David McGimpsey, poet, writer, cultural critic, professor, editor, stand-up comedian, musician (born at Montreal, PQ 28 Jan 1962).
David McGimpsey, poet, writer, cultural critic, professor, editor, stand-up comedian, musician (born at Montreal, PQ 28 Jan 1962). Best-known for his tragicomic POETRY, focused on cultural moments he identifies as "happy-sad," McGimpsey unapologetically examines both popular and high CULTURE without a hierarchical division between them, interchangeably referencing artists and poets with fast-food chains, TV sitcoms, and athletes. This open-ended exploration extends beyond his poetry to his JOURNALISM and cultural CRITICISM, including his award-winning book of scholarship, Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture (2000), his "Sandwich-of-the-Month" column for EnRoute magazine, his frequent contributions to the GLOBE AND MAIL and Matrix, his stand-up COMEDY, his ongoing editorial work for DC Books and Joyland, and his songwriting and performance for the Montreal-based rock band, Puggy Hammer.
McGimpsey's central challenge, given this range, might be, as Jason Camlot claims, "How to write intelligently about our very real desire for brain candy," thereby asking readers, according to Courtney Richardson, "to look beyond the so-called CanLit brand for a more accurate Canadian perspective, which like it or not, is heavily influenced by American culture." McGimpsey's creative practice is the subject of Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey (2010), as well as frequent scholarly essays in Canada and the United States. The CBC ranked him as one of the "top ten English poets in Canada" in 2009.
Part of a large, close-knit family, McGimpsey grew up in Ville D'Anjou, a working-class suburb in east end Montreal, an area with which he continues to self-identify. He attended Dawson College, holds two degrees from CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY (BA, MA), and completed a PhD in American Literature at DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY. He has taught literature and creative writing at Concordia since 1999.
McGimpsey's first three books of poetry - Lardcake (1996); Dogboy (1998); and Hamburger Valley, California (2001) - were edited by Michael Holmes at ECW Press. His next two volumes - Sitcom (2007), which was shortlisted for the A.M. Klein Prize and the Re/Lit Award, and structurally echoes Shakespeare's Timon of Athens; and Li'l Bastard (2011), a linked sequence of 128 sonnets shortlisted for the 2012 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD - were edited by Kevin Connolly and released by Coach House Books. He is also the author of one book of short fiction, Certifiable (Insomniac, 2004). In addition to extended narrative monologues and frequent travelogue poems, all of McGimpsey's collections explore a form he calls the "chubby sonnet," an extended, sixteen-line, four-quatrain format that uses slant rhyme and open meter to bend the sonnet's traditional requirements into a structure that, according to McGimpsey, is a sonnet "with a glandular problem." McGimpsey's work often ironizes the supposed authority of academic professionalism; in both Sitcom and Li'l Bastard, for example, his speaker bemoans participation in academic work, repeatedly rejecting his dreams because he "had to go back to teaching," a job that routinely involves standing "in the way of some kid's dream / of being a dental hygienist because / I didn't like their thoughts on The Great Gatsby." Such irreverence is apparent in all of McGimpsey's titles, including "To expedite your snooping, my e-mail password is 'abortionist'," "Putting the 'ah' in 'adjunct'," and "If Jesus drove a dependable family-sized recreational vehicle, He would drive a Dodge Caravan," all from Li'l Bastard.
McGimpsey's common preoccupations include staged self-mockery regarding his speaker's weight, vices, love of fast food, and conflicted roles as both college professor and poet. Rather than celebrating the predominant figures of American culture, however, McGimpsey routinely cheers for the underdog, including long meditations on the siblings of famous athletes (such as Dom DiMaggio) and the later lives of oft-forgotten Hollywood stars from long-cancelled programs such as "Barnaby Jones," "Charlie's Angels," and "Gilligan's Island." One effect of this approach is McGimpsey's combination of empathetic character sketches with wry cultural critiques, both of which are commonly misunderstood as a mockery of pop culture rather than a euphoric, informed celebration and consideration of its products and byproducts. "I was brought to literature in the context of always being encouraged to participate in our actual culture (TV, rock music, ballgames, soda pop, politics, clothes, and so on)," McGimpsey says, "and I never thought of poetry as a thing to 'cure' me of my background and the things I love." The wide embrace of such participation often produces a vernacular style in McGimpsey's work that both implicitly and directly challenges the ruling seriousness of Canadian poetic culture. In Sitcom's third poem, "CanPo," for example, McGimpsey mockingly addresses a national symbol: "O, something-something loon," he writes, "do you think I could ever forget / the greatest people in the whole country: / the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' grounds crew?," a non-nationalist stance evident since his first book, where his speaker notes that "Once, the snow was so deep / you almost couldn't hear Margaret ATWOOD." Given his growing popularity and incisive satire, however, McGimpsey not only opposes Canada's traditional literary establishment, but is also an influential part of its 21st century reconfiguration.
McGimpsey remains very active on social media, especially twitter, and travels frequently throughout North America for research and readings.