Friday, September 23, 2005

Ongoing notes: late September 2005

The Antigonish Review finally published my review of Barry McKinnon’s The Centre: Selected Poems 1970-2000 (Talonbooks, 2004); and the George Bowering section in Jacket keeps growing; what will you get him for his 70th birthday on December 1st? Wanda O'Connor, immersed in creative writing at Concordia, has started posting Montreal poems; John W. MacDonald, serial blogger, has started writing a literary column in the books section of The Ottawa Citizen. And I think I want to start getting invited to more festivals. (I mean, I will see you at the ottawa fest, won't I?) When is the Calgary festival or Vancouver festival ever going to invite me to read? What about something non-Canadian? A couple of us just had some poems out of this little zine at Simon Fraser University; apparently everyone can (theoretically) download & print off their own copies. And don't forget, Jay MillAr reads soon, as part of the ottawa small press book fair

I know it's a few years old, but it's still pretty cool: Louis Cabri's Phillytalks; they did a series of readings down there in that Philadelphia, pairing up (usually) a Canadian with an American poet. Beforehand, though, the two would have an exchange of letters/emails almost like small essays on each other's work, all of which was posted online along with poems by each of them, before the readings took place. A brilliant idea, since that way, the audience could easily be already part of the conversation even before they arrived. Some participants included Fred Wah, Steve McCaffery, Lisa Robertson, Brian Kim Stefans, C.S. Giscombe and Barry McKinnon. Once again, I'm being called "writer-in-residence" at this year's ottawa international writers festival, so if you go to any of the events, you'll probably see me there. Check out the piece I wrote after I did the same thing last fall.

Waterloo, Ontario: One thing I find pretty interesting is the fact that Wilfred Laurier University Press has started a series of critical volumes of Canadian poets. A small selected poems by a Canadian poet, the selection is made by a poet/critic who also includes an introduction, with the last word on poetry/poetics by the author themselves. The first two in this series are Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier, selected with an introduction by Catherine Hunter, and Worth Fifty Thousand Finches: The Poetry of Don McKay, [Crozier and McKay appear at this year’s ottawa international writers festival] selected with an introduction by Méira Cook (read the review I did of her third poetry collection, Slovenly Love), newly out as the first in the Laurier Poetry Series (the McKay title is scheduled to appear just before Christmas). According to the front of each title, the series “introduces the excitement of contemporary Canadian poetry to an audience that might not otherwise have access to it. Selected and introduced by a prominent critic, each volume presents a range of poems from across the poet’s career and an afterward by the poet him- or herself. These volumes offer readers useful, provocative, and comprehensive introductions to, and contexts for, a poet’s work.” I may not be the biggest fan of, say, Crozier’s writing, but I’m very interested to see where else the series leads, considering that so few presses are publishing books of criticism at all, but for the Writer as Critic series published by Edmonton’s NeWest Press, or the Essays on Their Works series by Toronto’s Guernica Editions. But I wonder about the format: since they are tied so closely together, which comes first, the selection of poems or the essay?

The sheer enormity of where I come from resists words, but as I said at the start, poetry often begins with such resistance. How can the small letters you compose, standing as tall as possible on any page, make themselves visible in a landscape that diminishes the human? At the same time, the place demands that you keep your eyes and ears open because the space around you feels attenuated, on the verge, ready to reveal its meaning in the blink of an eye. It duplicates the feeling you get just before the curtain is about to open in a theatre, just before the violinist’s bow is about to meet the strings in a concert hall. Every single stone on the gravel road has its own shadow, sharply defined.
– Lorna Crozier, “A Reflection on Poetry,” Before the First Word

The format does leave me with some stylistic concerns: will the only kinds of writing dealt with in the series be the shorter, narrative lyric? Where else will the series lead? What about those Canadian poets who work primarily within the long poem? What of those poets working within more non-linear or even visual &/or concrete works? Will we ever see a collection of this sort on Dennis Cooley, Steve McCaffery or Daphne Marlatt, for example? I think an interesting consideration would be Artie Gold, but they probably wouldn't go for it.

Vancouver, British Columbia: Producing an increasing number of important works is Meredith and Peter Quartermain’s Nomados, publishing works by such writers as George Bowering, Sharon Thesen, Kathleen Fraser, Susan Holbrook, and Quartermain herself. Another recent publication is Lisa Robertson’s Rousseau’s Boat (2005), winner of this year's bpNichol Chapbook Award (see also the brilliant reviews of same by Ron Silliman and Steve Evans).

Rousseau’s Boat is the first publication from former Vancouver resident, now living in Cambridge UK, Lisa Robertson since she published Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (2003). Writing from the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, she includes this quote on the back cover:

The ebb and flow of this water, its ongoing
sound swelling with vibration that set adrift
my outer senses, rhythmically took the place
of the strong emotions my dreaminess had
calmed, and I felt in myself so pleasurably
and effortlessly the sensation of existing,
without troubling to think.

Increasingly, Robertson’s poems have been pulling themselves apart, from Xeclogue (originally published by Tsunami Editions, the collection is newly reissued by New Star Books) to Debbie: An Epic and the strongest of the three, the weather. Built out of four poems/sections -- "Passivity," "Face," "Utopia" and "This is the beginning of Utopia / Its material is time." -- the collection works its way through a quiet uncertainty, growing more confident of its own uncertainty and explorations as it moves, through exploration upon exploration colluding in individual lines that add up, or even contradict, slamming together, to something further.

Utopia/

In the spring of 1979

Some images have meanings, and some have a change in soul,

sex or century.

Rain buckles into my mouth.

If pressed to account for strangeness and resistance, I can’t.

I’m speaking here for dogs and rusted ducts venting steam

into rain.

I wanted to study the ground, the soft ruins of paper and the

rusting things

I discover a tenuous utopia made from steel, wooden chairs,

glass, stone, metal bed frames, tapestry, bones, prosthetic legs,

hair, shirt-cuffs, nylon, plaster figurines, perfume bottles and

keys.

I am confusing art and decay.

Elsewhere, fiction is an activity like walking.

Any girl who reads is already a lost girl.

The four poems that make up Robertson's Rousseau's Boat are more about questions than actual answers, working their way through until the final single page piece, "This is the beginning of Utopia / Its material is time." It reads as though the whole poem is not only about searching for meaning throughout (between meaning and meaninglessness: a parable for just living, perhaps), before finally acknowledging that the movement of searching isn't as accidental as one might think, and refusing to apologize for it. Is the purpose of writing to understand, or to explore?

