Thursday, February 02, 2023

periodicities : a journal of poetry and poetics

Recently on periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics: new poetry by Amanda Earl, Miranda Mellis, Guy Elston, Derek Beaulieu, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Kate Siklosi, Ariel Gordon,Daniel Sarah Karasik, Julia Polyck-O’Neill, Kevin Varrone, Carlos Soto Román, Dani Spinosa and Meredith Stricker; reviews of work by John Wall Barger (by Kevin Spenst), Nancy Jo Cullen (by Kim Fahner), David Ly (by Jérôme Melançon), Khashayar Mohammadi and Saeed Tavanaee Marvi (by rob mclennan), Kim Fahner (by Jérôme Melançon) and Peter Burghardt (by rob mclennan); Michael Sikkema interviews Scott Ferry; George Bowering, Derek Beaulieu and Melanie Dennis Unrau each write on their recent above/ground press chapbooks; Residency Reports by Jason Heroux, Lisa Pasold and Lee Ann Roripaugh; Geoffrey Young offers three more in his ongoing "DATES" series; Kristen Tapson on Bernadette Mayer, D.S. Black on Michael McClure; Han VanderHart & Amorak Huey on River River Books, and Sarah Gzemski on Noemi Press; and "Process Notes," curated by Maw Shein Win, by James Cagney, Caroline Goodwin, Susana Praver-Pérez, Linda Norton and rob mclennan (with more forthcoming, including Colin Partch)

as well as pieces reprinted from various of the Report from the Society festschrift series,
including pieces critical and creative, including Sarah Dowling, Sarah Heady and Barbara Cole on Pattie McCarthy (with further volumes forthcoming!

with forthcoming work by: Jason Heroux, Daniel Barbiero, Nathanael O’Reilly, Matthew Tomkinson, Lindsey Webb and Martin Breul (among plenty of others)

and a reminder: periodicities is open to submissions of previously unpublished poetry-related reviews, interviews and essays. We are also seeking pieces (essays/interviews etc) on the Canadian long poem!

Please send submissions as .doc with author biography to periodicityjournal (at)

For the time being, submissions of previously unpublished poetry will be by solicitation-only, with the exception of translated works (which you should very much send along! please send translations!).

ALSO: periodicities is seeking essays in its #FirstRealPoets series, a series originally prompted by this piece by Canadian poet Zane Koss on Stuart Ross. Who was the first real poet you ever encountered in the flesh? How did that encounter shape your approach to poetry? How does that poet make poetry a possibility for people who might not otherwise see themselves as poets? We hope to read essays about real poets' poets. The poets who might not get the critical recognition they deserve but are nonetheless important community-creating figures who welcome and encourage new voices.

ALSO: periodicities is seeking short essays on a particular older book by another poet, a series originally prompted by Ken Norris, who wrote this piece on Michael Ondaatje's Rat Jelly.

periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics,
founded March 2020
edited and lovingly maintained by rob mclennan
built as a curious extension of above/ground press (b. July 9, 1993

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

12 or 20 (second series) questions with David Harrison Horton

David Harrison Horton is a Beijing-based writer, artist, editor and curator. His first full-length, Maze Poems, is out from Arteidolia Press. He is author of the chapbooks Pete Hoffman Days (Pinball) and BeiHai (Nanjing Poetry). He edits the poetry zine SAGINAW. 

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life?

My first full-length, Maze Poems, just came out from Arteidolia Press in New York. I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes things — hopefully all for the better.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I had good English teachers in elementary and middle school at St. David’s in Detroit. Poetry was never presented as boring or something difficult, so it was fun and became something I would do (poorly) in my free time.

I started doing it more seriously in college. I studied 20th century French lit and they all seemed to be having so much serious fun with it.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

It really depends on the project. Maze Poems came fairly quickly after I decided that that was what I was going to use the sketchbook I bought for. After that, I worked on it regularly until I finished the notebook.

For another project, I came up with 75 titles and the form the poems would all take. After that, I wrote on average 5 poems week and finished the project fairly quickly in about two months, not including editing.

