Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ottawa International Writers Festival, spring 09: poetry cabaret #2 (talonlaunch) + #3

The second event for four authors in the space of a week and two provinces, Tuesday night was the launch of New York poet Adeena Karasick’s sixth trade collection Amuse Bouche, Toronto poet bill bissett’s sublingual, and griddle talk: a yeer uv bill n carol dewing brunch (with Carol Malyon), Vancouver writer Gerry Thomas Morse’s short story collection Death in Vancouver and my own poetry collection, gifts, all published by Vancouver publisher Talonbooks. After appearing in Edmonton the week before with playwright Kevin Kerr, launching his Talonplay on photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Studies in Motion, as part of the Edmonton Poetry Festival [see the photos from such here], I think we’ve decided that the four of us play well together, and should perhaps perform as a trio or quartet a little more often, which is good, considering there are talks about the group of us in Calgary and Vancouver come the first or second week of June. We work well together, concerned more about sound and the language itself, according to bissett and Karasick during the question and answer period after, than many of our contemporaries. Did you know that Morse has a voice that can sing opera, and does in some parts of one of his short stories, read in both cities? Did you know that Karasick has a three minute parody of a song for Barack Obama, hers for Osama Bin Laden?

My favourite part of the evening was asking bill (I facilitated the on-stage interview/conversation after the readings) about the book he did with Malyon, quoting him inside where he says “i think th provinces hav 2 much powr / i like federalism / i know its problematic,” and where he took the conversation further. Too often, it seems, bissett isn’t taken as seriously as he should be, his performances often allowing audiences to overlook just how aware and smart he is, and making it more jarring when he does slip in something brilliant and insightful in conversations, much the way he did in our combined radio interview at the University of Alberta the week before. I’m fascinated by Karasick, who seems to be writing out a study of language and culture using the language of language poetry, writing out writing in a way that no one else is, and I wonder if this is why she doesn’t get the critical attention she otherwise would, had she been working in a more conservative form. Theory-driven and theory-spent, Karasick moves through where most of us could not even begin, merging heavy thinking with a serious, sing-song play.

You Are Advised

I am sorry but you have failed this relationship.
Your performance was unsatisfactory.
And I am hereby administratively withdrawing you.
This relationship may not be repeated.
There will be no credit granted.
No makeup exam will be permitted.

Though you attempted to present a main idea or thesis,
your development was lacking, repetitious,
and at many times contradictory.
You demonstrated flawed or incomplete understanding
of fundamental mechanics and failed to meet
even the minimal requirements of the assignment.

The organization of your arguments were weak,
riddled with inaccurate summaries, faulty paraphrase
and reckless misquotation.

Further, if I may say, your vocabulary is limited.
Your syntax is rudimentary and often tangled.
Your explanations were poorly handled
(in a technical sense),
with recurrent lapses in judgment, digression and blurring.
You continuously overstepped boundaries
and there was little subject agreement.

Though you did exhibit variety and strong inflection,
(I dare say, an effective use of subordination),
I am making an appropriate transition now.

I regret any inconvenience
this may cause you. (Adeena Karasick)

[Zoe Whittall, eating] Wednesday night saw the second of three poetry cabarets, featuring Toronto writer Zoe Whittall, Montreal poet Carolyn Marie Souaid and Ottawa poet David O’Meara. Launching both her second poetry collection with Exile and first novel with Cormorant Books, why does Whittall keep publishing books with publishers who refuse to send out review copies? At least her second will be out this fall with Anansi. It was interesting listening to her lines, working straighter narratives on more personal matters, poems about home and growing up. It was interesting how the festival, a night after the Talon event, worked a poetry cabaret with three poets who worked, comparatively, relatively straight lines. Souaid, who hasn’t read in Ottawa in some time, suggested that her book had actually been pushed to an earlier release date, thanks to her participating in the 12 or 20 questions series last year (watch for a second series of same to start June first). You mean people actually read those things? She was launching the collection Paper Oranges (Signature Editions, 2008), edited by Winnipeg poet and editor George Amabile. She talked about living beside a graveyard and unable to drink the tap water for three months, worried that the bodies might have infused the water supply, before being convinced otherwise.

The Graveyard Lives Inside You

You taste bone in each sip of water. News-
print, bits of the previous century, straw, musk.

Those who did or didn’t make a sound when they died,
who whimpered, who trumpeted, who hit the road jack,
who refused to go gently, day or night; those

whose eyes shot forth, whose pores cried
blood, phlegm, urea, whose guillotined heads
flew, whose sponge fed the mad cow, whose
heart kissed a bullet, whose lips turned black.

You know it as Infinite dusk. (Carolyn Marie Souaid)

Ottawa poet David O’Meara might have had his book appear last August, but considering he was travelling Europe for six months starting August 20, this was the first Ottawa launch of his third poetry collection Noble Gas, Penny Black (Brick, 2008) [see my review of such here]. How does one feel connected to a new poetry collection after such an absence? I’ve been hearing O’Meara read around Ottawa for years, back to a reading he did at the Manx Pub with his pal Ken Babstock circa 1994, and I think this might have been the best reading I’ve heard him give, hosted by poet Rob Winger, who talked about O’Meara’s writing as having “a firm grounding in the contemporary.” His reading had a kind of clarity and precision that the other two writers didn’t quite have; wise, to make him third. And the best poem had to be his opener, a new piece exploring voice like a speech, from the “poet laureate of the moon.” After the reading, O’Meara talked about how the editorial process involved him removing much of the rhyme-schemes of a number of the poems, simplifying them; is there a correlation here? And in the question and answer session, where he referred to poetry as “an outlet to explore the reaction to things.” After his six months away, I am intrigued to see what kind of writing he has returned with, just what kinds of pieces might slowly emerge.


