Saturday, December 19, 2009


avant gardes hold up

banks for performance art

any poseur will do whatever

they’re just people in

topography’s grapple with how

weird will it be to be finished

treading on thin water

yeah – that ice melted

six poems ago used up

these lonely results of art

with the sun’s cocaine

like falling world sounds

a herd of field mice

eats shoots and leaves

a dream resistance imagines

Given just how productive his BookThug has been over the past few years, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Toronto editor/publisher Jay MillAr is still a poet in his own right, recently releasing his fifth solo trade poetry collection, ESP: Accumulation Sonnets (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2009), after his the small blue (2007), False Maps for Other Creatures (2005), Mycological Studies (2002) and The Ghosts of Jay MillAr (2000), as well as the collaborative “novel” with Stephen Cain, Double Helix (2006). A collection that could just as well been called “15 x 13 x 4,” his accumulated sonnets (appearing previously in two smaller BookThug editions, including a chapbook section also called “ESP: Accumulation Sonnets” in 2004 [see my review of it here]) of fifteen lines, thirteen poems each in four sections (subtitled “notes”), do exactly what they claim, working the extended/long poem through a series of small accumulations, each edging closer to what the poem as a whole eventually becomes. Is this MillAr understanding and absorbing Jack Spicer’s talk of “the serial poem” in ways that so many other self-proclaimed Spicer-ites have managed to miss?

Along with a quote from the late Vancouver poet Gerry Gilbert, the collection begins with an odd quote from “work poet” Tom Wayman, that reads:

People whose daily work leaves them without time, energy or self confidence for longer forms find contemporary poetry a handy vehicle to express what they feel is important about their lives.

I’m not entirely sure what MillAr is looking to accomplish with such a quote; is Wayman suggesting that those such as, for example, Pound and Eliot weren’t able to work proper “longer forms,” and thus, instead, wrote poems? Do you think they, or anyone else, would consider their poems, essentially built of and through (in part) their own contemporary, were constructed out of a lack of proper attention? Or is this simply MillAr working the suggestion of an ongoing poem one of individually constructed parts, working poems in between everything else, that make up an ongoing pattern, through his own combinations of attentions and inattentions?

how do you feel loading

your horse into the sunset

colloquy ominous reverie

quietly wait for the cliché

the sky begins to fall instead

a soft cold song of wind

in the history of the theory

of snow of different words

for monolith of human brick

i must distract my self

have you a knitting needle

for my eye perchance?

the sound of a child asleep

unintended wish for stillness

no word for it but words

Either way, there is a particular kind of silence and stillness that MillAr has achieved, through both his attentions and his inattentions. Through a poetics of calm emergence, and, even, accumulation itself, MillAr moves through a poetry that isn’t showy or extravagant, but meditational, and there’s a particular quiet and essential space he has been slowly carving for himself over the past few years, despite, and perhaps even allowed through, the reader’s own distracted eye. Books emerge as they do, chapbooks emerge as they do, and through the development of his careful, handpicked gaze and light touch. Starting with his trade collection False Maps for Other Creatures (Gibson’s Landing BC: Nightwood/blewointment, 2005), and continuing with the chapbook Sporadic Growth: being a third season of 26 fungal threads (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2006), arguably two of his strongest works so far, MillAr has been moving into an area of important, if not even essential, poetry. Why not see what else there is?

wait for springs boot lute

the weather late but accurate

some are angry some are anger

‘what ever happened to my gameboy’

ponder the absence of Pompeii

occurrence of regular charms

or the invention of history

digging out ‘the house’

on a cold and mildly abstract

version of the canadian landscape

the wonder of fingerprints

call out their songs

lame projects leave marks there

a virgin of solitude

etched ice heats

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