But I also have projects that I still like and want to continue on that have taken me years, sometimes decades, and they’re still nowhere near done.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I usually have an idea of the finished project before I begin. The planning is often part of what’s interesting in it for me. Of course, the actual finished work might only be a second cousin to the original ideas, but that’s fine too.

I admire poets that write great individual, single poems that end up in collections that showcase their breadth of interests and voice. Edward Ragg comes to mind. It’s a different approach.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

In Beijing, there is the Spittoon Collective that hosts monthly poetry readings and bi-weekly poetry workshops (in English). This is great for community building and has been a great boon for me. I do enjoy doing readings, and I enjoy being able to play with what doing a reading means. For one reading, I showed up with a saucepan and a drum mallet. With Spittoon, we have done neo-benshi. They also do a poetry and music series. Last year, poet and playwright James Holt independently staged a full-length poetry drama. It’s a good supportive scene.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

With Maze Poems, I was looking at automatic writing and the line between subconscious and conscious thought and the literal, physical, visual shape of those thoughts. I was also very interested in how reader processing inputs meaning to a text.

With most projects, whether writing or art or music or whatever, I’m often looking to see what would happen if I monkeyed with this or that? If I torqued something here or loosened it there, would it be interesting? Why or why not?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they  even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

There are loads of roles writers can take on. Amanda Gorman took on a public role with her inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb.” Jericho Brown and Ilya Kaminsky seem to be part of larger discourses that go beyond poetry.

I often remind myself of all the Archibald MacLeish books that lined the book aisles of every thrift store in America I’ve ever been to. We’re all writing in a historical context about things that address very specific historical contexts. If we’re lucky one or a few of pieces might speak beyond that, but that isn’t really up to us.

I recently read Ted Hughes’ translation of Racine’s Phedre. I think poets translating poets is an essential role that those of us who are bi- or multilingual should consider. It’s a service to the craft.  

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Working with Randee Silv from Arteidolia Press on Maze Poems was fantastic.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Don’t make the thing you love your job; otherwise, you’ll begin to hate it.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I do projects in spurts. I really admire poets like Stephen Ratcliffe who can do it on the daily. If I’m not writing or working on another project, I’m usually reading, making notes. I don’t usually differentiate between writing, music or art. One project usually gets 90% of my attention while I’m doing it.  

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Reading. Poetry, history, sci-fi, that book I should have read in college, a math text book. It doesn’t matter. It’s all interesting and gets the gears oiled up.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

I grew up in Detroit and now live in Beijing. However we figure “home” here, it’s not exactly a pleasant smell.

My mom’s kitchen smelled like chicken and dumplings.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Mazes, to state the obvious.

I had the great fortune to live and make art with a great artist like Matthew Lusk. I had the great fortune to live and make music with Jorge Boehringer, who is simply an amazing musician (Core of the Coleman). Both of them expanded my artistic vocabulary and practices.

I don’t see poetry, or writing in general, as separate from the other forms of expression and experience. They all inform each other.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Abigail Weathers is the great poet who runs the community workshops I go to.

Over the years, there have been so many people who encouraged me and pushed me along: Matthew Lusk, Jorge Boehringer, Abigail Weathers, Stephanie Young, Jackson MacLow, Pauline Oliveros, Chris DeBarr at the Downstairs Cafe. So so many others I’m grateful to know. 

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Sell enough of Maze Poems so that Arteidiolia can fund their next project.

I already visited the world’s biggest teepee in Medicine Hat.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I’ve done so many jobs: linguist, teacher/prof, librarian, editor, journalist, cook, dishwasher, chandler, prosthetic limb maker, paralegal, factory worker, golf caddy, docent, art hanger, mall retail, art model, secretary, day laborer, etc etc.

I’ve worked since I was 13 (legal in Michigan at least at the time, don’t know about now).

I would have stayed on as a chandler if it had come with health insurance.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I see it more of “in addition to” other activities, rather than “as opposed to.”

18A - What was the last great book you read?

I just reread Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. La Beaute humbles me.

18B - What was the last great film?

Spring in a Small Town. A Chinese B&W classic from 1948. I’m going through an old Chinese movie phase.

19 - What are you currently working on?