It was Sunday. September. Our crew
was pushing it hard for second place.
Our ears roared as the stem-post filleted

the Venice lagoon.
Then another boat kicked into the turn
and we hit their high wash. Our sponson

just pecked the wake, but hooked,
dragged, snapped and we barrel-rolled
back over front, then tacked—

a split-second aloft—
straight down, like hitting brick
at 80 mph. My mind left;

there was a high-pitched whine
like a dog’s whistle, that piped on and on.
I flat-lined. Giuseppe, the medic,

got to me, wiped the blood clear,
and blew into the place where my teeth used to be.
I’d been injured before, bruised black

as an old banana, and twice broke my nose.
This was different. There’s no fear,
you just know you’re gone.

Someone was screaming, She’s dead, leave her,
and there were thumps on my chest
like a fist on a tomb.

The sky fluttered, wobbled. I started to breathe.
I was nowhere; calm, happy. My team
hovered above while I flowed underneath.

And that weird whistle, the dazzling brightness.
I drifted like TV static, prickly-warm, like Epsom salts
dissolving and sifting through Giuseppe’s hand.

There’s one moment I remember
in all that light and clatter: I’d been lifted
into a helicopter when something cold

went from my neck to my stomach.
It was paramedics bent over
my shattered body (for all I knew kneeling to pray),

and cutting through my race overalls with a cold
pair of scissors. I remember thinking,
But it’s a La Perla bra. It’s expensive,

they’re going to cut it off
. Then they lost me again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ottawa International Writers Festival, spring 09: poetry cabaret #1

Ah, festival. Is there anything we love more? Staged in its new location at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities in the Byward Market, the first poetry cabaret of the spring festival involved Ottawa poet and journalist Marcus McCann, Antigonish, Nova Scotia writer and editor Jeanette Lynes and Toronto poet and editor Molly Peacock, with a literary crowd out for same that included Ben Ladouceur, Nicholas Lea, Michael Blouin, Amanda Earl, Pearl Pirie, Sandra Ridley, Warren D. Fulton, Rhonda Douglas, Gwendolyn Guth and Steven Zytveld, among others. Our own Marcus McCann, editor of Capital Xtra, was launching his first trade poetry collection, Soft Where (Chaudiere Books, 2009). I’ve always been a fan of the acoustic gymnastics in McCann’s work, and not only because I’m the publisher of the collection. In his introduction, Stephen Brockwell compared McCann’s work to that of Hart Crane, which I thought interesting, a poet I don’t know the work of at all, as well as calling McCann one of the most promising young writers currently in the City of Ottawa.


Whoa. Notice the boy’s gun hunt, clumsy
uncle? Summer fuss, musky, made the sun-cooked

custard sweat. Flin Flon’s cousin ate the costs.
That buddy was a husky punk – buddy,

that badunkadunk tongue was a thrum-sucker.
Once we snuck under the junked Cutlass, chunky

Todd undressed some buttons, thumbed my undies’
broad band. What was the rush,

I thought we were going four wheeling?
Got gummy, the dust stuck to our clothes’

dark spots. Ruddy grew redder, Grunts
turned jumpy, eyed the auto body’s grimed

shunts and udders, his palm buzzed where
I couldn’t look. Everything torqued, we were

both the busted guzzler’s undercab and squinting.
We stunk like what we’d done, I guess. I felt

like we’d shot a skunk, got sprayed – that dumb – until
cunning we skulked out to the tracks and began again.

Jeanette Lynes had not one but two new books last night, a new novel that wasn’t mentioned, and a new poetry collection that was, published by Wolsak & Wynn, neither of which I managed to sneak peeks at. With a poetry collection out last year with Freehand Books on Dusty Springfield, and her new collection, ostensibly, as Lynes claimed, part of her “blue period,” it seems as though she’s on a roll. And underplayed, as Brockwell later claimed; keeping her subtlety close and overt movements closer. When might I see these books? Is Lynes, editor of The Antigonish Review, around for another few days? It was interesting, during the event previous to theirs, hosted by the Dusty Owl Reading Series, a ferocious wind and rainstorm tore open the back door of the cabaret, sweeping a force of wind, rain and dust through the kitchen, cabaret and up the stairs into the main body of the old Irish church. Dusty Owl, Dusty Springfield; what else could we have expected?

Molly Peacock, Toronto poet and editor, responsible for getting the new series Best Canadian Poetry in English off the ground, read from her new poetry collection, the second blush (McClelland & Stewart, 2009), a collection she described as a series of “mistakes,” before going on to compliment particular lines by the previous two authors (including McCann’s “that badunkadunk tongue”). There was something odd about the theatricality she utilized while reading her poems, something that the host later claimed brought an element into the writing, subverting and not undercutting the subtlety of the poems in her collection (she talked about previously doing a “one woman show,” and the theatricality of her reading suddenly made a bit more sense). Writing a more metaphor-driven narrative verse, I wasn’t entirely sure how to enter her poems; I still haven’t figured it out, but there were some pieces there and here that I quite liked. Is it worth getting to know further of her collections, apart from this only one?

Our Minor Art

We make love better unobserved—not that
we’d ever throw the new cats off the bed.
We let them sit there, turning their backs,
but listening anyway. We don’t move in bed
quite with the freedom we might without them,
but the fact that they stay is like being
visited by minor gods. And we love the minor.
It inspires us because we like being
close to its genius—something we might come
to understand beyond our human bounds
but near to our kind—not like the major,
a capitalized God, for instance, or
uppercase Art. Those are beyond us,
yet our transformation here in bed is art,
something best made unobserved, even by the cats,
who leap off as we forget them and ourselves.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Event: new & established writers, no. 37.3

I’ve kept every reciept—an act
of devotion: paper remembers
what we can’t. (Helen Guri, “Marriage: Late Days”)
Going through Myrna Kostash’s stack of books on her writing desk, I started reading the most recent issue of Vancouver’s Event magazine, subtitled “Creative Non-Fiction Contest Issue.” It’s been a few years since I’ve picked up an issue, and I’m glad I finally did, with a number of memorable pieces inside (there are some George Bowering poems inside I was rather fond of, but formatting prevents me from replicating such). Otherwise, I’m always amazed at what Montreal writer David McGimpsey [see my review of his last poetry collection here] accomplishes with his poems, mixing the sonnet with pop culture, and “low” culture at that, equally amazed that he doesn’t get more credit for such.

