Thursday, January 26, 2006

ongoing notes: late late January 2006

Did you see the piece that Ron Silliman wrote on British Columbia poet George Stanley? Or that former Ottawa visual artist David Cation now has a blog of his own? Have you seen the new issue of ottawater yet (what do you mean you haven’t had a chance?)? And with today's article that Allan Wigney was nice enough to write about me + ottawater in The Ottawa Sun, I've now been writ about by them more than anything in the Ottawa X-Press. Or this new sound archive that PhillySound has done on late great Toronto poet bpNichol? Or that Fredericton poet / Broken Jaw Press publisher Joe Blades just had a second poetry collection come out translated into Serbian? (He's been spending a lot of time over there lately, and might even be editing a collection of Canadian poets for them…). Or that Ottawa resident (and Cornwall poet) Jesse Ferguson just had a chapbook published online by Friday Circle (the University of Ottawa chapbook publisher also threatens to publish a print version at some point…)? Or that my poetry collection with British publisher Stride is nearly out? Did you hear that the new Transpoetry is launching soon, Thursday February 9 at 1:30pm at Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West, main floor lobby. I for one am intrigued to see what they've done with this second run…

Calgary AB: Recently in the mail I got the two chapbooks that Jill Hartman describes in her blog entry, "My Alberta Beef, Ice Cream, & Haiku in the Winter," produced by her semi-precious press (which, she claims, is starting to make more items, which makes me very glad). Jill Hartman is a Calgary writer, and part of that whole filling Station / dANDelion mess of folk that have been producing work over the past few years, filling up blog space and sending book manuscripts to Coach House in Toronto. Hartman's own Coach House Books title, A Painted Elephant (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2004), is a long poem built almost like an opera of the streets of Calgary (and I highly recommend). The two little chapbooks in question are Hartman's "My Alberta Beef" (from a manuscript-in-progress, "St. Ampede & The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth") and Paul Kennett's "Ice Cream" (from a manuscript-in-progress, "One Great City"), produced in "a limited edition of 30 / printed on the occasion of Jill & Paul's / fourth Christmas together / (& their third with Hunter) / December 2005." Taking the names of saints from bpNichol's life-long poem The Martyrology, Hartman writes her own version through both city and province, writing "Saint Ampede's / undeniable Clydesdale plod / salt water taffy tears of a rodeo clown" (n.p.). Tying Wonder Woman to addressing "Cowboy Poetry" (her local riff, I can only presume, on Nichol's "Captain Poetry") to Saint Ampede, I like the way that Hartman continues to write her city of Calgary, something a number of her local contemporaries have also been doing over the past couple of years, whether ryan fitzpatrick's ogden, or Julia Williams' chapbook MY CITY IS ANCIENT AND FAMOUS (Ottawa ON: above/ground press, 2004) (see other versions of same in the new Post-Prairie: An Anthology of New Poetry, published by Talonbooks and edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Robert Kroetsch).

steal the show
& tell

our buffalo bill:


alienation has nothing on
the exquisite embarrassment teenagers invented

my own city my nation

I submit:
Calgary is a hell of a place to be 14

Montreal QC: After weeks of waiting, I finally got copies of two of the Delirium Press chapbooks out of Montreal, produced by Kate Hall and Heather Jessup. Over the past few years, they've produced a number of chapbooks, including a series of broadsheets by Stephen Brockwell, Carmine Starnino, Stephanie Bolster and others that were produced for readings. The two items in my mailbox were HourHour by Christian Hawkey (with drawings by Ryan Mrozowski), and the story Rise, Bright Moon by Fiona Foster (with drawings by David Spriggs). Elegant in their simplicity, each are produced in a signed edition of fifty copies. Considering how much I've heard about this little press, and how long I've been aware of them, existing quietly in their part of Montreal, I expected to like the writing they were publishing more than I did. At least I know they've got a Bolster chapbook forthcoming (as do I), so I suppose I'll just look forward to that. This can't be the best they have; I am still a big fan of the Stephen Brockwell broadside they published a few years ago (a copy sits right above my computer). At least I hope not.


My chest is a kind of top soil
it always slips off in the rain
it has drawers for every insect
I tuck my head into my sternum
a rapid beak nibbling is the
most efficient form of preening
there are glands in my cheeks
I know nothing of how they work
although I am drawn to rubbing them
against the tips of car antennae
fence posts the end of a big toe
often I bite the skin of my arm
and let go the indent is a circle
of books my skin a shelf
submerged in the air it marks
the border of an island
how happy for the land to have an eye
a string of islands is a beautiful sight
the ocean uses them to spy on us
this puddle just winked at me
Donald doesn't like me anymore
his chest is in my teeth
he reads me to sleep at night when
the wind floats the house out
from under my skin into the stars
eating so many holes
in the island the sky the weather
a sweater falling apart in my hands

-- Christian Hawkey, HourHour

West Hartford, Connecticut: poet and publisher Peter Ganick was nice enough to mail me an envelope of some of the chapbooks that appeared recently through his small chapbook project, including John M. Bennett's SHOULDER CREAM, Sheila E. Murphy's A Younger Presence in the House, Noah Eli Gordon's twenty ruptured paragraphs from a perfectly functional book, Camille Martin's call me i, and a chapbook of visuals, Michael Basinski's INVADOURS. About half of this list I'm only aware of through the SUNY-Buffalo Poetics email list, so it's interesting to start getting a sense of where some of these writers are existing, and what they are doing. What I've seen of Bennett's work is all over the place, trying pretty much everything that anyone can, including visual/concrete, language-centred work (I suppose, from where he is, language-centered work), and other text variations, with varying degrees of success, but there are some of the pieces in his SHOULDER CREAM that I quite like.


snored the regguhc bench bill snored the
pmuj touch cash snored the leep train
song snored the hsub jerk death snored
the dworc meal sucker snored the knurd
let stammer snored the emid truss
dripping snored the tsirw dump cleaner
snored the eci rug shining snored the
deggolc roof singer snored the sserd rib

On the other hand, I've been very aware of the work of Sheila E. Murphy over the past couple of years, through a massive trade of books we did a while back, including Falling in Love Falling in Love With You Syntax: Selected and New Poems (Elmwood CT: Potes & Poets Press, 1997) (and I have to admit, as much as I enjoyed the collection, I was still disappointed that the selected didn’t include an introduction; I think all selecteds should…), and her Canadian publication, produced by Nicholas Power, her Pure Mental Breath (Toronto ON: Gesture Press, 1994). Murphy's poems are in almost every American journal (and a few Canadian too) I get my hands on, and I recently found out that her ongoing collaboration with Edmonton poet Douglas Barbour, Continuations, is (finally) scheduled to appear this spring. For all of her publishing, I somehow get the impression (through lack of reviews, interviews and other critical material on her work) that Murphy doesn't get near the attention she deserves, for the amount of extremely interesting material she has published. I love her short lines and line breaks, for example, and her prose poems (something far more prevalent in American writing than Canadian) are some of the few I actively read. Published sans cover, heading straight into the poem from the get-go (which seemed a little odd, but whatever), here is a fraction of her poem/chapbook A Younger Presence in the House:

There are countless hexagrams
contained in
This small airspace

There's this
Afflictive curse of all I want to
Do is craft and say or lotion my way out
All this curfew

If you want copies of some of these chapbooks, email Ganick at to find out how. about copies. send $29 (US)for all 5, or $6 each; please add $2 postage per total order.
to: small chapbook project, 181 edgemont avenue, west hartford ct 06110-1005.

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