And if I become unintelligible to myself

Because of having refused to believe

I transcribe a substitution

Like the accidental folds of a scarf.

From these folds I make persons

Perfect marriage of accident and need.

And if I become unintelligible to myself

Because of having refused a style

I transcribe a substitution

To lose the unattainable.

Like the negligent fall of a scarf

Now I occupy the design.

Creighton, Saskatchewan: Blogger, visual artist and poet Brenda Schmidt’s second poetry collection is More Than Three Feet of Ice (Thistledown Press, 2005), after her debut, A Haunting Sun (Thistledown Press, 2001). Working in longer, more linear narratives, hers is more a poetry of straight speech that seems to move far and wide across the poetry of Saskatchewan, from Lorna Crozier to Brenda Niskala to Gary Hyland to Glen Sorestad. Where else than in the prairies could you write a poem called "Points of Interest" and highlight such points as "The Crosses," "The Cemetery," "The Rock," "The Path" and "The Other Path," writing:

A raven perches on the right wrist, watches the lighter
shadow of a bird move across the stone chest

while he tears bits of meat from a bone;
a piece falls on the hand and slides down a finger

to the ground, leaving a pink streak that drips once
as it follows the direction of descent.

I find the most effective pieces in this collection are those in which she goes fully into prose, such as the poem “Rise” (p. 81), that ends with:

4.

I want this place to be a slice of bread with jam on it. I want to be the
knife spreading wild strawberry. Think about the rules for the use of these
words, he says. It’s not about want.

5.

As the bread bakes, Wittgenstein sits me down for the final exam. One
multiple choice question worth 100% of the final mark:
Burnt toast and the Canadian Shield. Both
a) set off smoke alarms
b) shatter
c) make mouths water before things went wrong


I circle an answer

Toronto, Ontario: A third collection by former Hamilton resident, now moved into Toronto, is Shannon Bramer's The Refrigerator Memory (Coach House Books, 2005). [Bramer appears at this year’s ottawa international writers festival as part of a Coach House night with Sherwin Tjia, Stephen Cain and Margaret Christakos] After her collections with Exile Editions, the poetry collections scarf (2001) and suitcases & other poems (1999), it’s good that she has finally found a publisher willing to more actively promote her collections of finely crafted poems. The Refrigerator Memory (complete with promotional 'fridge magnets, if you ask Coach House nicely) is more a return in structure to her graceful first collection, suitcases & other poems, which was made up of a suite of individual poems, as opposed to the more narrative suite of poems of scarf, and main character who worked the scarf counter in a department store.

Urban Restaurant

My forks are Chinese ideograms; my knives
draw ink from the stiff linen cloth.

We've a snake to take care of the mice.
He suns himself in a crooked line on the patio stairs.

I'm in love with Ezra, the new saucier,
who speaks six languages

and leaves no fingerprints
on the large white plates.

The poems in The Refrigerator Memory work from small domestic moments, writing the moments between hands and the innocent moments between sleep, marked by a deep, simple wisdom that is usually lost as childhood ends; a mixture of childhood delights and grown-up fears. There even feels a trace of Creeley's deliberateness, and his own domestic, writing out small moments smaller, and the break of the line; she holds her moments so fine, that even the slightest movement extends, and becomes more fantastic.

His Peacock Shadow

This is how the story goes.

A peacock became a man
and soon enough fell in love
with a woman.

A female of the highest caliber
with bright black eyes,
muscular arms, hair the colour
of burnt raisin.

The peacock knew pain but
had no memory. At night he felt
the prickly bones of absent feathers
scratching on his skin.

She became his Doctor
and looked like a saint
in her stiff white coat.

He had been referred
to her before, was regal, cocksure
though something
of his diminishing strut suggested

a former plumage.

Whenever he got drunk he called
himself a fancy chicken; she
discovered his peacock shadow

after they were married,
while feasting by candlelight.

New York, New York: Don't let the cover image (and subsequent inside page, images both taken from suicidegirls.com) fool you; Fence is one of the finer poetry/literary journals in the United States. I started getting the magazine by entering their annual poetry manuscript competition (that I still haven't won), that includes a year's subscription to the journal. The cover image of the current issue, of an extremely cute naked girl clutching her breasts is a reaction to poor sales of a previous issue, Volume 6, number 2 (fall/winter 2003), what the editor Rebecca Wolff in her "Editor's Note" called a "fine issue, packed with the usual highly individualized, specifically loaded, virtually unrepeatable content." Were the poor sales due to dark, subtle art on the cover, she wonders? Is there a different way they can promote themselves? A bit of overkill, with what she calls a "tits" cover, but I appreciate the irony (I just hope it doesn't backfire on them). I want to make editor Rebecca Wolff happy; she produces an extremely fine magazine (and I have that issue: its worth it alone for the amazing conversation between poet mother and son, Alice Notley and Edmund Berrigan (son of the infamous Ted, for those who don't know), "Cubism, the Blues, Visions: A Conversation). Send her all of your money. You will not regret it.

Usually two issues a year, they've put all their chips on the one horse this year in a larger "summer fiction issue" that includes over one hundred pages of poetry, and nearly three hundred pages in all. Since I'm still learning who all the names are in the United States, there is something exciting about going through what I know is a quality mag, but not yet knowing any of the names of the contributors (the only names I knew previously were British author/editor John Kinsella, whose memoir, Auto (Salt Publishing; a quote on the back from beloved Canadian prairie poet Douglas Barbour), I found second-hand recently in Vancouver and enjoyed very much, and New York/Maine fiction writer Jonathan Lethem, whose collection of essays, The Disappointment Artist, out earlier this year with Doubleday, was highly entertaining and is well worth picking up). Some of the poems that jumped out at me included Michael Dickman's "Five American Plays" and Stefanie Marlis' "five from choices," including:

*

A man stops drinking and meets a woman who betrays him, then one who
does not.

His mother prides herself on sweeping her hair into a perfect chignon in under
two minutes.

His stepfather polished his boots with mink oil and woke in the night with leg
cramps.

The man looks at where clouds have come together, puzzle pieces.

He likes the one woman. She keeps his favorite ice cream in her freezer.

The other, whose lies are black, lies back.