Britney Beaver Shots Lead Us to Victory in Iraq!

Destroyed is the dance floor with Britney,
destroyed are the girls in her limo,
and in their shoulder-walks past lux
paparazzi—b-chh, b-chh
like the summer of Oahu sunlight
as Queen Liliuokalani languished in jail
aloha e. I have drunk Brit’s cigarette blend,
have injected all stickety pois
and a voice told me ‘Governor General’s Award.’
Britney talked to me there of ‘Whatever’
and we were there together: Britney
loaded and pantyless and the poet struggling
(ka poe kahiko) with a burdensome secret,
which is the same death as Capt. Cook’s
in two feet of water.

I remember being previously intrigued with the poetry of the mysterious Helen Guri; at least the biographical information at the back of this journal gives me a bit more information than I knew previously, apparently she’s working on a collection of “linked poems about a man who falls in love with a doll,” and earned her MA at the University of Toronto, working with George Elliott Clarke. In her two poems here, “The Cactus” is a stronger poem as a whole, but there are lines in her “Marriage: Late Days” that manage to break me; I want to keep my eye on where this one is going. If you’re out there, Helen Guri, I think you and I should be discussing a potential chapbook, perhaps, for sometime over the next year?

For Ottawa poet Rob Winger, the ghazals he’s been publishing lately (including a couple in the fifth issue of ottawater) have been my favourite of his writing so far [see my review of his first book here], and some of the strongest pieces I’ve seen from anyone in a while.

Ghazal for Retuning John Thompson
The proper response to a poem is another poem.
-- Phyllis Webb

listen, John: of course they didn’t care about poems,
about your hunting knife.

the dykes hold, and birds. here you go: this breeze.
water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

last few Wood Point fence posts: brown knots, brown mud.
the tides could sure as hell care less about us.

Sackville burns, a Bridge Street smoke funnel.
your orange ghost in the sewer.

along High Marsh trails: rose of Sharon, rose, broken bridge.
in Slack’s Cove blueberry fields, a nineteenth-century cairn.

ropes on Hart Hall. corner floorboards. the shot clock, and Tobin.
love is the office you left, filled with theory.

radio towers and the weather continues, filling cuffs & conversations—
a train slipping its glass track.

time to split wood, dive deep, surface:
At the edge of the chopiing there are no secrets.

here’s to Polaris and goal posts, gravestones, narcissus.
here’s to a final line that’s Yeats, finished: the dawn.

(when the fire’s done,
who holds onto ashes?)

At a recent reading at the Plan 99 series at Ottawa’s Manx Pub, where he opened for Shani Mootoo, Winger read a number of his new ghazals, and nearly apologized for the non-linear, non-logical sense of the pieces, and the form as a whole. I think there is something in the form, and in his poems specifically, that somehow transcends what he has accomplished previously. In his ghazals (I know Winger is deeply influenced by John Thompson’s posthumous Stilt jack collection), he comes to something that the rest of his work hasn’t yet, something magnificent and impossible to describe. I hope he keeps going in this direction. I am very taken with it.

Saskatoon fiction writer J. Jill Robinson is a one I haven’t really spent any time with previously, so I was pleased to read such a compelling piece, “The Letter” being one of the winners of their “creative non-fiction contest,” judged by Vancouver writer Timothy Taylor. Robinson’s is a compelling piece about meeting her grown son for the first time, put up for adoption as a baby when she was still a teen. A number of writers over the years have written on various aspects of adoption, from the birth parent, adoptive parent, and child, including Janice Williamson, Lynn Coady, Susan M. Schultz and Alison Gresik, as well as a couple of anthologies that have appeared lately (I’ve even been working to put one together for Chaudiere Books). The stories that come out are good and bad, heartbreaking and heartwarming, running the emotional gamut that only familial relationships can provide. Fortunately, Robinson’s is one of the fortunate stories. The piece begins with a letter, sent from Robinson to her son as first contact, not knowing what might happen, and moves through a distance of months, to the openings of something new, ending with:
It’s a paradox. David and I have this most intimate of physical bonds, but we do not know each other. We share the briefest of histories, aside from the long, enduring histories of Gordy’s and my families. Our lives have no connective tissue made of the dailiness of life, only that which we are creating now. I often feel lame, at a loss. When we talk the desire stilts our words. At night in bed I am frustrated with myself: I want to know how to be, want to know what my role here is so that I can follow it, but there are no guidelines and I find myself stumbling, and trying too hard. We are better just walking slowly.

By the time we hug each other goodbye I know that David and I will never again be suspended in time. We will remain in motion, stepping forward more than back.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A more recent note about Leonard Cohen

Everyone writes about Leonard Cohen, it seems, eventually. Every poet, every novelist, every journalist, at least a bare reference hidden, between lines. Those who arrived at Cohen in our teens or twenties and have never left. Of all the positions to take, he has various. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, everybody has done it [see my Cohen note from last fall, coincidentally also written in Myrna Kostash’s house]. You weren’t the only one pining for a run-in, Nancy White, but I never needed help with groceries. A word or two, perhaps. I keep the two letters he wrote for me by the bed, close to access if I ever need to see them, show them off, attempting charm through Cohen’s own, in my late twenties and early thirties not yet confident enough to know that if a woman was already in my room, I no longer needed the same hard-sell. For years, Saturday Night magazine seemed to be profiling Cohen a few times a decade, as though any of us would forget. As though any of us wouldn’t be hoarding our back issues featuring our favourite Montreal poet alongside that issue that featured those tastefully-nude photographs of Susan Musgrave. Just admit it. You know you’ll feel better.
Sifting through books and magazines on Kostash’s shelf, I find an issue of Border Crossings on her coffee table (no. 104, 2007) that features an interview and profile by Robert Enright, published to coincide with an exhibition of Cohen’s drawings, “Drawn in Words: Visual works from 40 years,” which premiered at the Drabinsky Gallery in Toronto on June 3, 2007.

