Sunday, July 13, 2008

Arc Poetry Magazine at Thirty

Anniversaries always exist as two-fold, in looking back as well as looking ahead, and the thirtieth anniversary of Ottawa's only poetry-only trade literary journal, Arc Poetry Magazine, is no different, with its sixtieth issue just hitting newsstands. How one celebrates a birthday (or indeed, any occasion) says a lot about who you are, and the contributors list to this publication is no different, with contributions from Stephanie Bolster, Asa Boxer, Emily Carr, George Elliott Clarke, Steven Heighton, Shawna Lemay, Alison Pick, Craig Poile, Tadzio Richards, Peter Richardson, Robyn Sarah, Carmine Starnino, Matthew Tierney, Zachariah Wells and a whole bunch of others.

On Turning Thirty

Snug elastic, the afternoon chafes.
Those hours between three and six

when the radio plays nothing but
smooth jazz and you're stuck inside

a fire tower, peeing in a jar. What you came here to do
won't get done, but it's too early to give up trying.

Even in the bush, you still procrastinate,
Shuffle plans to tomorrow's 40 km horizon.

At least you're making money,
have fresh greens for supper.

In German there's a word for men
who iron their underwear,

but you've forgotten it. Pencils ground
into points, notebooks hauled a hundred feet up

by rope and bucket, all your preparations,
only to stare out the cupola window willing

road dust into smoke, waiting
for the boreal's blank page to ignite. (Bren Simmers)

For the issue, the editors suggested that submissions be pieces referencing turning thirty, and various pieces in the issue write about such, as well as essays by Gary Geddes, Sonnet L'Abbé and Adam Sol, with the second pair writing on what they consider their thirty essential poetry titles. As editor Anita Lahey writes in her introduction, "Three Decades of Poetic Obsession,"
With Arc's 30th birthday looming we decided it would be a good idea to poll today's poets on the state of being 30. What do they remember or anticipate of the age? What do they make of this threshold? We set the parameters wide. The essence of 30 is a dubious quantity to grasp.
One troubling element is the fact that the current crew heading Arc seem to have removed the annual feature of group reviewing books by Ottawa writers, with Triny Finlay's "Back to the Modern: Three Ottawa Poets" review in Arc #57, reviewing new books by Laura Farina, Andrew Steinmetz and Tony Cosier, being the last time the feature was present. But still, with titles by John Newlove, Ian Roy, Michael Blouin and Shane Rhodes reviewed in this anniversary issue, is this just a matter of nit-picking? Considering that Arc holds the position of potentially publishing the only print review of certain titles between Montreal and Toronto, it's enough to make anyone interested in Ottawa writing at least a little nervous. Or does age also mean a shifting of interests, concerns?


The ships are little fires on the river, candles
you can't blow out. Breath
only has so much power, after
all, like luck. Mostly our lives
flow along like skeins of water in the river,
side by side much of the way, mixing a bit
close to the islands. Year after year
comes and goes, and we just get older,
notching the doorposts with our little hatchets.
Come then, husband, stranger.
The city is decked out in pink frosting,
the port is on fire. We are waiting for you
to make your wish. (Susan Gillis)

related notes: my note on the previous issue; the issue before that;

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