Wednesday, December 26, 2007

ongoing notes: some magazines;

Since I haven’t managed to find a good magazine store in Edmonton yet (and I refuse to go into Chapters), I've had to wait until Ottawa to get whatever magazines I think I've been missing (oh world! if only you would mail me more…)

Winnipeg MB: Rereading the issue of The New Quarterly a few days ago that Charlene Diehl (then still Charlene Diehl-Jones) edited on Robert Kroetsch (Volume XVIII, No. 1, spring 1998; I actually picked it up while looking for pieces on the late Ottawa poet Diana Brebner) got me thinking of her again, wondering what she's been up to lately, and what she's been up to lately in her writing. How wonderful it was to see, not 24 hours later, her interview and new writing in Contemporary Verse 2 (Volume 30, No. 2, fall 2007).
to wake with perfect awareness of muscle, houses all in a row, questions sprinkled amongst the chairs. look back, little arrow, then step out, cross in full curiosity. the horizon is a nest around the blue egg of the sky, rings around the sun mark the beginnings of rest, the generous entry. everything is balance: yes is the only answer. wonder will refuse to unveil itself. up and down, it will say, side to side, lift one cross-hatched corner if you like. the trap door is somewhere, everyone will finally escape. the treasure is the map. sometimes all you can know is breath. (from "subliming")
The director of the Winnipeg International Writers Festival the past few years, she has published a poetry collections and two chapbooks, as well as excerpts of a memoir. When do we get to see more work from Charlene Diehl, who, in the 1990s, was on the verge of doing just about everything?
Yes, most people who know my writing have encountered chunks of my manuscript, Out of Grief, Singing. When I first climbed back into language, I leaned into poetry. Memoir offered itself several years later—I suspect by then I was ready to visit the narrative dimensions of that loss and all the intersecting lives and meanings that shape my understanding of it. Prose is less bewildering to most people, that's a factor too. But I keep exploring this experience poetically—I think the genre itself gives me access to this story in deeper and more instructive ways. As a matter of fact, my most recent suite of poems is "lessons in dying: snow poems," written at a dozen year's distance. The specifics haven’t changed, but my understanding and engagement of them have.

These big events continue to inform a present, and once you're no longer shattered by loss, they can actually function as a powerful ground. Maybe grief is one of those psychic impediments that generates creativity? It's certainly been a powerful resource for me, and as the years pass, I'm less afraid of being broken open again and more curious to find how I might be hearing the shifting resonances. Writing shows me where I am.
An intriguing interview with someone I'd like to hear much more from, one of the lines that stayed with me was when she said "…from where I sit a lot of what would pass as poetry is barely engaged with the real work this genre is capable of performing." I couldn’t agree more.

The interview also has an interview with Toronto poet Steve McOrmond, whom I'm quite fond of, as well as some magnificent poems by Calgary writer Emily Carr. I'm taken very much by what Carr, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Calgary, is doing with these pieces; I like her line breaks, hesitations and dislocations.

c.d. wright, jeff derksen, lyn heijinian & nicole brossard

for those want

apple cheeks. enters
the living room

from the sleep side.

a practical person
arranges for her own

disappearance on several levels.

blue lifts; pink
deepens; clouds rise.

he, suddenly, impossibly,

(it can be measured.)

just enough wind
to keep the flag flapping.

tactless, to insist
on being

a there.

instinct knows
where the international

boundaries are.

(which is like fruitskin
around fruit.)

a mad sum, absence.

And how much more can I keep saying about Sandra Ridley [see my note on her here]? I know she has her first chapbook coming out with Leaf Press next year; her first book, whenever it appears, is going to be kick-ass.

tumbler-snapper: able (two)

The Rio Motel in Socorro sells trinite souvenirs:
clip-on earrings with matching double-loop necklace.
Their check-in girl models her favourite set,
tempts the guests.

She will work there only six weeks.


A Santa Fe bank offers an incentive to any new customer,
a small sealed package with the label:

Do not hold close to the body for more than a day.


From Alamo's Alka Café, a new waitress writes the commission:

If the bombs aren’t harmful, why can't you detonate them any time,
not just when the wind is blowing the right direction?


A false dawn rises in L.A.


Lincoln Continentals jam the lot at the Sundown Drive-In,
then tear out along Highway 24. A rush of rag tops closing.
The forecast called for a backdrop of Perseids, a clear screen,
not mud rain from a black cloud, a bruise against the night sky.
A Gary Cooper western plays on. A projectionist watches,
smokes in the doorway, worries if he should change the reels.