The Book of Longing, a collection of poetry and prose Leonard Cohen published in 2006, is about wisdom. Composed by a man who has lived much in the world, and who has come to understand what all that living has been about, it also knows enough to take its wisdom with a grain of salt. While his ability to write remains undiminished, what he writes about has undergone some adjustments. As the poet himself laments, he now aches in the places where he used to play, and his candor in addressing those moments of pain is no less compelling than it was when he articulated his moments of passion. Cohen, in his 73rd year to heaven, remains our most satisfying poet on the complications of love and the loving body.
What is it about Cohen that keeps us so fascinated? Anyone with a guitar has attempted to play his songs, and the list of covers grows and grows. He is the poet our teenagers swoon over, girls and boys both, for various reasons, and with a depth that one grows to further appreciate as his audience ages, causing many to remain. CBC recently showed the hour-long “Live in London” concert, displaying the expected charm and intimate appeal special of Cohen covering his own long list of memorable songs, his own long list of memory. But still, at least one newspaper columnist asked the apprpriate question, wasn’t there a Canadian concert as worthy to show? But they have always loved him better over there, in Europe. Far more than here, even. And certainly far more and far longer than in the United States.

In the new issue of Geist (no. 72, spring 2009), Montreal writer Ann Diamond writes her own peice about Cohen, “Stranger Song: How I (finally) met Leonard Cohen,” writing out her teenage and twentysomething dreams and accidental run-ins around Montreal streets. Her piece moves gracefully between the adolescent swoon and self-questioning love, which perhaps, might also come originally from adolescence, in a memoir that wraps herself around him as a thread through her own history and coming-of-age, writing time after time they didn’t actually meet, or almost, or should have and didn’t, before arriving to tea.

Seven years later, at his kitchen table, I would ask him if he remembered our first encounter. He would not. Right now, though, I’d had enough for one night’s glimpse of the future. And I’d learned an important lesson: one poet leads to another. The universe provides for the pure in heart. On a street corner I’d had a flickering encounter with a mythical figure whose novel Beautiful Losers was one of the sacred texts of the day.
Part of a larger work-in-progress, I’m intrigued at this work; where is Diamond leading? As she writes near the end:

There are times—mainly in youth—when we believe ourselves deserving of exceptional blessings. Times when fate reaches a hand down into the aquarium where we’ve been circling, and offers us a glimpse of a world beyond. Are we really meant to breathe air? Or to end up gasping on the floor?
The title essay in the late Vancouver writer Bruce Serafin’s posthumous Stardust (New Star Books, 2007) also moves through an experience of Cohen, but without the immediacy of Cohen himself, through his own experiences growing up in West Vancouver from 1965 to 1970. Writing about a time just before Diamond’s own begins, Serafin's is a more general generational piece about the 1960s, threading his own reading of Cohen through the growing up that he needed to leave behind him. Writing about the “glamour” of a particular generation that, for him, Leonard Cohen’s work embodied.

Cohen’s poems ‘The Music Crept By Us’, ‘What I’m Doing Here’ (from Flowers for Hitler), ‘The Genius’ and ‘Angels’ (from The Spice-Box of Earth) show this trick at work. The heroic pose, the lyrics using the language of love to evoke grotesque subject matter, the narcissism, the coy glamorization of failure and terror – all this hit home to me and my teenage friends. Of course we didn’t have any real understanding of the severity and pain of failure. But in Cohen’s poems, just as in songs like “Desolation Row,” we found a romantic mode of writing that provided an access to a realm of experience that might otherwise have proved overpowering and beyond our ability to assimilate. [...]

So why did I stop reading him? Well, as with e.e. cummings, another poet I admired, the very intoxication I felt marks the point at which Cohen’s weaknesses can be observed: the playing to an audience, the easy stylization of experience. Vanity was Cohen’s element, just as a black leather sportscoat was his favoured dress, and the consequent staging of the personality that I now sense everywhere in his work meant that an infatuated intelligence instead of an alert one was the order of the day so far as his readers were concerned.
Later on, he writes that “[t]he truth is, experiencing Cohen was uncannily like experiencing infatuated love.” Is this the difference? Is this what Diamond gets, able to work through her love and engage with it, whereas Serafin falls out of his altogether? Or did Serafin fall too hard too far to do anything else than leave it all behind?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some Edmonton, thus;

[Lainna] I’ve been here since Thursday, April 9; what have I been up to? My Talonbooks launch next week, so hopefully a good crowd for that, lovingly hosted by Trisia Eddy and Lainna Lane El Jabi and their current incarnation of The Factory (West) Reading Series. A reading there before heading back to Ottawa for the writers festival, but unfortunately missing out on the entire Edmonton Poetry Festival happening here the same time. The same day I flew in there was a day-long conference at the University of Alberta, predominantly made up of English and Film Studies department grad students, apparently to give them practice at presenting at conferences, including readings of creative works by Heather Simeny McLeod, Rebecca Frederickson and Joel Katelnikoff that I would have enjoyed witnessing, but unfortunatly the timing didn’t quite work out. I heard most of a paper on the McClelland & Stewart New Canadian Library paperback series that I would have liked to have heard more of. Being a mini-conference, though, I doubt there will be a post-event publication to go along with it, which is a bit disappointing.

Much of my days have been distracted, in a particular direction. Other parts included a visit to NeWest Press last week to see Lou Morin, a visit to the University of Alberta Press to hand in my signed contract (I’ve a poetry collection out with them soon, wild horses, written while I was writer-in-residence in 2007-8), and Trisia Eddy and Michael Gravel’s combined Olive reading on Tuesday. I heard both of them read last May as part of Eddy’s Red Nettle Press launch, two days before I moved back to Ottawa, and was very impressed by both of them (I have actually heard Eddy read a couple of times now). She has a manuscript ready, but so far, I don’t think she’s sent it anywhere. Gravel, on the other hand, is part of the Raving Poets, doing a more personal and narrative kind of writing that doesn’t necessarily fall into my interest, but he’s one of the better readers I’ve heard in some time. A number of the poems he read from his 2008 Red Nettle Press chapbook came out of the fact that in December 2007, he nearly died of a blood clot in his heart and spent weeks in hospital, so his work certainly is memorable.

