Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Capilano Review 2:44 & west coast line 46

The Capilano Review 2:44: One of the standards of progressive writing in Canada, The Capilano Review has been publishing since the 1970s, and surrounded by editors and contributors such as founding editor Pierre Coupey, Sharon Thesen, Brian Fawcett, Barry McKinnon, Daphne Marlatt, George Bowering, and others; the most recent masthead also shows Thesen, who returned a while ago after a period of years. What I've really been finding interesting about recent issues of The Capilano Review is the fact that they've been including fascinating and meaty interviews by local Vancouver writers of Capilano College writers-in-residence, starting with an interview with August Kleinzahler (conducted by Mark Cochrane) in issue 2:42 (I missed the issue in-between), and most recently with Peter Quartermain (conducted by Andrew Klobucar) in the new issue. One of the founders/publishers of Vancouver's Nomados with his wife, poet/editor Meredith Quartermain, the only part of the interview with Peter Quartermain that disappointed was the lack of further biographical or bibliographical information on him, to get further context of what the interview was coming out of. It would have been good to have a list of his publications, for example, whether as editor or author. The interview talks about poetry in general, including Quartermain's interest in the works of Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, and the British poet Basil Bunting, who he was able to host for a while in Vancouver. As Quartermain says in the interview:

Well, when I look back on it, I realize that in some sense my whole career has been exploring a lot of those patterns which had to do with indigenous American poetics versus a postcolonial American poetics ― whatever you want to call it. But just then, I started teaching Williams and I looked at that and I thought, well, it's no good saying that I'm gonna write about "X" because there's nine million books on "X". And I certainly couldn't work on Hawthorne. I'd done my thesis on Hawthorne, but there's no way I could write [a book] about Hawthorne ― there's just so much stuff, you know, I'd spend months and months getting the scholarship together. But nobody had written about Williams, so I said to the department, "I'm going to write about Williams." There was one book by Vivienne Koch then, but that was all. So I figured, if you're first on the scene, you can be wrong as hell and it doesn't matter. The point is, you're a pioneer; you'll still get tenure and all that.

Actually, I think it was kind of like an epiphany for me because you've got to live inside your own head. You can't live inside other people's heads, but I didn't know that. The whole pressure, of course, was to live in other people's heads, do what you think they wanted.

I mean we're talking about Duncan, talking about Olson, talking about Creeley, Whitehead, etc., etc. What if they're wrong? There is a world out there and we can know it. What I found objectionable about the whole intellectual atmosphere was that it was perpetually concerned about the truth value of everything. They had the truth about poetry. You'd read Yeats. You'd read Eliot. But then there's no Truth in there; I mean you can't tell what Eliot or Yeats is "actually" about ― you can't possibly "know" that a poem really is. It was very slow learning for me that truth value was not a part of the educational process in that sense ― in that notion of objective "rightness" and Truth. The belief that you could sort of step outside of discourse, you know, and decide that the truth is good and then go back into it happily and sort of carry on from there invites a deep insanity. (pp 6-7)

Other parts of the issue included poetry by Calgary's ryan fitzpatrick, Toronto writer Stuart Ross' hilarious "Dear Heidi Fleiss" piece, and selections from Clint Burnham's Smoke Show.

west coast line 46: Last week I spent a few days going through older issues of west coast line, including number sixteen (29/1) from 1995 (when it was still run by founding editor Roy Miki), produced in part as a tribute to (then) recently lost friends and family of the journal, including Vancouver teacher/critic/instigator Warren Tallman, Toronto poet bpNichol and Vancouver poet/painter/musician/teacher Roy Kiyooka, including pieces both on them and by them (if anyone wants more Kiyooka, keep in mind that NeWest recently re-released a new edition of Transcanada Letters as well as a volume of new correspondence, the long-awaited Pacific Rim Letters). I think it's the strength of any journal or magazine that the older issues still hold their ground; how many folk, I wonder, flip through old issues of The Fiddlehead? It was only a few days ago (after a particular cheque came in) that I was able to pick up the most recent issue of west coast line (another standard of progressive writing; now under the editorship of Glen Lowry and Jerry Zaslove). With more criticism than the journal usually has (I'm finding it harder and harder to find critical work and/or interviews in any Canadian journal these days, so this is quite a relief; why keep making more work unless we talk about what we've already done?), the issue includes poems by Natalie Simpson, Mani Rao, Shane Rhodes, a well as critical essays by Donato Mancini (on Jeff Derksen), Caroline Wong, Kim Duff, Michael Boughn and Jeff Derksen.

The "Brick Poems" by Mark Laliberte (where the hell else have I seen them recently?) have to be some of the most interesting visual poems I've seen in a long time, and well worth the price of the journal alone (if the critical pieces don't appeal to you, I mean). The pieces included a note on the idea, writing: The Brick Poems are hybrid "texts" that appropriate the hand-made illustrative markings of different illustrators and cartoonists, as they draw bricks (usually in the background of city scenes). For each piece in this series, the illustrator's drawn source material is scanned and digitally constructed brick-by-brick into walls by the poet; the individual style of each illustrator's approach to an object such as a brick is metaphorically connected to the poet's unique approach to the written word. Each piece, therefore, is conceived of as a visual poem. (p 58).

And if you haven't had a chance to read the poems of Natalie Simpson (check her out in Shift + Switch or Post-Prairie), spend some time with her poems (ten small fragments over ten pages) in this issue, from "Chump":

What a drag means, combed over a rug cut in the
wool dyed blonde and ambivalent, a whale of a good
time beached early and caught a burn. The sun starts
an argument under your skin cells perk and glisten,
steam-pops crack a fist farce, an empty threat. Now get
tramping, cover ground faster than the last man down,
each arm fits a socket, each odd part weighs. (p25).

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