Herding cattle across another blast area,
atomic cowboys assess what makes a nuclear landscape—
the rate of survival. A sidewinder snakes in circles.
A kit fox runs toward them, without fear.

Sure, with enough beer rationed, men piss out radiation.
And a quick scrub does them good.

Faith in the words, there is no danger,
soldiers keep recruiting.

I was also very taken with Ev Nittel's poem, that received an honourable mention in the 2007 2-Day Poem Contest, probably the most in an issue of Contemporary Verse 2 I've enjoyed in quite some time. But still, there's something in the McOrmond interview (which I enjoyed otherwise) that really grabbed at me, something I couldn’t let go of, when he said "The heart doesn’t speak in prose." Man, you're simply reading the wrong prose

Vancouver BC: The most interesting part of the new issue of The Capilano Review (3.3) had to be the "Four Anagrammatic Translations from Nicole Brossard" [I'm even reading a Brossard novel right now, finally a copy of Mauve Desert] by Calgary's Bronwyn Haslam, writing:
These poems are anagrammatic translations. As such, each English poem uses the same letters, and the same numbers of letters, as the French original by Nicole Brossard.

Although French and English share the same 26-letter alphabet, each language uses it distinctively. In fact, it is possible to determine the language in which a text was written by looking only at its "letteral profile"—the frequency of usage of each letter.

Translating Brossard's poetry anagrammatically creates an English text with a French letteral profile, yielding a more "French" English and a translation that has irrevocably absorbed something of the language of the original text.
Retelling lineage

pleats and repeats patience replete
in each patience our undeleted physique
conceives its cosmetic edges
its cadent lure a muscled beat
eloquence traverses our fists
moving our set letters to
split open seeds

open arteries of life stories careen, slam
and course our lives beside
endurance of mad faults of failure
become relation's rigour
all hunger is an adamant love
a valid imagination

Another lively selection has to be Montreal writer Angela Carr's "Nine Poems from The Rose Concordance." As she writes, "The Rose Concordance translates and organizes lines in the keyword index to the 13th century poem Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. The lines are fractures of epic sentences. Translating, I rub the concordance, I flaunt the concordance, I dodge the concordance, I spurn the concordance, I regard the concordance."

of the precious

to have a precious lover
a precious kindness
what i could not promise
of these hundred precious books
take what's mine and precious
now subterfuge and blue
doubts sweep a bare and
precious backdrop
don’t wait for me to choose
preciously between
meaning and coincidence

preciously the covers
and the stones of blue ink
are transformed presently the
shhhhhh of soft
and contrary kisses/

and sighs of worse preciousness
of these hundred precious books
do they suspect wrongly?
in whose night and day were types of grain argued
most passionately?
in luxury's garden
asleep as though
my precious eyes
i cannot see her

Also good to see new poems by Peter Culley (he has a new book out in the spring, a second volume to his Hammertown), and Jon Paul Fiorentino (poems from a manuscript called Mentholism), who told me he was giving up poems a few years ago; is this another Kroetschian technique, saying he's stopping just when he's about to start?

The Wire

Then the tree if not time
at least Art Blakey—
hard bop with a touch
of the parade ground,
in a good way—
the orderly handling by
many bird species
crowded up amongst
the short-term food
emergency—giving way
on the good branches,
keeping beefs short etc.—
then everybody gets their
designated seconds of
bark digging umolested
maybe some eavestrough
spider web, but stepping up
clean and bright
in bandstand order with
a solo worked up ahead of time
so that routine becomes display
and spring can start to operate. (Peter Culley)

Waterloo ON: I haven’t looked at The New Quarterly in some time, but get the feeling that this most recent issue (104, subtitled "Canadian Writers & Writing") is the first in a new format. Calling itself "The Real Estate Issue: a gathering of poems, stories, and essays on how place defines us and our experience of what's real," it has the most amazing photos inside (and on the cover of) the issue by Toronto-based photographer Toni Hafkenscheid (more of the same series can be found at

I find it interesting how so much of this Canadian literature is obsessed with space, with geography, with place; every few years, someone new asks Frye's dictum, Where is Here? Or, every few years, someone else new telling us how the whole question is out of date, bears updating, etcetera. What fixes our thinking so much in spatial terms? Even by those attempting to avoid it manage to write it in as an absence, writing a line around the hole in their argument; is it only those such as Christian Bök and derek beaulieu who manage to escape the argument at all, writing finally a post-place, post-geography, by moving into further concerns altogether?