Fast Heart

Comes across the beat
like chest wire
face drained to paper
neck bulging a pump.
Fingers to wrist,
do the math.
160 at rest.
A dead short somewhere
on the grid.
The heart –
that old electro-mech
stopwatch sump,
swishing the juice,
jamming the pipes.
It could explode,
blow muscle to the lungs.
At 160 I find a chair
send my eyes back
and wait for the sirens. (Michael Gravel, “Further No Theories”)

[Lainna (centre) and I visiting U of A Press; marketing guru Cathie Crooks on left, Jeff Carpenter on right] It would have been nice to hear Lainna read in the open set, but she had read in the previous two, so didn’t. I still haven’t heard her read. There’s a video of her reading a poem or two on YouTube (although I can't, for the life of me, find it right now), one of which will be appearing in the next issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club, once all the contributors actually get around to contributing. Saw poet Marita Dachsel as well, partner of current playwrite-in-residence Kevin Kerr (a two-year term recently extended to three) whom I’ve only met once before, and that when she extremely pregnant in fall 2007 with their second child, when she helped us launch the first Edmonton issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club. Have you seen the fantastic interview series she's been doing on her blog lately? Meeting her twice, despite having published her poetry chapbook back in 1996 through above/ground press. Just how big is this country that I see someone only twice, having known them that long?

[Myrna Kostash's little front balcony] An already Edmonton week and a bit, wandering the town, quietly through the University of Alberta, along Whyte Avenue (where I picked up a birthday card for my sister’s 33rd birthday), to that West Edmonton Mall we love so much; returned today to Myrna Kostash’s lovely condo [see what I wrote when here last]. Strange to be here again, after nearly six months; good that, after a shared house some distance, I have some singular space to breathe in a downtown condo near shopping, coffee, otherwise. It was early November when I left here last, two Edmonton weeks, to see her after five long months. Another five long months of distance, and so much has changed since then, is different since. So many workable and positive things. Friday night, Lainna and I with Myrna and a bottle of wine, the night before she drove off in her red car to Banff, bags and laptop in tow. Did you know that Myrna has work coming out over the next year or so with both NeWest Press and the University of Alberta Press?

Today, who knows; a quiet laptop day with the spring door open, breeze coming through. The night before, a bottle of wine with Vancouver-returned Catherine Owen and her over-excited dog, jumping around as though she’d never seen human beings before; did you know that Owen has a collection of literary essays out with Wolsak & Wynn in another two years?

Did you know, according to Myrna, Prince George BC writer Sarah De Leeuw won the CBC Literary Award this past year, moons after her first and only book [see my piece on such here] came out with NeWest Press [see my note on such here]. Much of what I’m otherwise up to, preparing a new slate of “12 or 20 questions” to start posting June first (already interviews with Jason Dewinetz, Stephen Henighan, Michelle Berry, Janice Williamson, Ray Hsu, and plenty of others) to correspond with the time I (roughly) begin a Toronto year, following my attractive young lady to the big city. I’m working a whole new list of authors, not wanting any overlap with the previous series. Tomorrow, interviewed by Stephanie Hall for Other Voices, an Edmonton-based literary journal, on these new books I seem to have out.

[waiting for her with books, writing, at HUB, University of Alberta] Otherwise, working (slowly) final final edits to this poetry collection for NeWest Press, twice-edited by poet, pal and clever lad (and current Toronto resident) Andy Weaver,who used to make this E-town sing. Scribbling poems, reading Bruce Serafin’s Stardust, Joe LeSueur’s Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O’Hara, Kim Echlin’s The Disappeared, all after rereading Elizabeth Smart’s The Assumption of the Rogues & Rascals, Dany Laferriere’s Why must a black writer write about sex?

Writing an essay about being here, being in these moments of post-Edmonton Edmonton and the beginnings of something else, the beginnings of will hopefully be a creative non-fiction book on Toronto, a follow-up (of sorts) to the “McLennan, Alberta” book I worked while in this town (currently making the rounds with readers, friends, editors and publishers before revisiting such sometime this summer). Edmonton before Ottawa; Ottawa before Toronto. The current plans that hold, and certainly hold.

Friday, April 17, 2009

kristen palm, the straits

After reading a number of books of poetry on the city of Vancouver over the past year or so, it’s interesting to see American poet kristen palm work through her own poem, her dream of the American city, through her first trade collection, the straits (Long Beach CA: Palm Press, 2008). In two long poems, “The Straits” and “City of Conscience,” she works the two sides of the city of Detroit, a city she called home for a number of years, working from fragments and history, as the first works “then” and the second works “now.”

The fort, square in form, is built on firm soil.

It is measured with cords and pickets.

It is set at the bend in the river.

It is constructed of white oak timber.

It is a sculpture.

It commands a city.

It is a testament to our instincts.

It follows mathematical lines. (“The Straits”)

City, you are obsolete.” she writes, in one part of the first long poem, writing a poem on a city and how a city gets constructed, writing a history of Detroit through battles between the native population, English and French settlers and armies, moving through industrial turns and the building, rebuilding and collapse of the auto industry (and the city itself), and race riots after the Second World War. Palm writes her city of one constructed by people, as the building process of the physical city manages to keep undermining its own citizens, even as officials claim they are supporting them. I wonder, does she know of the social histories that work through some of the Vancouver poets doing much of the same kinds of work, whether Sachiko Murakami, Jeff Derksen, Rita Wong or Stephen Collis?