I recently listened to Orson Welles’ radio drama adaptation of Les Miserables (1937). I bought the book (I read other Hugo books in college) and want to go through it to see if anything jumps out as an interesting subject of attention, like a way to look at it or a specific part of it differently. Academically, I know it’s been done to death. But I suspect there might be artistic gold yet to be mined.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

natalie hanna, lisan al’asfour



i think we can address the problem here by making
full disclosure of our respective positions in this
touchy situation, for example, i did not anticipate
in medias res, that you would drop your large warm
hand onto my thigh as ii was advising
on the tax implications of your monthly payments
and i know legalese is a little off-putting and
you’re unfamiliar with the language of rigidity
inter alia, so i will make it clear about
the next thing that happens (“index of error”)

After some twenty-plus years of publishing poems in journals and chapbooks, Ottawa poet and lawyer natalie hanna’s long-awaited full-length debut is lisan al’asfour (Winnipeg MB: arp books, 2022), a sensual blend of narrative fragments awash with lush precision. Hers is a narrative infused with a full flow of lyric, composing a flow of phrases and fragments across an array of sentences, from short poems into extended sequences. She writes of love and lawyering, writing the heart across such boundaries and echoes of love, even while responding to a wide range of levels of racism and misogyny, whether personally or through the culture. Her lyric weaves elements of folk tale and song (consider the delicate touch of her title, an Arabic phrase that translates to “bird’s tongue,” the name of a particular Arabic soup dish), offering a poetry that sings a story or document an experience, from family offerings, responses from legal clients and even the 2022 Ottawa convoy occupation, and the inherent responsibilities of the individual to those beyond themselves. “where does your body end / and mine begin?” she asks, as part of her convoy poem, “there are some in every crowd,” writing “how many cycles / inhalation, exhalation // before we have shared all the air / in this atmosphere with each other / with the neighbourhood / across the earth? what is in you / lives in me, as risky as a kiss [.]” Throughout, hanna responds with deep empathy to poverty, grief and heartbreak, aware of both the spindle prick and the possibility of a happy ending. Of Middle Eastern descent, and raised in both English and Arabic, she writes of the distances between languages and cultures, and a blend she has yet to fully manage or master. “ya Rab, she says,” she writes, as part of the poem “naharda,” “do you ever stop talking? / i am afraid if i do not fill the universe with words / i will forget language altogether / i have already forgotten one [.]”

There is something about hanna’s use of the lower case that intrigues, specifically her name and the narrative “I.” The late Toronto poet bpNichol utilized the lower case “i” as something predominantly visual, while others (including myself), have attempted to utilize the lower case “i” as a reduction of the narrative self (counterbalancing New York School poet Frank O’Hara’s “I did this, I did that” poetic style), arguably allowing the poem more space in which to speak for itself. The late artist and poet Roy K. Kiyooka, who spent part of his childhood in a wartime Japanese interment camp in Alberta, utilized his lower case “i” as a distinction against the dominant culture, against what he deemed “Inglish.” On her part, hanna appears to utilize hers as a blend of all of the above, allowing the lyric to flow through and be but a part of her, set on the page both resolute and firm, with a complete lack of interest in putting up with other people’s nonsense. hanna’s examinations around language and cultural distinctions are something she celebrates, even as she mourns the losses that can come through existing between two cultures. As she writes as part of the poem “tokyo cinema”:

i have stopped recording my dreams
in a book for they are all the same
dream where we are sitting at a table
in the homes askew where i grew up
and i am feeding you or you are feeding me
the home food of our ancestors
from across the middle-east and we
are crying, we are crying, with our faces
in our hands for this meal will never be perfect
and i cannot cook the rice your mother made
as you cannot cook the rice of mine, but the music
of the meal in our mouths is so close
and recalls what we have lost, and our tears
become our salt, each according to their need
and i cannot hold you, as i cannot judge you
for wanting to drown the world under your hand
in the darkness of your grief


Monday, January 30, 2023




In the early stages of this writing, there
was simply no place

to put a period. I attempt to utilize
tension. My in-laws continue to believe

I should cut my hair. The tension
is present.



Fourteen lines, with which to apply, opportune
or convey. The pace at which

one stakes, and states,

these complimentary emblems.
The trouble             with normal, or the language

of God: one of senses, rubble.



All the years it took to write
that one sentence.