Monday, September 18, 2006

writing geographies: The Capilano Review 2:47 (fall 2006)

Linear tankers lie
on the harbour's
horizon. The speed
of globalization. "Community-based
crystal meth focus groups."
Jog by. "China
Shipping Lines." Nature
in the city. More or less.
Crows crack mussels
on the concrete, at sunset rest
on corporate
postmodern architecture.
Low-level boredom at
capital's exhaustion
of options. (Jeff Derksen, "A City Called Capital")

After various discussions on geography in various places, including my interview with Vancouver poet Meredith Quartermain, or my piece on writing The Ottawa City Project, it's interesting to see The Capilano Review engage geographies as well in their new issue subtitled "Six Cities," guest-edited by Roger Farr. Working with regional editors for six sections, the included sections are Vancouver (ed. Roger Farr), New York (eds. Laura Elrick & Rodrigo Toscano), Calgary (ed. Ian Samuels), Minneapolis/St. Paul (ed. Mark Nowak), Toronto (ed. Margaret Christakos) & San Francisco (eds. Rob Halpern & Jocelyn Saidenberg). Geography, in any sense of writing/interpretation is always a tricky game. As Farr writes in his introduction:
The city locates one of the most disturbing paradoxes of our time: at the very moment when human civilization has taken a decisively urban turn, many of civilization's oldest urban centres are being destroyed and "reconstructed," while longstanding rural and urban populations are being uprooted, all in accordance with the accelerated logic of "progress" that spawned the growth of the city in the first place. In short, "the city" is a sign for a global urbanization characterized by rapid investment and divestment, construction and demolition, decomposition and recomposition.
The city selections by themselves are interesting, as Farr talks of his "regret [in] not having included Honolulu, Montreal, and New Orleans." (What, no Ottawa?) Does this, then, leave space for further explorations in a subsequent issue? Why not, also, Prince George, British Columbia (Rob Budde &/or Barry McKinnon would be the most obvious choices for editors there…)? Why not a section, perhaps, of expats, Canadian writers who have left & now consider Canada as a variation of a whole, instead of what we see from the inside, our smaller corners & segments? (For a variation on what a Winnipeg section, etcetera, might have looked like, check out the Post-Prairie anthology edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino & Robert Kroetsch; obviously variants on anything Ottawa related could be extrapolated from the annual ottawater journal; watch for the third issue to appear in January…). As it stands, the editors (who were asked to include their own work as well) included the work of Jeff Derksen, Marie Annharte Baker, Maxine Gadd [see my review of her new book here], Melissa Guzman & Roger Farr for Vancouver, Carol Mirakove, Tan Lin, Rodrigo Toscano & Laura Eldrick for New York, Jason Christie, Jill Hartman, Natalie Zina Walschots, Julia Williams & Ian Samuels for Calgary, Sun Yung Shin, Lisa Arrastía, Ed Bok Lee & Mark Nowak for Minneapolis/St.Paul, Louise Bak, Ken Babstock, RM Vaughan, M. Nourbese Philip, angela rawlings & Margaret Christakos for Toronto, & Amanda Davidson, Taylor Brady, David Larsen, Eleni Stecopoulos, Melissa R. Benham, Beverly Dahlen, Rob Halpern & Jocelyn Saidenberg, Wendy Kramer, Cedar Sigo, Brandon Brown, Alli Warren, Chet Wiener & Marcus Civin for San Francisco.

I'm sorry to make of poetry a mockery again
But this evening, as I exited Safeway, the historic process
Of separating the proletariat from the means of subsistence
Forced itself upon my eyes with such a violence
As to break the levees of false consciousness.
For it was there, among the Tylenol and the razor blades
Among a disturbing array of meat and dairy products
I spent $3.38 on mozzarella cheese, $1.04 on Macintosh
Apples, $2.29 on fresh basil, $1.10 on hot-house tomatoes
$1.95 on French-style Artisan bread, and $4.99 on a Green
Drink. Now I admit I'm no Campesino. But as the last
Long rays of a late September sun cast shadows over
The obsolete lawns of Point Grey, I understood precisely
Our need for autonomous land initiatives. (Roger Farr, "from SURPLUS")

I find it interesting & entirely appropriate that Calgary editor Ian Samuels included both Jill Hartman and Julia Williams, both of whom have been working their Calgary geography for some time now, including reworked pieces from their respective chapbooks My Alberta Beef, from a manuscript-in-progress, "St. Ampede & The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth" (Calgary AB: Semi-Precious Press, 2006) & MY CITY IS ANCIENT AND FAMOUS (Ottawa ON: above/ground press, 2004) (neither of which are credited, oddly).

My City Glows When We All Fall Silent

if you often interpret silence
you know noise vibrates
and the violent can't be soothed by empty rooms

this makes sense
we cloak the streetlights to confound moths
this makes sense
we wear masks to underscore our authority

loud voices remind me of engines
remind the masked they are visible
noise gathers in fabric, but bends in water
peels our eardrums
moves us closer to our doors (Julia Williams)

In so many ways, in the context of any literary work, geography is an idea well before it is the geography itself—how to represent or reference or remark any geography—& the authors included are very good examples of how writing writes a place. Think of John Newlove's "the life of the mind." A very attractive issue with a photo section in the middle, & new format, I'm hoping that The Capilano Review keeps to what the new designers have done to liven up an old standard; & guest editor Roger Farr has done a fine job in his geographies. Not there to answer any questions or give the reader any sense of finality, Farr's & the other editors' selections open up a dialogue, & bring the conversation into a place more open, and as much placeless as any given where.

mapping the martial character of movements up and down this street as
the charisma of a hardened torso muted by exposure to the light in v's film,
turning back the hands of the woman in the mural just behind but who the
shot unfreezes and brings forward, not as a reaching to possess but as a legato
merging the traffic that her body might be across the border region the mural
memorializes in and out of place, and that is certain in what she holds of
produce suspended between her hands, onto the same plane as the male body
soldiering, shouldering the wall (Taylor Brady, "from THE BLOCK PARTY")

related notes: a previous entry on The Capilano Review here

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