Either way, the issue itself is pretty compelling, especially the non-fiction pieces by Elisabeth Harvor, Amanda Jernigan, Richard Cumyn, Andrew Tibbetts and Elizabeth Hay, among others. Cumyn's piece, borrowing from Norman Levine, is "Ottawa Made Me," writing an odd little memoir of growing up in the capital that ends on the line, "Ottawa can still surprise us in felicitous ways." What really intrigued were the selections of poems by Alison Pick and Matthew Holmes. Pick's are "House Hunting," a series of poems that appear to come out of searching (I know, it seems pretty obvious) for a house.

92 Freshwater Road

You cannot keep your eyes off
the owner, ring through her nose, braid
down her back a length of rope

you could climb. Save me. Let down
your hair
. Your words are chewing up
in the garbage disposal she's using

to woo you. You need a friend.
She calls you honey—
it tempts you to sign. Kitchen

features a built-in dish-washer,
stove she is willing to leave.
She needs to move now—

she wants to be gone.
You, of course, take this personally.
Back at home the flashing red light

is just a wrong number, a hang-up.
You're porous, lachrymose, social-life
starved—but hip

to the law of supply and demand.
You want to buy. She wants to sell.
Both of you human, no less.

From house-hunting to home-owning, Holmes writes not of the searching, but through the house (a "fixer-upper") he and his wife purchased in Sackville a couple of years back. I've always been a fan of the poems of Matthew Holmes [see my review of his first collection here], so it's no surprise that his poems would have jumped out at me. A magnificent series of small fractures and fragments, I think some of these "Housepoems" would make a fine little chapbook (from above/ground press, perhaps?).


I close you
with panes
from this open air, its wind
not sated by dry leaves. It wants you.

The putty a stubborn child
with the notion, new, of "no."
I hold a knife up, edge it under your lids
and with my blunt attention
you grow a wrinkle, a hairline of difference
that catches light
(I catch my breath)
and cracks, too tight,
across your gaze.

How clear you make yourself, how open,
no quarter closed, no quarter given
in such close quarters as glass and mullion,
sach and seal, joint and shim, sill

and still,

how clear.

Montreal QC: I'm still going through the new issue of Matrix (78, The Narrative "I"), but I've already read the featured interview with Lisa Robertson by Angela Carr about half a dozen times. Less a question and answer than a series of fragments, Carr writes, "The following pieces are transcripts from a soundfile (nightwalk), an interview with Lisa Robertson across the sidewalks of the plateau on November 18, 2006. My tiny recorder was fastened to Lisa's left lapel. Later, transcribing the interview, impressed by how the interviewer's voice had become immersed in the ambient sounds of traffic and conversations of unknown passers-by on the streets, I rendered it as punctuation."
LR: Susan Clark, Christine Stewart and I, published it in this one issue zine we did called Giantess that was on legal size paper, pale green printed on hot pink. It was illegible. It was the organ of the new abjectionists; they only had one organ. So it was printed there, then I got busy doing other things. After that I ended up writing the Soft Architecture manifesto. Again it was a one time thing for a gallery catalogue and then I went to Cambridge, and there, when I was researching The Weather, I was talking to my friend Matthew Stadler on the phone, and we both discovered in this conversation that we were both interested in architecture, and we hadn’t known that about each other before — obviously we weren’t really close friends then — so I said I'd send him this architecture text. He got really excited about it, so I thought okay maybe it's not so bad, maybe I should keep this office as a situation for developing texts on architecture. And then when I got back to Canada I started doing that and Front magazine, which is published by the Western Front — it's the oldest artist-run center in Vancouver — they have a monthly magazine — every two months now actually — they asked me to write a long piece in installments over several issues, so it seemed like a good opportunity to work on the architecture stuff, and I wrote four of those walks.

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The whole flaneur thing is pretty male-centered. It's represented as though it's male-centered. The female authors are not represented. But there are feminist critics like Janet Woolf who propose variants, critiques about gendering, and you know you can look at Djuna Barnes and Violette Leduc as flaneurs. As soon as you start looking closely a whole lineage of walking women arises around you.

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