After reading her bio, it doesn't surprise me that her work is being published, too, by Apogee Press, one of those American poetry presses that manages to publish work that also jumps out at me, publishing both her third collection, fine, and more recent cloudlife (2005). I think I will need to find out more about her. Otherwise, I'm still going through the issue, but another highlight was a little poem by Jesse Ball:

Missive in an Icelandic Room 2

Harangued
by the ring
master, the
paper circus
fell to
muttering.
Johan wrung
his hand
and stroked
the elephant's
thick skin.
"How will
we fathom
the mind of
the audience,
if we cannot
name it truly
our oldest
and deepest
foe?"

Fredericton, New Brunswick: Lately, poet, visual artist, publisher and general man-about-town Joe Blades has been posting a second run of "casemate poems" on his blog. The original casemate poems, published in 2004 as a small book by the ghost-like press widows & orphans (hiding somewhere in Waterloo, Ontario), were written as part of two week-long artists' residencies (one in late July and one in early September, 2003) through the Fredericton Arts Alliance. Containing easily some of the best writing I've seen from Joe Blades, he writes a series of lovely ghazal-like entries in the short collection. I can only hope that perhaps, at the end of the whole process, a larger edition of casemate poems might appear in print, somewhere. But I'll let the work speak for itself:

5.

shoelaces come undone what a
start need head pills for ache

art wholesaler giant art show
liquidation sale no pills with

me run home for supplies flat
poetry without "chipman canada"

bricks in casemate wall raku
firing in soldiers' barracks square

students of peter thomas learn
watch their glazes melt

poetry these days hole in the
head to let it out sight better

than sphincter cancer having it
removed "out spot, out" or

however that shakespeare goes
clamp the words together drill

thread the to-be-hidden holes
together knot and trim threads

stanza done now the covers
thread 5-times cover height to bind

Joe Blades is one of those guys who's been around forever; doing readings in the early 1980s in Toronto with Patrick Lane, and publishing even when he was only seventeen, which means twenty five years as a publisher (Broken Jaw Press)/writer/artist. He was even hanging around Alberta (when he worked at the Banff Springs Hotel) and with Robert Kroetsch during the founding of the Alberta Writers Guild. On the casemate poems, Blades writes in the "afterword" to the little collection:

Fredericton Arts Alliance coordinated the Artists In Residence 2003 Summer Series consisting of one- and two-week residencies by over 20 Fredericton-area artists. These were public, interactive residencies with visitors in the studio. There were two artists-in-residence scheduled at any given time.
The residency was located in a former munitions casemate on the ground floor of the former Soldiers' Barracks building within a former British military facility now administered by Tourism Fredericton as the Historic Garrison District.
Buildings adjacent to the Soldiers' Barracks contain the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, several museums and Gallery Connexion, an artist-run centre, and a guardhouse with summer student tourism "soldier" tour guides. Other casemates of the Soldiers' Barracks housed local craftspeople selling their wares.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

two new publications from above/ground press

1. The Peter F. Yacht Club #4
edited & produced by rob mclennan

with writing by George Bowering, Stephen Brockwell, Suzanne Buffam, Stephen Cain, Margaret Christakos, Anita Dolman, Gwendolyn Guth, William Hawkins, rob mclennan, Max Middle, James Moran, Jennifer Mulligan, Susan Musgrave, Wanda O'Connor , Sandra Ridley & Vivian Vavassis.

Available free at this years Ottawa International Writers Festival, otherwise send $5 to rob mclennan, c/o 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario K1R 6R7.

watch for: the first ever Peter F. Yacht Club reading & regatta in early November.

2. STANZAS #41, September 2005, "Personal Peripherals" by Jan Allen (Kingston ON)

Jan Allen is a writer, visual artist, and curator based in Kingston, Ontario. She is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at Queen’s University, Kingston. A notable recent curatorial project is Machine Life 2004), an exhibition of interactive and robotic works produced under the influence of the methods and behavioural aesthetics of electronic art pioneer Norman White. Allen’s independent critical writing has been published in C Magazine, Artext, and Poliester. Her poetry has been published in Quarry Magazine.

$20 for 5 issues (published at random) or sample $4 (or large s.a.s.e.). Otherwise, above/ground press subscriptions at $30 per calendar year include STANZAS issues produced in that time. Available free if you can find it.

Also still available (among others):

STANZAS #40, May 2005, "ottawa poems (blue notes)" [a section of The Ottawa City Project] by rob mclennan (Ottawa ON).

Backlist available online here (though woefully out of date).

STANZAS magazine, for long poems/sequences, published at random since 1993 in a handout run of 1,000 copies (what was he thinking?). Previous issues feature work by Anne Stone, George Bowering, Rob Budde, derek beaulieu, Meredith Quartermain, nathalie stephens, Ian Whistle, J.L. Jacobs, Lisa Samuels.

A number of chapbooks forthcoming (I'm really really behind), including new publications by Shauna McCabe, Karen Clavelle, Barry McKinnon, Nathalie Simpson, derek beaulieu + a recent slew of broadsheets by Jordan Scott, rob mclennan, Wanda O'Connor, George Bowering, Gwendolyn Guth, Fred Wah + Mari-Lou Rowley.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

brief note on the TREE Reading Series, Ottawa

When I started going to the TREE Reading Series around 1991, as audience and eventual open set participant, it was the only game in town, especially for the opportunity for the open set. I didn’t know anything about the readings John Metcalf was still producing at Magnum Books in Mechanicsville (sans open stage), Marty Flomen’s monthly Orion series, or that Sasquatch had even existed, let alone had stopped running, and would re-emerge. In the years I’ve been going to TREE since, including the years I sat as coordinator from June 1994 to the end of 1998, it was the only place in the city with a consistent space for the open set. An essential part of the landscape in Ottawa, TREE has potentially been the first reading venue for more writers throughout the city than any of the other venues put together. Other series might come and go, and be entertaining and even impressive, but TREE has remained a constant, existing as both a communal and community space for writers of varying experience.

