Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ongoing notes: mid-April, 2008

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Ottawa on an airplane, to catch the second half of the ottawa international writers festival (see what I’ve already missed here and here); how I hate missing them! A week ago, Jason Dewinetz was in town, and we hung out a bit, photo courtesy of my lovely friend Lainna. Oh, Edmonton, will any of you even notice that I’m gone…?

Don't forget the ottawa small press fair on June 21st; apparently this guy liked my Al Purdy blog entry; Brenda likes John Newlove; I have something in the new Pine Beetle Review;

Edmonton AB: Last week, the current Edmonton poet laureate E.D. Blodgett read at the season’s last Olive Reading Series (to return in September), and launched his little chapbook, The Language that Is Theirs (Edmonton AB: Extra Virgin Press, Season 8, issue 8, 2008). Can you believe it’s been eight years already? Even though Blodgett won the GG a few years back (thanks to a book published by Ottawa’s own John Buschek of BuschekBooks), his goals are not my goals, but there’s some of his early 1970s work that I was going through last year, courtesy of Monty Reid. Here’s a poem from the new chapbook:

Their eyes float through the smoke
rising from chimneys
high over Europe’s plains

not even deer in death
have eyes filled with such
blankness where it is

impossible to find
an end to nothing there
where emptiness

is all that’s given back
should they happen to gaze
toward us gazing at them

and in the slightest breeze
no one can discern
a difference between

the smoke and such eyes
that are not capable
to hold us in contempt

perhaps nirvana is
the only gift they have
leaving us with none

Vancouver BC: Toronto poet Rachel Zolf [see her 12 or 20 questions here] read in Ottawa the other night at the writersfestival (I was still in Alberta; see reports of her reading here and here) from her brand-new chapbook Shoot & Weep (2008), published by Peter and Meredith Quartermain’s Nomados. Working a brand of political poetry, realizing how politic being the use of language itself, Zolf manages something between the poetries of poets such as Donato Mancini [see his 12 or 20 questions here], Jeff Derksen, Margaret Christakos [see her 12 or 20 questions here] and Juliana Spahr [see her 12 or 20 questions here]. In a poetry holding a series of different points of view, how does a poem work itself through such a politic? And watching how Zolf composes herself and her lines, the question almost becomes, how does a poem manage not to work itself through these kinds of questions?

a priori

If the Sabbath is a form of constraint

If jihad is the first word we learn to spell

If Elie Wiesel is the Holocaust

If we must expropriate gently

If messianism licks at the edges of thought

If the truth does not lie in silence

If naf means self and brother

If the space between two words can be bridged

If moderate physical pressure is acceptable

If the primary target is the witness

If epistemological mastery is a wound that won’t close

If bittahon was trust in God now military security

If there is horror at the heart of divinity

If the body goes off near the Sbarro pizzeria

If you think the apocalyptic sting is gone from Hebrew

If the first stage is not knowing at all

If Dachau meets Disneyland

If this state is the golden calf

If ingathering means expulsion

If catastrophe becomes a passion

If we shoot and weep

If Israel is not in Israel

If the treasurehouse of well-worn terms is laden with explosives

Edmonton AB: The second chapbook out from Trisia Eddy’s red nettle press is Jenna Butler’s [see her 12 or 20 questions here] own Weather (Edmonton AB: red nettle press, 2008), produced in a lovely edition of one hundred copies. Butler is one of the more interesting young poets coming out of Edmonton over the past few years, through her use of sharp, short lines in longer sequences, and even (finally) has a first trade book coming out soon with NeWest Press. Here’s the first part of the new sequence, Weather:

Saskatoon. Chokecherry. Those
stained fingers. Incarnadine days.

Snow geese on a curl of slough,
massed water seething.

In spite of rain, space for two;
ornamental plum, its blowsy skirts.

A man’s garden. Syrian tobacco,
hibiscus straining against trellis.

What this is not. A game. Later:
anything but easy.

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