on Christopher Raine and Vacant Morality visit www.rainereflections.com.