When I was running the series with graffito: the poetry poster managing editor b stephen harding, we aggressively promoted TREE readings around the universities, as well as various high schools, to include as both audience and open set participants. Continuing something started by James Spyker and Catherine Jenkins, organizers when I arrived and for a while longer, the average age of TREE participants and audience dropped by a few decades during my tenure as TREE co-ordinator, and the featured readers began to be drawn from a pool larger than just from the existing participants. My own interest in booking readers for TREE was to provide a balance between fiction and poetry, national and local, and bring in readers who either hadn’t read in Ottawa in quite a long time (if ever), or who simply hadn’t had a featured reading yet. Some of the readers during this period included Lisa Robertson, Ken Norris, David O’Meara, Tricia Postle, Lynn Crosbie, Christopher Dewdney, Eliza Clark, William Hawkins, Gabriella Golliger, Dennis Tourbin, Stephanie Bolster, Judith Fitzgerald, Michelle Desbarats, Michael Dennis, Stan Rogal and Rhonda Batchelor. Imagine: even though he’d been publishing books since the 1960s from Hamilton, and later, Toronto, the first time David W. McFadden had even been invited to read was in 1996. I think that’s a bit more interesting than having the same group of local authors read annually.

This introduction appears in the new anthology celebrating twenty-five years of The TREE Reading Series, 25 Years of Tree (BuschekBooks, 2005), edited by James Moran and Jennifer Mulligan, to be launched at the ottawa international writers festival on Tuesday, October 4th at 8pm (a free event; Library and Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street) featuring readings by Gabriella Goliger, Mark Frutkin and Jane Jordan with music by John Lavery.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sina Queyras, ed., Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets
foreword by Molly Peacock
2005, Persea Books, $18.95 CAN / $26.50 US
250 pages, isbn 0-89255-314-6

The biggest reason for an anthology like this, is the fact that books have difficulty crossing borders, especially small press volumes of poetry (and we all know big presses don’t really publish poetry). For example, for reasons still unexplained, Penguin seems to publish poets from every country they have offices in, except Canada. Canadian poet Ken Norris, who teaches at the University of Maine in Orono, says he regularly has to drive up to Montreal bookstores to see what the Canadian poets are doing. On the other hand, if I want to see what the Americans are doing, it’s equally difficult. Unless I’m really into what faber & faber are publishing (which I’m really not), I have very little option in my local bookstores to see what the non-Canadians are doing. At least through the internet, there are thousands of pages of work being published by non-Canadians, with a multitude of online literary journals throughout the United States; Canadians are years behind in comparison, with almost no work online by some of our standards: John Newlove, Daphne Marlatt, George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, Don McKay, Steve McCaffery and others, and online journals only popping up over the past few years, such as Michael Bryson’s The Danforth Review, Rob Budde’s stonestone, and my own ottawater and Poetics.ca. And now, of course, it seems that every young poet in Calgary and Toronto has started up their own blog. For years I’ve been wondering if this is a sort of self-perpetuating ideal, keeping our work inside our borders because of our lack of confidence. Or is there simply no need to exist on a world stage? Does government funding to authors and books keep us happy to our borders? Is there a safety in keeping to where we are?

Editor Sina Queyras has admirably built a collection of Canadian poetry for an outside market, deliberately targeting the Americans as audience for her anthology Open Field: 30 Contemporary Poets. Contributors include Jeanette Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, Ken Babstock, Christian Bök, George Bowering, Dionne Brand, Nicole Brossard, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Anne Carson, George Elliott Clarke, Lorna Crozier, Mary Dalton, Joe Denham, Christopher Dewdney, Susan Goyette, Lydia Kwa, Sonnet L’Abbé, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn, Daphne Marlatt, Don McKay, Erin Mouré / Eirin Moure, bp Nichol, Michael Ondaatje, Lisa Robertson, Anne Simpson, Karen Solie, Todd Swift, Fred Wah and Jan Zwicky.

A Canadian poet herself, with two collections (and a third forthcoming from Coach House Books), if you know Canadian writing and look through Queyras’ selection of writers, it reads as though she is all over the map, moving all over stylistic range, geography and age; reading almost off-balance and wonky (there are writers here I would never have imagined side by side), she has obviously built the anthology as a beginning, an opening into further reading. If you know nothing at all of Canadian writing, you can at least get a taste of it, and then move further into specific names, picking up, for example, other anthologies such as Breathing Fire and Breathing Fire II (Harbour Publishing, 1996 and 2005) if you care for the work of Karen Solie, Ken Babstock and Lorna Crozier; picking up a copy of Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (New Star Books, 1999) if you care for the work of Lisa Robertson, or looking through the catalogues of Coach House Books and Talonbooks if you are more interested in the works of bp Nichol, Fred Wah, George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt and Christian Bök. As editor Queyras writes in her introduction:

Discussing literature (or art, or film, or music, or anything you love) with people whose influences, or preferences, you are familiar with, but who have little awareness of your own, can be disorienting. It’s fine if you are both equally unfamiliar, but for those of us living north of the one-way mirror that the US/Canada border can sometimes be, the experience is more like: we can see you, you don’t see us. Most poetic dialogues assume a certain amount of shared knowledge and this imbalance flamed my passion: You haven’t read? You haven’t heard? Fortunately, Gabe was open to my exuberance (as have found most Americans to be). After two years of meeting in various bars and cafes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Gabe usually walking away with one or two books of Canadian poetry under his arm (and I with his favorites, or those newly discovered) the idea for this anthology arose.

The foreword by Molly Peacock gives a good balance to Queyras’ introduction, about the joy of discovery of a body of work that she realized was more foreign than she had imagined. As she writes:

The disparate poets in this volume all partake of the very strong notion that Canadian literature defines the Canadian identity, and this idea is shared by broadcasters and government officials, who speak of how Canadian literature creates (both among Canadians and on the world stage) powerful images of what this country is and means. Canada is immensely proud of its poets. Legislators understand that the making of literature is the making of a national identity – they have put their money on it. Canadian poetry publishers have taken on the task of creating the national imagination, devoting themselves to promoting poets like vowel-obsessed Christian Bök, who stretches the poetry toward acrobatics of sheer language (and gets on the best seller list in doing so), and sense-obsessed Lorna Crozier, who roots poetry in the national tradition of horticulture that she versifies it for its citizens. On the surface these poets haven’t a shred in common, but they are the ears and eyes on the national face.

Not that it’s as bad as that, there are Canadian poets that have made headway into the United States, but only here and there. I’m thinking specifically of SUNY-Buffalo’s Electronic Poetry Center, that has author pages for Darren Wershler-Henry, Christian Bök and Steve McCaffery (who is now the poetry chair at SUNY), and their poetics e-mail list has piles of Canadian poets from Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Newfoundland and even Ottawa. But Buffalo is not the entire United States, not by a long shot. Still, I can only hope that, as has been suggested, there might be a second volume down the road of Sina Queyras’ Open Field. What is that informative spot they keep putting on NBC? The more you know...

