Saturday, May 16, 2009

another old poem embedded in thoughts of sex and discovery

l. is for ______

texts or pastures further hope
of one through step

a life of lonely, net
we safety caught

distangled lines
& awkward

what could we regard; you sweetly,

pouring out what left
of our hearts

set into; twin suns

the fire escape; a city
we went nowhere

between intermissions
, intolerable


the rain that marked
the length of jasper ave

blue in your tights

Over the past few years, my poetry has become less interested in the large sweeping gesture, working out rhythms and flow of the piece as a whole, focusing instead on the minutae of what is possible with the individual, accumulated line. Even as some older writing only recently in print in book form is focused more on quick rhythms, line breaks, collage and where sound can go through a sequence constructed out of a series of extended single breaths, those same sweeps have given way to shorter bursts that stack up against themselves. Perhaps this shift in consideration came out of my interest in the Canadian ghazal, from American ex-pat John Thompson, starting to influence my writing around the end of the previous century. I finally wrote a collection of same myself, a year or two into the new millennium, appearing in Ireland as a compact of words (Salmon Poetry, 2009). It may have been completed some six years earlier, when I simply presumed the push for the ghazal form was put to bed, but apparently the form somehow still quickens, out from under my collection of ball-points.

Much of what my poetry has been interested in has been caught up in “the logic of the fragment,” a phrase borrowed from the Ottawa poet and critic Gwendolyn Guth, as the poems work their way into seeing just what is possible with what can be placed side by side into a writing that makes sense somehow because of that disconnect, that sequence of fragments.

Still, exploring individual lines has become more important, through reading the works of American poets such as Lisa Jarnot, Fanny Howe, Juliana Spahr and Sarah Manguso. Whether long, shorter or in fragment, just what can a series or sequence of words hold on a single straight line? In 2008, I wrote a one hundred and forty page poetry manuscript for the beginning of a relationship that came together as “Poems for Lainna,” much of which works this disconnect, and works what the lines can individually do, titling a number of the pieces inside “another (short) history of l.” This small piece, part of a further manuscript working up to our time together in Toronto, extends some of those considerations, and includes a number of poems that work the long, and not the short. But still. One word after another word, and where, in the end, it can’t help but go. Where will it take us?

a much earlier version of this piece appeared originally on the globe & mail book blog;

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