One was defending his shoe repair shop with a baseball bat
Two burned inside a drug store
One was riding in the passenger seat
One carried a bucket of water to his roof
One tried to break up a fight
One was a security guard
Two were firefighters
One was a cop
One was National Guard
One was ex-National Guard
One broke into a patent medicine and package warehouse
One decided to drive around town
One carried a shiny object
Three were running from police
One was the victim of an “accidental shooting”
One was involved in an altercation
Two were looting a liquor store
One carried a handful of groceries
One did not stop at a roadblock
One stepped on a power line
One was walking to the bus stop
Two were inside a pawnshop
One had stolen a car
One was driving a truck
One was branded a sniper
One was visiting on business
One smashed a window with a tire iron
One continued past a checkpoint
One carried a transistor radio
One had loaded a box with bottles
One refused to halt
One refused to run
Three were cavorting with prostitutes
One stood near a cigarette lit in the dark (“The Straits”)

Palm writes an interesting collage as a thread that works through the history of her former city (she currently lives in San Francisco), working through the when and what of the social construction and failures of an industrial city, writing her then in “The Straits” and moving into the now of how the city itself lives (and she, as resident, too) in the second part, “City of Conscience,” wondering a poem that seems to strive for answers. But which is more important, the answers or striving for those essential questions?

We came for cheap housing

We came for art school

We came to get out of the suburbs

We came to escape war-torn nations

We came for entry-level publishing jobs

We came as Jesuit volunteers

We came to start a garage band

We came to join our families

We came to work in a grocery store

We came to agitate for an egalitarian future

We came to seize power

We came to create a new ecological paradigm

We came to live in an anarchist collective

We came for a new downtown condo

We were born here and remain (“City of Conscience”)

There are parts of the poem, the poems, that can’t quite seem to decide, never really reaching far enough into either side. Still, the straits writes out her Detroit and the social responsibilities of such to remind us that cities are made out of people. As she writes near the end of the collection:

I could write a letter here, a litany of my city’s history so that it all collides, runs up against itself, and I could say that this shows all the forces that have run up against each other and themselves over all these years to make this city what it is today with all its attendant problems (broken streetlights, failing schools, Crazy Larry pushing his shopping cart down the left turn lane of Woodward Ave., come here, he says, and me all belligerent, no, you come here, and he does to show me a picture of a baby girl—can he have a dollar—who may or may not be his). What takes precedence? What do we view together and in isolation? City, I could write about you until the end of time and it would not make able to return to you. I know it’s been said it’s time to decide whether you are going to be the problem or you are going to be the solution, and my first through is that I don’t know which I am though I suspect the answer is
both. (“City of Conscience”)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

filling Station #44


Two men with exhausted belts
saunter toward the intersection
with blue wigs and placards.

Deputy ministers and soccer moms
eddy out of traffic with their ringletted cargo
on the eight o’clock school run.

The pewter clouds,
the window down.
Last night I slept on the cool couch
and rose to eat breakfast with the dog.

I’ve got junk, yeah.
The way the sky holds rain
like water behind two parsed lips. (Monica Kidd)

It’s funny, I was only talking about them but recently, and here they are again with a new issue, finally on the other end of their recent funk, Calgary’s filling Station magazine, and issue #44 thicker than the previous two (at over one hundred pages), with a beautiful design by guest designer James Dangerous. There was concern floating around for months, and rumours as well (a good reassessment point for the journal, I’m sure; near-death is like that); we certainly didn’t want the journal to end, to end up in a list of regret by readers and contributors alike, Canadian literary journals that writing feels less without, including Queen Street Quarterly and Raddle Moon (which I’ve been rereading lately). Hell, do you remember when Contemporary Verse 2 was run by Dorothy Livesay? With her editorial, “filling Station goes to the hospital,” managing editor Laurie Fuhr answers a lot of the questions (and even rumours) that have been plaguing the journal over the past, say, two years, and puts them to rest (without ever really getting too specific); they have come out the other side, writing,

When an arts initiative gets sick, as when an organizer quits or funding is cut or some other disease of the art world takes hold, some people behind the initiative get the fear. […] When core members begin to get interested in other things or move away—as will happen eventually no matter how good a thing you’re up to (Colin, Sandy, Chris, Jason, Jordan, we miss you!)—there was hardly anyone left with whom to entrust the spark of Filling Station’s life force. We had been hemorrhaging people for a while, slowly, but this emergency situation sped up the overflow.

Fortunately, those who really cared about saving the life of the magazine gathered faithfully around the operating table in their sexy green doctor’s pajamas.
This is potentially a new chapter in the life of a journal that goes back some fifteen years of Calgary history, a journal that has always existed as a community effort, with poetry, fiction, artwork, reviews and other pieces in their current issue by new and familiar faces, such as Jonathan Ball (is he in every issue?), Evie Christie, Jesse Ferguson, ryan fitzpatrick, Monica Kidd, Judy Lin, Ryan Turner, Scott Rogers and a pile of others. There’s a translation feature featuring Neils Hav, who has been featured as well recently in more than a couple of publications by BookThug, with translations of his work by himself and a couple of others. And it’s just good to see new work by Alberta ex-pat Monica Kidd, and Edmonton poet Judy Lin, who has been starting to publish with increasing frequency over the past year. Evie Christie, who has been doing an increasing number of interesting interviews lately, continues with a conversation with Jonathan Bennett on his most recent novel, and what comes next.

A Laughter

The gas station grinds and toils
in the wind. There is nothing else.
Listen, the sound of all the signs like harps
in the air, a laughter in particular
addressed to no one, like the plastic bottle
skidding across the gravel knocking
a standard, it capsizes and spins
and continues past gates and doors
behind the house and across the field
almost flying through the grass
enjoying itself. (Neils Hav, trans. P.K. Brask & Patrick Friesen)

Okay, filling Station, you’ve got me; I’ve told the people to read you and subscribe. I think you might just be okay. I’m going to worry about someone else now, for a while.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter poem

we could neither share
nor tuning

ukulele drift

when perfect house
, parents


what I can’t bear, parade
my raining tide

a few white lines

lumbered, across
a bearing
coloured blue,
it staggers down

exactly like the scene
shot deep

we step, record
& thus

a sugar cause

back focus into

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Margaret Avison’s Listening: last poems