This review originally appeared at Stride

Saturday, September 10, 2005

some Ottawa (& area) writers (or at least some writers who lived here at one time)

'Segun Akinlolu (& here), Jennifer Arbour, John Baglow, nth digri, Mike Blouin, Kim Brunhuber, Megan Butcher, T. Anders Carson, Alan Cumyn, Louise Daniels, michael dennis (& here), Amanda Earl (& here), Charles De Lint, Pam Farr, Greg Frankson / Ritallin, Laurie Fuhr (& here), Alison Gresik, Elisabeth Harvor, Tom Henighan, Ben Lavigne, Warren Layberry, Suki Lee, John W. MacDonald, Kevin Matthews, Nichole McGill, John Metcalf, Max Middle, Colin Morton, Wanda O'Connor (& here), Pearl Pirie, Randy Ray, Leo Brent Robillard, Jeffrey Ross, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Steve Sauve, David Scrimshaw, E. Russell Smith, J.C. Sulzenko, Gabrielle Taylor (& another here), Richard Taylor, Adam Thomlison, Peter Timusk, Ian Whistle.

some Ottawa writers that don't seem to have personal websites (books, & organization pages):

Sylvia Adams, John Barton, Erin Bidlake, Mary Borsky, Geoffrey Brown, Ronnie R. Brown, Marianne Bluger, Stephen Brockwell, Terry Ann Carter, jwcurry, Michelle Desbarats, Anita Dolman, Rita Donovan, Sharon Abron Drache, Jesse Ferguson, Mark Frutkin, Paul Glennon, Gabriella Goliger, Gwendolyn Guth, Robin Hannah, William Hawkins, Elizabeth Hay, Robert Hogg, Frances Itani, Chris Jennings, Clare Latremouille, John Lavery, Anne Le Dressay, Norman Levine (& here), Melanie Little, Gerald Lynch, Roy MacSkimming, Seymour Mayne, Una McDonnell, Nadine McInnis, Susan McMaster, John Newlove, David O'Meara, Craig Poile, Monty Reid, Sandra Ridley, Shane Rhodes, Caroline Shepard, Elizabeth Smart, Wes Smiderle, Susanna M. Smith, Nicola Vulpe.

I was thinking it would be a good idea to compile a list of Ottawa writers, since for some reason, media and the City of Ottawa seem to have little interest in what we’ve been doing here. When I sent out an email notice suggesting that, however cool the Alberta Scene (celebrating Alberta’s 100th anniversary) & Saskatchewan (another 100th) events around Ottawa are, where was the celebration for our 150th? It was the whole reason I spent eight months working on ottawater (a second issue will appear in January), so it could be part of a larger celebration (that in my mind, never happened). The response to the email was this, which I don’t think amounts to a whole lot (but at least something). What gives? Why is Ottawa so resistant to acknowledging what happens here?

Other Ottawa links:

ottawater, an annual Ottawa poetry pdf journal; ottawa poetry newsletter, Bywords, poetry & events calendar; Shadowy Technicians: New Ottawa Poets; National Capital Letters, Ottawa literary articles (etc), the old Harbinger Poetry Series (formerly Carleton University Press; had a bunch of Ottawa titles), list of poets from Capital Slam; Quintet, a collection of short fiction and poetry, poetry collective Kamanic Press, Ottawa Independent Writers.

& I'm not pretending this is complete, so don't send me any angry emails if you're not on the list. I mean, really.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ongoing notes: September 2005

More music I can’t get out of my head. Has anyone else heard of this Rilo Kiley? I just spent part of a day in August in a tattoo parlour with my lovely daughter, watching her get her nose pierced. Does that mean I’m an old guy? In Toronto, WORD: the literary calendar – the monthly listing of readings and other literary happenings, as well as reviews, and articles (originally published by Insomniac Press but now under the wing of The Mercury Press) – has gone completely on-line, foregoing its printed version. Apparently columnist Stuart Ross has already decided he doesn’t want part, which is too bad. I hope that other irregulars such as Nathaniel G. Moore and the collaborative Stephen Cain/Jay MillAr continue to write for the on-line version. So far, Toronto gadfly and bowling fanatic Moore is scheduled to read on October 14th at mother tongue books (7:30pm) with Jay MillAr and Kristy McKay as part of an ottawa small press book fair teaser; to tempt you to arrive the next morning at the fair (noon to five pm, Jack Purcell Community Centre) with all of your money.

Ottawa’s own Arc poetry magazine has taken on a second run (finally!) of Transpoetry, the Ottawa version of poems on buses that happened back in 1999; they just put out a submission call. Brave kudos to Arc for re-starting what (seemingly) everyone else has had for years, including Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and British Columbia. Apparently both Sharon Harris and Stephen Cain now have blogs, and there are a number of new small concrete poems online by Calgary’s derek beaulieu. There are new pieces on the ottawa poetry newsletter by Colin Morton and Max Middle, as well as my piece on Judith Fitzgerald’s poem “ottawa.” And here are some new poems of mine. When did this get to be all about me?

KEEP IN MIND: I’m still running my ongoing editing service. $25 to go through 10 pages or so of poetry. Email me to find out about that: az421 (at) freenet (dot) carleton (dot) ca. I’m also about to start a new set of my seasonal poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore. $200 for eight weeks. Another session will be starting in January; space, as always, is limited.

Calgary, Alberta: Producing an increasing number of important works is Meredith and Peter Quartermain’s Nomados, publishing works by such writers as George Bowering, Sharon Thesen, Kathleen Fraser, Susan Holbrook, and Quartermain herself. One of her more recent publications is Calgary writer Nicole Markotic’s Widows & Orphans (2004). Part of the Calgary renaissance of the past decade or more, Nicole Markotic has been producing work (quietly) for years, from her poetry collections Minotaurs & Other Alphabets (Wolsak & Wynn, 1998) and Connect the Dots (Wolsak & Wynn, 1994) to her novel steeped in silences, Yellow Pages: A Catalogue of Intentions (Red Deer College Press, 1995). The last time I saw her in Calgary in spring 2004, she claimed she was working on a number of projects, including poetry and fiction, but said she wasn’t in any hurry. Sometimes I wish she was in a hurry. Hers is a poetry I feel I am always learning from. Her unusual leaps and musical breaks.

