Spotlight Poem #2: “Trivia Night” by Shaun Robinson

The poem “Trivia Night” by Shaun Robinson comes from his wonderful new poetry collection If You Discover A Fire out with Brick Books later this spring. A review is forthcoming!


It’s important to get things wrong,

even if it feels like fighting

with a lover, forgetting important dates

and the names of her friends,

and she thinks it means you don’t care.

We do care, America, just not about

your state parks or your presidents,

the pretty coins stamped with their faces

spinning through the pub’s gloom

to settle a bet about the year we landed

on the moon. Remember that, America?

High-fiving the cosmos, trampling

the dusty surface of eternity? Four-hundred-

whatever years after Vasco da Gama

discovered whatever it was—

Florida, maybe, or fire, or the fountain

of youth, which I imagine surrounded

by marble parrots and bubbling

like a vodka soda. It doesn’t matter

if it’s real. The helicopter has only existed

since 1936. The zipper was invented

in 1891, and before that we lived

without it. Picture Lincoln fumbling

with hooks and loops above a chamber pot

in the Ford Theatre moments before

every fact he’s ever known is blown

through a hole in the back of his head.

And the facts in yours will one day rot

into a black soup, the capitals floating

in a stateless void, every letter

of Mississippi emptied into the Gulf.

Isn’t that why you come? To test

yourself in the blackout shrine

of a neighbourhood pub, to honour

the knowledge you’ve lived without?

You know as much as you need to.

Your mother’s maiden name, floating

inside you like a slice of lime

in a vodka soda. You know the story

and the shortcut, the password and the prayer.

You know you’ll wake on your bathroom

floor, the toilet glowing above you

like a ceramic moon, like a match

struck on your zipper in the dark room

of everything you’ve forgotten.

By Shaun Robinson

SHAUN ROBINSON’s poetry has appeared in the Puritan, the Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, Poetry Is Dead, and the Rusty Toque, and received Honourable Mention in ARC Magazine’s 2018 Poem of the Year contest. Born in 100 Mile House, BC, Robinson has lived in Vancouver since 2006. He studied in UBC’s Creative Writing MFA program, where he served as the poetry editor of PRISM international. He is also the author of the chapbook Manmade Clouds and currently works as an editor for the chapbook press Rahila’s Ghost. If You Discover a Fire is his debut collection.

Chris Banks is a Canadian poet and author of six collections of poems with Deepfake Serenade from Nightwood Editions forthcoming in Fall 2021. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, GRIFFEL, American Poetry Journal, Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.