I have to admit, I’ve not spent a whole lot of time with the work of the late Canadian poet Margaret Avison, despite having her admirers that include John Metcalf, George Bowering, the late bpNichol and Australia’s Jacket magazine, in a rare feature by the journal on a Canadian poet some time back. With the publication of her Listening: last poems (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2009) this spring, it provides the bittersweet opportunity to open up into her writing, with some pieces finished, and some pieces not. As the “notes and acknowledgements” page reads:

When Margaret Avision died in 2007, she left the almost-completed manuscript of Listening. A few clearly unfinished poems have not been included. “Our ? Kind,” once considered as a title poem, mattered tremendously to Margaret. It was very close to being finished to her satisfaction. According to a note on a piece of scrap paper, she hoped to “anchor [this poem] in the free flow and delicate touch and effective/creative power of Goodness, in creation’s beginning … and ending????” To this poem and others, a few changes (of the sort that experience tell us she would have accepted) have silently been made. Listening was prepared for publication by Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner.
Going through the list of her publications at the front of the collections, I’m amazed at just how prevalent she is on my bookshelf, with many if not most of these publications sitting in some part of my apartment or other, including Winter Sun (1960), The Dumbfounding (1966), sunblue (1978), No Time (1989), Selected Poems (1991), A Kind of Perseverance (1994), Not Yet But Still (1997), Concrete and Wild Carrot (2002), Always Now: The Collected Poems (3 volumes, 2003-2005) and Momentary Dark (2006). This collection of last poems, Listening, is aptly named, and if this book is any indication, Avison was blessed, first and foremost, with a very fine ear (something she shares with another “senior” Canadian poet who deserves more attention, D.G. Jones, who is very much alive and celebrating a selected/collected poems this spring), and centres itself around a fragment of the poem “Soundings,” that writes “Old age excels / in listening.” The last two stanzas, in full, read:

Art has antennae always
in peril of pouncers, yet in-
domitably threading off into a
passing breeze. Art finds us
burrowing through our days, so
unroofs all usual places for
moments, irreversibly.
Old age excels
in listening. Voices sound
down the long corridors. This
opens beyond an unforeseen
gateway. To lift its
magic latch takes quiet
breathing. Curiosity is
unexacting, but expects
no less.

Toronto trees display the full
gamut of greens. These,
not the trees, age
in gold.

When Avison died in Toronto in 2007, she was in the midst of a resurgence of sorts, with a couple of new titles, one of which won the Griffin Prize in 2003, the appearance of her three-volume collected poems, and the Jacket feature, all of which worked to acknowledge the fact that she had been here all along, quietly working. Listening is a lovely small book filled with knowing that still works to ask questions, with even the question marks that exist in some of the titles (making me wonder, as reader, if this was a deliberate mark by the author, or the mark of an unfinished piece). Listening features a kind of soft urgency, a currency of wisdom she knows just when to spend, when to barter against, and just when to gamble. I am intrigued by these poems, again, bittersweet. Not knowing exactly where she might have gone next.

Still Life

The last two daffodils
are dying on my table.
What were once petals grope
for water, can no longer
sip, though they stand in water,
must grope the air for more.
They have transmuted from
flower to scrawny
fingers, an old woman’s in
raggedy silk gloves.

The only future for
a dying flower is
compost-mash: its lingering
memorial, when the first
eggshell dawn
lifts up a new
horizon, all
in stemless daffodils,

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jason Camlot, The Debaucher

There has been renewed talk over the past decade or more in Canadian poetry about the sonnet, but unfortunately, those who do most of the talking tend to be the ones who are simply rewriting the same tired old forms. I’d rather talk about the ones that have brought new and fresh energy into the sonnet, including David McGimpsey, the late Robert Allen, Stephen Brockwell, Peter Norman (his collaborative essay on the sonnet with Brockwell in the form of fourteen sonnets in dialogue has to be seen to be believed) or Montreal poet, critic and musician Jason Camlot in his third poetry collection, The Debaucher (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 2008), on the heels of his Attention All Typewriters (Montreal QC: DC Books, 2005) and The Animal Library (Montreal QC: DC Books, 2000). Is there a reason, perhaps, that Zachariah Wells didn’t include Camlot’s work in his anthology of Canadian sonnets, Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets (Bilbioasis, 2008) [see my review of such here]?

Since I have stuck my tongue…

Since I have stuck my tongue in your wet cup,
since I have felt my head between your hands,
since I have sniffed the perfume of your glands,
released into your bloodstream, out your duct,

since I have sniffed the sweet breath of your soul,
since I have sought it, buried in shadows,
since I have loved you as Vincent van Gogh
yearned to love that “model,” Rachel, with his whole

being, so much so he put his own ear
into her hand and said, “Keep this object
carefully.” Since I know you don’t object
to engaging in nightly, oral prayer,

I can tell Time, with his dire ashen cup,
what to do with it, where to shove it up.

After Victor Hugo’s “Puisque j’ai mis ma lèvre”

In The Debaucher, Camlot works his sonnets and understands the workings of the form enough to twist. He knows his history, revels in it, but also responds with a bawdy touch, a nod and even the occasional bad joke infused to make these poems more than they otherwise would have been. Camlot exists in the context of a Montreal poetry that includes Irving Layton, Todd Swift, Robert Allen, David McGimpsey, Jon Paul Fiorentino and Peter Van Toorn, wrapping himself up in his blend of influence, classic relation and cultural knowledge, even referencing Beatles lyrics, Jimi Hendrix and Cote St. Luc. Still, not all of the poems here work, and when he moves further away from the sonnet into other forms, the book slips a bit, lags; but the strength of some of these sonnets more than make up for it.

I am writing because I can

I write because I miss knowing you’re here.
I miss your wisdom and debauchery—
the way you liked to redraw the frontier
to suit your purpose, or just to be contrary.

I write because I don’t know you’re not here.
I know it, sure, but I don’t really know
what I know. I expect you to appear
at the threshold of a tabagie in the plateau

and explain what it means that you’re not here.
Explain your protest against the heat death
of your universe, explain in severe
terms the flavours of the waters of Lethe.

I write because some things can’t be buried.
I miss your wisdom and debauchery.