“This country is universal.”

lengthwise the basic question is a vernacular zero. originally
my background was what I’d moved away from. mostly the
long answers come right before question period. DNA
explorations take a body farther north. how do feminist
utopias subvert anyone else? every dot on the map

please sin

notice the family as stand-in for television. note the identity
metaphors for green ketchup

plus four times four the cross lands in the airport while we
grapple with slotted spoons and line endings. subtly leaving
out her scalp rub. but I was going to explain about feminist
utopias ... stories change

ensure the “make way for plot” plot. the road plan plan

new words harbour words. show shows

Markotic seems keen on the quote, using titles from other places, and exploring the margins, doing so more obviously using a printer’s term for her title, writing the bits that otherwise would fall off the page. Bouncing off each title into her own abstract directions, Markotic writes a hard music, bouncing notes off notes into near cacophonic phrasings.

say it: this time the cross won’t shape shift into costume
jewellery. your blood leaks from the inside out; try burning
sugar when it’s already in the candy. you must know how to
fake laughter to make the slap convincing. go easy on the
tattoes, she’s flaming tonight. they wanted so much more
than a winnebago in the grand canyon. no, only giant pandas
and a rusty rollercoaster

rhyme the lilt of your tongue pronouncing the labial L

like catholicism isn’t nasty enough for you

Providence, Rhode Island: Not just the state of The Family Guy, Rhode Island is also home to one of the finest writers in the United States, the poet C.D. Wright. After multiple poetry collections over the years including a selected, Steal Away: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2002) that was up for the Griffin Prize, and the more recent collaborative One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana with long-time friend and collaborator Deborah Luster, Wright has collected her thoughts from years of essays and other fragments to produce Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).

It is important to keep moving

It is all too fair to assume most of us are poets or we wouldn’t
be reading this, not when we could be watching the Redskins
or be down in the den, cleaning the guns, or communicating
something tangibly effective that we could either sell or other-wise have the opportunity to make available to crowds such as
porn stars and evangelists routinely reach.

“I think poetry must / I think it must / Stay open all night /
in beautiful cellars,” Merton insisted. And so do I. And why
doesn’t it? And where and when and how does our awareness
of its shrunken territory – that of the specialized cult – abjure
further separation and negation and seek to reverse direction?

What is troublesome about poets sequestered at the university
is that unless we go to trade school or are exempt as trust-fund
cases, in the sight of potential employers we might as well
bear the mark of the beast. As a result, the university is virtu-
ally the only place for us. In the nation at large being a poet is
suspect at best. “Read? I don’t read. Readin’s for queers,” said
one respondent to a recent poll on literacy. What a country.

Because this is constructed almost as a single piece, in train of thought fragments, you can dip into and out of sections at random, reading her thoughts on creative writing classes, American poetry, friends and influences, op-ed pieces, George Oppen, and her own long stretch of American south. What I like about her wonderful, thinking prose is the poetry of it; and her poetry, the beautiful, graceful prose. I’ve heard said you can tell when prose is written by a poet, and this is prose written by one of the finest poets, and recent recipient of an award named after late poet Robert Creeley.

The links between poetic strategies, tactical maneuvers
including gamesmanship, and social stratification clank
through time, across channels and oceans to be sure. The
poetry of the white shirt does not gladly speak to the poetry
of the blue. The audience, the constituency, or if you will, the
allegiance of the cultural elite belongs to the cultural elite.
One would show little thought to expect otherwise.

Nevertheless poets have periodically formed belligerent sub-
classes, and entered into the ranks of honourees in extremely
limited numbers, usually as sole, acceptable representatives
for the entire subclass. Even these ruptures cast the phantas-
mata of quality and value into temporary disarray. If the
numbers continue to push at the limits of the established
order, further subdivisions might arise at a near invisible
remove from the original hierarchy. Only those whose mimicry
of the elite is outstanding – though ostensibly oppositional –
succeed in gaining a competing footing.

Calgary, Alberta: Calgary’s No Press has anonymously (for me, at least) been making lovely little limited edition chapbooks for a few months now, running editions of twenty-six copies of chapbooks by various Calgary and other alumni, including Jason Christie, derek beaulieu, ryan fitzpatrick, nathalie stephens and this new one, blert, by Jordan Scott. On the heels of his first trade collection, Silt (New Star Books, 2005), is blert (No Press, 2005); calling itself “The Poetics of Stutter,” is a montage referencing sleep, a staggering staccato text; a collection of indiscrete pieces barely disguised as a single text. As he writes in the poem “chomp sets,” “if you must have an idea, have a short term idea”

Jaw flex slate, tip crabs, techno as a Turret tide spaz. A Labyrinth, a
game. Calcites glut. Cheliped sounds lattice. A single storey of an L
shape with one leg ending in a large glass conservatory. Antennas prod
the purple porphyry, licking the brickwork in a scuttling fever. Teem
Telsun’s glide in tides fabric burr. Parade pediment with each cartilage
dip, the aorta massage, a small podium, the mauve cushion saddling
testes. Pillars to the down slope facade.

Scapulas rippled
struts basin

To add confusion to the process, ryan fitzpatrick’s MODL Press has also published a chapbook (less anonymously) of Jordan Scott’s titled blert (MODL Press, 2005). How obvious is it that clarity is not his intended goal?

breed smelt
gulf’s bulimic kelp
smuggles air sacs
gape to quench thigh
dermis stain
denture watermark
fog. rose.
chorus clast:

drench got pulse

drug sun
each carbon

And which comes first? Which is the definitive noise? Far more broken down than the storied geographies at play in his Silt, I am wondering if there will be other chapbooks produced with the same title. I am interested to see how this all fits together as a larger project, if it ever does. I am interested to see how this all works out.

