Monday, January 17, 2005

maria erskine

2-1: nothing rhymes with purple, either

‘One word’ is two words - and to ... send you
‘a word’, an instant failure,
overreaching, the re-aching
over, and yet. yes.

you don’t need the quot. marks,
read unlettered signs - oh: in the market,
saw a piece of cardboard sticking up out of a
big bushel of carrots:
it read CARRUS; made me smile, think of
you again, for some.

1,2 ... and nowt rhymes with silver

in this subdivision,
raise the Zenophilic yamfry
stakes -
carve this
whittle conversation
[there’s some sauce left]
niblets, veegers, Whaanh?
... silver-y x-z lines
still two quiet
knots -
ellipses ease

When Toronto poet maria erskine read with jwcurry at the Factory Reading Series in Ottawa last year, it marked the first reading she had done anywhere in thirteen years. Always on the sidelines & secretly in the game, maria has been writing & publishing so quietly for years, in the little places where you might not otherwise see. It would be difficult to be at a reading in Toronto & not see maria there, somewhere, in the background, lurking in a corner with John Barlow or Daniel f. Bradley, perhaps.

For a time, around when she ran the Toronto Small Press Fair with Maggie Helwig, she self-produced lovely little chapbooks and broadsides that she would slip into the hands of friends, her gaddisflypapers. Sometimes a piece produced by jwcurry, sometimes a slip of paper by above/ground press (reprinted in Groundswell: best of above/ground press, 1993-2003), her published poems are like rare birds. We keep trying to convince her to release more but it moves so slowly. How does one get a poem or two out of maria erskine? I really don’t know; I only wish I did. I’ve been hoping for a chapbook manuscript for years of her poems, but so far nothing has come of it.

There’s a story told of one of Vancouver poet Maxine Gadd’s books from the 1960s, that bill bissett had to break into her house & steal a stack of poems to turn them into a book; telling Gadd’s reluctance to release work. Was it Westerns? The Hippies of Kitsilano? I wish I could remember. In the end, I guess she forgave him. It was what nearly had to happen around 1996 to get a poetry manuscript out of Ottawa poet Robin Hannah (now she doesn’t tell us where she lives). & I wonder if this might have to happen to maria.

The exciting result of her reading in Ottawa was that it pushed maria to want to read again, & she recently did a reading with daniel f. bradley for Toronto’s solsquinox series. We can only hope she might do more.

I would very much like to see a grouping of her lovely little graceful poems, quirky & completely original flecks of sound & language. If you ever have the chance to hear maria erskine read, take it. You might not have another.

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