Monday, May 19, 2008

ongoing notes: late May, 2008

By the time I do another one of these, I’ll be back in that Ottawa, arriving May 31st; will we see you at the ottawa small press book fair on June 21st? I’m doing a reading as part of a big chapbook launch in Edmonton before I leave, hosted by Trisia Eddy & her Red Nettle Press (come see me off! it will be your last Edmonton opportunity to see me…) on Thursday, May 29th, just a week before I do my first post-Edmonton Ottawa reading at Dusty Owl. Try to come to one, or even both!

Toronto ON: I saw Toronto writer, editor, publisher and creative writing teacher Stuart Ross while he was in Edmonton recently, touring around for his new poetry collection Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books, 2008) as well as a collaborative cd of his poems turned into songs, both of which he’ll be selling copies of when he arrives in Ottawa for the small press book fair. One of the most active pamphleteers in the country for poetry, here’s his small poem “FRENCH FRIES,” from the most recent handout:
You are lying in the back seat
of the blue 1964 Valiant station wagon.
You are so small you fit between the doors
stretched to your full length.
Your mother is in the front seat.
She thinks you are sleeping.
But your eyes are open and
you are are peering up, out
the side window, watching
the stars whip by. In cottage country,
there are so many stars.
You feel the car slow down
and come to a stop, and your father
whispers something to your mother.
You hear the door open and close.
In the front seat, your mother coughs.
Soon the car door opens again.
You smell French fries. It is time
to pretend to wake up.
Ottawa ON: Vancouver writer, publisher and filmmaker Warren D. Fulton has been staying the month of May in my little apartment, and producing some of the finest looking chapbooks of Pooka Press’ near 15 year existence.

What? I got belligerent, petulant—
A low yield month makes a poet mouthy.

Think a peeled pretendasourus, I mean
it was raw. What I wallowed in, I got
drunk on. On a halo made of weight,
see the nick where the Higgs boson goes?

I find these moments insetting. I found
a moment in settling. I couldn’t suspend it.

An orbit altering self-serious boor
unable to amass enough sauce for an
addendum. But I’ll nose the desired tuneup
from the subjective nihilistic mechanics (Marcus McCann)

some assembly required (2008) was produced in an edition of fifty copies for a reading he did at the Dusty Owl Reading Series on April 6, 2008, and includes work by and photographs of Steven Zytveld, Warren Fulton, Jennifer Mulligan, jwcurry, Max Middle, Sean Moreland, Marcus McCann, John W. MacDonald, Alnoor All Dina, Pearl Pirie, Amanda Earl and a couple of others. It’s good to see new work out of Jennifer Mulligan again, knowing that she really hasn’t written or published many poems over the past year, but for inclusion in such things as The Peter F. Yacht Club.

rembrandt paints greta garbo

chemically, we’re already quite sympathetic.” – Greta Garbo

on canvas
one hundred selves
a writer
one thousand word portraits

silver screens
another hustle
in two dimensions

the world as x and y
geobeautiful co-ordinates
linear representation

definitive edges
could only be

stereo vision
cancer invaded mind (Jennifer Mulligan)

As well, after her chapbook The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman (2008) was published, Amanda Earl realized she had written the alphabetical work without (somehow) the letter “h” (ironically, an image of an “h” is on the cover), so she’s been writing a series of “h” poems to make up for such, one of which even appears in this little collection.

I already know he’s planning to make a few more of these little publications while staying in my apartment, where he’ll be until the first week of June. To find out more about Pooka Press or this little publication, email Warren Fulton at

New England: From New England poet Fanny Howe, author of over twenty books of poetry and prose, comes the poetry collection The Lyrics (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007). For a while now, the idea of “lyric” or “lyrics” almost comes out as a tainted word, an antiquated idea in the realm of poetry (see Jon Paul Fiorentino’s forays into the “post-lyric,” for example).

Where, if I go far enough, will I find a sacred place? (“Forty Days”)

Part of this, certainly, comes from sheer overuse, as well as the fact that most poets who work within the realm have so little comprehension of it, and tend to simply re-cover the same old ground (this is true in so many poetic forms). Far too few actually know where the form has already been, how far you can go with it, and actually manage to push it beyond that boundary. For Fanny Howe, she is certainly one of those few who know how to work it, continually twisting and turning her lyric fragment into magnificent new stretches.


What is shorter than a step?
An indrawn breath.
Not remembered when done
Not when not done either.

It’s the animal soul.
The Great Spirit who lolls
As time and broods.

During cemetery strolls
Breath comes and goes
Unnoticed. Melancholy is
Disavowed, no time for tone.

Plum buds have bloomed
On lilac Sunday in early May.
City property is sanctified
By pedestrian traffic.

What is heavier than lead?
Cries that can’t be heard.
Brother Granite. (“Forty Days”)

In a poetry fused with song, Howe works in her usual sequencial fragments, extending her line throughout the entirety of her writing, writing as far ahead as she does behind, as though creating, as bpNichol called it, the “poem as long as a life.” The Lyrics is made out of six sequences, including the final, six-part “Sheet Music,” which is absolutely lovely.

Kelowna BC: I recently got a copy of the first issue of LAKE: a journal of arts and environment, edited by Nancy Holmes and Sharon Thesen [see her 12 or 20 questions here], and a list of “advisory board” that includes a number of familiar names, including John Lent, Laurie Ricou and Don McKay, as well as Jen Budney, who used to work at Ottawa’s own Gallery 101 many moons ago (back when I ran a reading series there, since moved to OAG). A charmingly produced trade magazine, it includes poetry, interviews and articles, including a piece on Ken Belford (a self-professed “eco-poet”) by Barry McKinnon, essays by Donna Kane and McKay (another “eco-poet,” one could easily argue), and a piece “Writing Lake Superior” by Jenny Penberthy, written as an essay on a poem by Lorine Niedecker, “Lake Superior,” which is also included, and opens:

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock
Produced through the Creative and Critical Studies Department at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, this is something that should be supported, so it can be allowed to continue.

Toronto ON: I recently got a copy of the new issue of EXISTERE: journal of arts and literature, produced through Vanier College, York University. Student journals always have the potential to be extremely interesting, but through the high turnover of student editors, don’t usually have any sort of uniformity that lasts more than a year or two (a few years ago, there was a spectacular run that included an interview with Toronto poet Stephen Cain), and this journal is a pretty good example of that, leaping and jumping into other territories. This issue, Vol. 27 No. 1, has some pretty interesting things in it, including an interview with Michael Redhill, fiction by Priscila Uppal and other fiction, artwork and poetry by a whole slew of folk, including David Groulx, Delia Byrnes, Christine Mika, John Unrau, Jim Johnstone, Binnie Brennan and Adrienne Gruber.



on the long stairs
jubilant diners fall
night shower

Repulse Bay

splashing ocean
the snores
of deities

Temple Street

mahjong afar –
the hawkers’ chorus
turns dissonant (Arthur Leung)

One of the pieces that really struck was Michael Spring’s non-fiction piece “From Belfast to Glory,” writing his own personal history listening to the songs of Warren Zevon and Zevon’s last song, “My Ride’s Here,” co-written with Irish poet Paul Muldoon.

One thing disturbing in the Redhill interview was the reference to him meeting “Barry Nichols” while he was a student at York University. Excuse me? It might entirely be another human being in the world being referenced, but I think I can safely presume that Redhill was talking about “Barrie Nichol,” otherwise known as bpNichol, who taught at York University for years in the creative writing department until he died in 1988. Shouldn’t someone who is a student at York University at least have been aware of Nichol’s name at all? Yipes.

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