Ottawa, Ontario: Until poet Sarah Ruffolo took over the reigns of yawp, the literary journal of the Undergraduate English Students’ Association of the University of Ottawa, the magazine wasn’t even on the map. Thanks to Ruffolo, the free little chapbook journal is worth picking up, and hopefully will continue on that way now that she’s moved on to Toronto, leaving the Editor in Chief position open. The last issue she worked on, published in summer 2005 has poems by Gwendolyn Guth, Wanda O’Connor, Stephen Brockwell, Ronnie R. Brown, Nicholas Lea and a host of others. With Arc in so many ways being the only game in town (in print, anyway; see also: ottawater), it’s good to see that there are some other local options for writing to be published, apart from the hidden away journals you have to know about. Gwendolyn Guth, for example, has been writing increasingly interesting work the past few months, now that she has re-emerged somewhat as an active writer, with poems here and in the first issue of ottawater, years after her first chapbook of more conservative work appeared with Ottawa U’s Friday Circle series. And poet Stephen Brockwell, as he claims, is writing less and less these days, so any new poems of his are going to be worth something, as his piece “The Last Eloquence of Uncle John,” the third of his three pieces, continuing the train of rural thought that marks so much of his previous work:

The Last Eloquence of Uncle John

An orifice is a kind affliction
all relief and infection leave and enter. It is a door
revolving until our final breath or defecation-
but of that enough, for let me speak
of the baby for whom all are pleasure:
its, its mother’s, its father’s.
The poor dog has had a few explored.
Of the pleasure older children take
Aunt Rose would have me embarrassed to speak,
but of an old man’s keen nostril
and of the exuberance of my digression
I can speak until my lungs forget to breathe.

Copies of the journal can be found by wandering into the English Department at the University of Ottawa; the journal is published four times a year, and submissions can be sent (up to eight poems or two short stories, 2,500 words max) to yawp@uottawa.ca

Vancouver, British Columbia: How perfect is it to get my copies of The Vancouver Rain Review of Books in the mail while its raining? The envelope streaked wet, and the return address black ink slides all across my desk. Published four times a year, Rain Review is an eight page tabloid publication edited/published by writer/editor Michael Barnholden to publish reviews of recent larger and smaller press books. Barnholden is not only the author of his own collections of poetry and work-history (his Reading the Riot Act is due soon from Anvil Press), but was responsible (with Tom Snyders and Victor Coleman) of the 1996 Conference on Small and Micro Presses in Sechelt, B.C.; involved with the Kootenay School of Writing for years, he was also co-editor (with Andrew Klobucar) of Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (New Star Books, 1999). This new issue of his Rain Review includes, for example, a full page review of Wayde Compton’s Performance Bond (Arsenal Pulp Press), and shorter reviews of Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter’s The Rebel Self: Why the Culture Can’t be Jammed (HarperCollins), John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (Penguin Press), Stuart Ross’ Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer (Anvil), Meredith Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking (NeWest Press), Lance Blomgren’s Corner Pieces (Conundrum) and even two reviews (side by side) of Frank Davey’s Back to the War (Talonbooks), among others. If you want to get a sense of what one corner of Vancouver is interested in, this is the place; in smart and even lengthy reviews of books that often don’t get the attention they deserve.

Available free at libraries and independent bookstores across Vancouver, you can also get a subscription; check out RainReview.com for information/listings, or email Barnholden at editor@rainreview.com

Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan: Lately I’ve been reading a pile of poems and essays by Saskatchewan poet Andrew Suknaski, while editing both a new selected poems (due out fall 2006 with Black Moss Press) and a collection of essays on his works (forthcoming from Guernica). What I have been impressed with is the level of information and consideration in his own essays, which I’ve been trying to collect (if you know of any, please let me know). The first visual and concrete poet in the prairies, Suknaski was also a publisher, making chapbooks and magazines on gestetner while wandering around the prairies from his home in Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan, to various points east and west, interacting with poets such as John Newlove, Judith Copithorne, Eli Mandel, Robert Kroetsch, Barry McKinnon, Marty Gervais, bill bissett, bp Nichol, Al Purdy and plenty of others. He was included in the four poet collection of visual pieces Four Parts Sand (Oberon Press, 1970) with Earle Birney, bissett and Copithorne. Purdy went on to include Suknaski in the first volume of his anthology of new poets, Storm Warning (Macmillan, 1971), and both edited and wrote the introduction for his first trade collection, Wood Mountain Poems (Macmillan, 1976; Regina’s Hagios Press is publishing a 30th anniversary edition of the collection next spring). Suknaski kept publishing collections of poetry well into the 1980s, but now doesn’t write at all, and he lives in a group home in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Through his work, Suknaski helped establish that thing now called “prairie poetry,” and that prairie vernacular. Unfortunately, so much that came after him simply falls flat, something that editor Stephen Scobie talks about at the beginning of the previous volume of selected and new poems, The Land They Gave Away (NeWest Press, 1982). Listen to this, the first part of the first poem from his infamous Wood Mountain Poems:

Homestead, 1914 (Sec. 32, TP4, RG2, W3RD, Sask.)

I returning

for the third spring in a row now
i return to visit father in his yorkton shack
the first time i returned to see him
he was a bit spooked
seeing me after eleven years –
a bindertwine held up his pants then
that year he was still a fairly tough little beggar
and we shouted to the storm fighting
to see who would carry my flightbag across the cn tracks
me crying: for chrissake father
lemme carry the damn thing the
train’s already too close!


now in his 83rd year father fails
is merely 110 pounds now and cries while
telling me of a growing pain after the fall
from a cn freightcar
in the yard where he works unofficially as a cleanup man
tells of how the boss that day
slipped a crisp 20 into his pocket and said:
you vill be okay meester shoonatzki
dont tell anyvon about dis
commeh bek in coopleh veek time . . .

father says his left testicle has shriveled
to the size of a shelled walnut
says there’s simply no fucking way
he’ll see another doctor – says:
the last von trried to shine a penlight up myne ass
sohn
no von everr look up myne asshole
an neverr vill
neverr!


while we walk through the spring blizzard to the depot
i note how he is bent even more now
and i think: . . . they will have to break is back
to lay im flat when he dies


in the depot
father guards my bag while i buy two white owl cigars
and return to give him one
and then embrace saying goodbye
and i watch him walk away from me
finally disappearing in the snowflake eddy near a pine
on the street corner
and then remember how he stood beneath a single lightbulb
hanging from a frayed cord in his shack
remember how he said
myne life now moveh to end vit speed of
letrica


coda: Hey! If you think you have something I should look at for potential review, or just want to trade chapbooks, send things to me c/o 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario Canada K1R 6R7. Who doesn’t love getting mail?
Suzanne Buffam, Past Imperfect
2005, Anansi, $16.95 / $13.95 US
70 pages, isbn 0-88784-726-9

Enough
to have lived

without touching one
inch. Let the sting

of my wishing
you with me

be swift. (p. 46, Inklings)

Many of us have been waiting for the appearance of a first collection of poetry from Suzanne Buffam [Buffam reads at this years ottawa international writers festival] for years, whether since her appearance in the first Breathing Fire anthology (Harbour, 1996), or after she won the 1998 CBC Literary Award for poetry. A number of those from Breathing Fire have since had multiple collections, including Ken Babstock, Stephanie Bolster and Carmine Starnino, and Buffam was one of the last holdouts (although we are still waiting for a first trade collection from original Breathing Fire contributors Michael Londry, recently returned to Edmonton from schooling in the UK, and Thea Bowering, who has been studying at the University of Alberta).

