Thursday, December 20, 2007

some recent poetry collections;

I've been packed in with busy lately, so not as much reviewing as I would have liked, would like. Deadlines fall like dominoes, months after they should, or should have. At least I still exist…

Calgary AB: Recently, Calgary poet ryan fitzpatrick has been touring the country with his first trade collection FAKE MATH (Montreal QC: Snare Books, 2007) in the “Snaring the NeWest” tour, alongside fellow Calgarians (also with first books) Natalie Zina Walschots and William Neil Scott [see my note on their Edmonton appearance here]. I like his examination of the straightforward phrase, and the way he engages with the social-political, exploring the contradictions and nuances of pop culture. Why is it so difficult for CanLit audiences (etcetera) to acknowledge writing that includes pop culture and/or humour without being dismissive, the way such as David McGimpsey, and, to a lesser degree, Jon Paul Fiorentino and Nathaniel G. Moore have been (seemingly) nearly, summarily, dismissed out-of-hand by critics?


Dear Bigg Snoop Dogg, let’s reconsider
your archaic views of feminism. That’s so gay
is typical teen jargon in some schools.

Maybe while Bayside High lived in
the Pacific Paliisades took up with that
little tart that is so gay is stupid and weird.

When her high school classmates say,
“That’s so illegit!” Raven Symone answers
“That’s so f-ing GAY! Or is it?”

Most professional trucking schools have
classes on pimp-slapping hoes. Although
teachers patrol the halls looking for gay activity.

Find out about that gay Disney girls tune
singing homophobia rocks. Surely Snoop,
women would rather be bikinied than respected.

Ottawa ON: Some of us have been waiting for Ottawa-area writer Michael Blouin to publish his first poetry collection for some time, but now we finally have his I’m not going to lie to you (Toronto ON: Pedlar Press, 2007).

between men and women

there should be no time for remorse
no confusion
about who was wrong
it’s everybody’s fault

I was drunk somewhere
and she was waiting
silent, lovely

she shouted, hollered, cooed, cried, screamed
she screamed again
I went out and I brought back flowers, polished stones
more confessions.

Blouin’s poems read as even deceptively simple, and seem to work best when the interplay is happening a bit deeper than what can be seen on the surface, working through poems that interact with the domestic (something else played by other male poets such as Robert Creeley, Barry McKinnon and Richard Harrison). Still, the plainspeak of some of these poems work very nicely, and for some, don’t work out at all.

I drive this truck

look, there’s been a lot of poems
written about cars that won’t start
in the winter

I could show you
a hat full of them
but it wouldn’t matter

you turn the key
and you get a cold metal click
like a bone

maybe a voice on the radio
saying how damn cold it is

look, let me make it simple
without a lot of language
the car won’t start and
this morning she left a cold cup of coffee
sitting on the counter and that’s about it
I could work around hiding the thing for you
but it’s right there.
Draw your own conclusions.

He does have some magnificent turns of phrase there and here, and he recently found out that he has a novel coming out next year with Coach House Books; I look forward to seeing what he does with it.

Calgary AB: How many poems can be written about a canoe? Apparently quite a lot, if Diane Guichon's first poetry collection, Birch Split Bark (Nightwood Editions, 2007) is any indication. Another Calgary author part of that massive book launch recently in cow-town, Guichon plays with the metaphor and myth of that Canadian icon of the canoe in four sections, labelled "John," "Isabelle," "Bobby" and "Lily." Just how many poems can be written about canoes?

John's Myth -- Orkneys West

Albans from France punctuate island migration
Stretch walrus skins over framework of Arctic birch branches
Hot pitch seal tar evaporated mammal oil to waterproof weatherproof
Fifty-foot curragh canoes
The smell rank of blubber diced and heated
Gristle-strained gum smoothed over gut-sewn seams
Carry valuta men through oceans of grey water white
Ice to rock beaches where tusked-tooth rich blubber tourists
Lounge in polynyas mating with others of their kind
Gannets, whales, dolphins, porpoises
Endless skeins of ducks
Ring grey harbour seals
Humpback, fine, sei
Halibut and cod
From Brittany to Orkney to Faroe to Iceland to Greenland to
Baffin Island to Labrador to New Found Land
I track sea animals and erect stone cairn markers to
Map the way
On the kill and trade
Ivory for a metallic age
To avoid Viking hordes at sea in knorrs and oar paddles gone berserking
Canoes overturned on rock walls to eke out December winds and ice-
Locked harbour doors
Tusker colonies erased from maps
Legends of Albans-in-the-West
Whisper for DNA test
To prove there: here and here
Writes home.

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