Happiness Is Not The Only Happiness

My hair has grown well past my shoulders,
a feat I achieved by not cutting it.

Also this year I have learned something new
about daylight. It keeps us awake.

Likewise the moonlight, the searchlight,
the low blue glow on the dashboard

that carries each through her own private dark.
Rue is a sun-loving plant.

Tornadoes want us to chase them.
When summer finally arrives it arrives

in a rainstorm. Wind enters the spruce
and comes out wearing sparrows.

Some say water tastes best
from a bucket, some say a cupped palm. (p. 17)

Buffam writes graceful, intuitive poems, writing, as Don McKay once wrote, a poem that “a bird can land on without suspicion” (badly paraphrased), in rare pieces that can be trusted to make various leaps and meanderings. Bringing in a range of reference, the poems are propelled by their sharp, soft clarity, holding between pessimism and optimism even as she writes about forgotten knights, darkness and gardens, and all that has been left behind.

One hand tests the waters.
The other hand traces a name across the waves. (p. 20, Two Hands)

The closest comparison I can make is with Toronto Island poet Lise Downe, from her own third collection, Disturbances of Progress (Coach House Books, 2002), that writes:

Part Character, Part Study

If, in infancy
one finds oneself
considering the facts of marble, rushes
and flukes
one might unwittingly stumble upon
the making of tools to make the tools
that flip, turn and slide

whistling into the Renaissance
of late afternoon, for instance
and whirling there to step out to see
where one has arrived
if one has arrived

breathless, in fact
before the crayon enlargement
waiting for what rises from the tapered river
and enters the sky-blue sky.
All, in short
without flinching. (p. 46)

There seems so much resonance, even in straigtforward pieces, such as "Best-Case Scenario," that reads:

Best-Case Scenario

At second glance the leaves are bright green
and the dog is asleep. The omelette slides

from the pan intact. No one we know
serves us tea. It is sweet. It tastes faintly

exotic but also sad, like the jasmine blossoms
wilting in our hair. High, high above,

clouds grind light into dust-motes.
Because we have not died yet of hope,

nor its opposite, we remain here among
these creaturely feelings, indentured

to the small brown birds that will not
light on our hair. So be it. Our shadows

on the grass may be luckier, although
their fate is such that they won’t know it. (p. 16)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jay MillAr, False Maps for Other Creatures
2005, Nightwood Editions / blewointmentpress, $16.95 / $13.95 US
96 pages, isbn 0-88971-203-4

Easily the most interesting of his three trade collections, Toronto poet Jay MillAr’s False Map for Other Creatures is also the first in the rejuvenated blewointmentpress series published by Nightwood Editions. Giving kudos to its own history, editor/publisher Silas White has re-started the blewointmentpress series to focus on more experimental works, publishing one per season alongside the regular Nightwood Edition titles. blewointmentpress, started in the 1960s, was poet/publisher bill bissett’s own publishing house after he left Very Stone House (run with Patrick Lane and Seymour Mayne), publishing experimental works such as his own, David UU, bpNichol, Judith Copithorne and other works that didn’t have too many publishing options otherwise. Publishing books, chapbooks and anthologies, he ran it until the 1980s; bissett sold the press, which was quickly renamed Nightwood Editions, and the press fell into the hands of Howard White (who owns/runs Harbour Publishing)(a version of the history of the press is also at the back of MillAr’s collection). Since Howard gave the reins to his son Silas a few years ago, Nightwood Editions has come back from a near-non-existence, focusing on the works of newer writers such as Laisha Rosnau, A.J. Levin, Joe Denham, Adam Getty, Ray Hsu and multiple others. A series I might not always agree with, he always manages to somehow make good looking books that are seen and talked about, a rare thing in itself in Canadian small publishing.

In MillAr’s newest collection [Jay MillAr reads at mother tongue books on October 14th, and is participating in the ottawa small press book fair the following day], following reams of self-published works under Boondoggle Books and BookThug, and his trade collections The Ghosts of Jay MillAr (Coach House Books, 2000) and Mycological Studies (Coach House Books, 2002), he has pulled back from the large canvas and focused more on the smaller one. A Southwestern Ontario boy, some of MillAr’s newest collection is influenced not only by oblique references to The Black Donnellys and the late London, Ontario painter Greg Curnoe, but his own work in environmental studies, as he writes in his “some notes and thanks” at the end of the collection, “Dr. Douglas Morris of the Biology department at Lakehead University also unknowingly provided a great deal of influence on this book by hiring me to collect data for a long-term population study on white-footed mice in South Western Ontario, which I have done since 1992.”

I used to think
it cut through
to interrupt

the dying, and
dying was some
thing to interrupt

everything
balanced
by sky and

earth forced
so close and
easily far apart

muffled to cut
small lives
within ourselves

creatures who
remember the
mechanics of the hive

who witness
young shoots cut
the older growth

and make
their way
inside (p. 30, Green)

Further in his “notes,” MillAr writes, “I also need to thank Hazel, Reid and Cole for being so supportive of my ongoing quest for ‘useless’ poetry, which can sometimes be to the point of preoccupation, but they know I really was present during the camping trips documented herein – I want to thank them for bringing the spirit of those trips back to our life in the city.” I’m interested in the idea of writing poetry more ‘useless’ than other poetry, or if he considers that, for the sake of family, poetry is as ‘useless’ as the rest of us have been told for years. Or is this a matter of finding a poem that can achieve less than a poem usually does? Is this another example of focusing on something so small and insignificant that it becomes so much larger?

CANOE

once water
rounds weather

a wind
in sects

the
butterfly

sun or
beam

turn slow (p. 56)