[Jason Camlot reads at the TREE Reading Series in Ottawa on April 14]

Monday, April 06, 2009

Carrie Olivia Adams, Intervening Absence

First only gray,

then angles and points become a whole.

A gravel driveway.

This scene is set
on the road in front,

so as the driveway comes into view, move

to the left of the frame
to foreground her face.

just the eyes and above. (“Notes toward a Short Film”)

Is Chicago poet Carrie Olivia Adams’ first trade poetry collection, Intervening Absence (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2009) a book of absences, as she suggests, or is it something other? As she directly writes, as in her author’s statement, writing:

I have a visual handicap. There are those who rotate objects in their mind. I cannot picture my kitchen table. Or any table. If I tried I might see the curve of the leg. I might see the grain of the wood. Or even just a knot in its grain. But I could not hold the picture still. My mind flickers so. From this, comes a hand-on precision. There were years when I dreamed only in words.
In this book made out of eleven poem-sequences, eleven sequence fragments, this book of poems that click together into a single poem, Adams moves in graceful, slow conversational breaths, and descriptive stretches, flickering on and off.

Iterations. The distant rustle of wings. The ground below.

I believe he is stuffing his pockets with bones.

When I return, nothing
will have been erected or fallen.
But, I will hear the whispers
as he moves through the corridors.

I am peeling skin. For now,
suspension. The shutter caught
mid stutter.

Within, the interior of wood.
Without, water. (“Pockets”)

With each line, the poem opens, the poems open, furthering the field on which she writes; how do these openings become so far-reaching yet so compact? This is a poem not in a hurry. Adams might not be able to think in three dimensions but her poems certainly can, writing physical yet abstract, a photograph that shimmers at each edge and shifts, even as you stare directly in. What I admire about this poem is just how far she reaches in so brief a space, how big she keeps to small, with large gestures created with such simple touch.

In one room they both sit
Seen and unseen
Some days even others

They are wearing the same scarf
They crowd the floor in front of the mirror studying their eyes
Others have appendages out the window directing wind
They want to feel what is watching
What is watching feels them

There is no
There is (“Vermilion”)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

call for submissions: Writing KOOT

Open Letter is seeking critical, literary-historical, and creative submissions for a special issue dedicated to the Kootenay School of Writing.

“Writing KOOT” will be guest edited by Gregory Betts and Robert Stacey.

Since its founding in 1984, the Kootenay School of Writing has pursued an ambitious program of radical politics and poetical experimentation, making it one of the most significant avant-garde movements in the history of Canadian literature. Even so, critical response to the movement has been slight and, generally speaking, insular. With hope of redressing this situation, Open Letter seeks submissions from a wide range of scholars regarding the history and practice of KSW, its writers, group affiliations, and associated publications. KSW has been described as a “centre of avant-garde writing in Canada”—yet one that that seemingly rejects avant-gardism, along with centrism, aesthetic purity, and the values and assumptions underpinning the neoliberal nation-state. The special issue will address and reflect the various complexities and paradoxes that make KSW such a rich field of enquiry.

Possible Topics could include (but are not limited to):

- KSW in relation to avant-garde aesthetics/movements
- KSW and work
- KSW and postmodern media
- KSW in relation to radical politics
- KSW socio-political histories
- Internal/external tensions
- spaces and places of KSW
- Individual author studies

Completed papers are due no later than 1 November 2009. Please send copies to either Gregory Betts or Robert Stacey. For more information, please feel free to contact the above (full contact information below).--

Gregory Betts
Assistant Professor
English Language & Literature
Brock University
500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catharines ON L2S 3A1
(905) 688.5550 x 5318

Robert David Stacey
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Ottawa
352 Arts Building
70 Laurier Ave. East
Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5

Friday, April 03, 2009

Why I do not call myself a poet

remember in a name
caught up as we were in more primitive aims
back there in our many beginnings
— bpNichol, The Martyrology, Book 5
Why does it matter? My lover writes, but does not call herself a writer. Dismisses it, and simply writes. She knows not to complicate. Labels can be dangerous things.

Any definition, essentially, becomes self-definition. Poetry is not all I do, so have kept clear from naming myself “poet.” It doesn’t help the sneer the culture cross-bred, creating disdain, even irrelevance with the term. What does it mean, “poet”? When I was at the University of Alberta as writer-in-residence, I found myself repeatedly contradicting people, arguing. Not the “poet” in residence, say. Why does it matter?

If I call myself anything based on what I spend most of my time doing, I’d be “sleeper” or “tv watcher.” I write reviews, essays, poems, fiction, non-fiction, letters. I organize readings, book fairs, talks. I edit and publish. I read comic books, watch television, spend time with my daughter, stare out the window. Walk aimless but in a straight line.

I prefer the term “working writer,” a literary equivalent, perhaps, of what my father has done in his decades of farming. A jack of all trades, as needed.

In August 2007, I had a shirt made for my upcoming Alberta year that said “writer,” unable or unwilling to afford the dollar-a-letter that would have made up “writer in residence.”

I gave her that t-shirt before I left town, knowing I’d see her again. Knowing she would wear it, if only in her sleep.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

jwcurry’s newsnotes + other recent 1cents

plastic houses don’t crumble pretty (predictable aesthetics

plastic houses don’t crumble pretty. when I’m old
walking past melted neighborhoods (townhouse removal)
won’t the skin bubble where I once considered surgery?
won’t the cinematic windswept swirl just then,
movie longforgotten – think it my idea?
all gardens go Lego at the thought. all trees shiver
into shiny / polyurethane dogs polyurinate.
yeahsure. you take off your hair revealing
bald yellow knob, pull off your head
& then remember it’s not supposed to do that. (Laurie Fuhr)

For quite a while, Ottawa writer/publisher/bookseller jwcurry has been referring to Vancouver poet Judith Copithorne as our first lady of concrete, being the first woman in Canada to engage with (and continuing to engage with) visual and concrete poetry, appearing in such important Canadian concrete/visual poetry anthologies such as the four author Four Parts Sand (Ottawa ON: Oberon Press, 1972), John Robert Colombo’s New Directions in Canadian Poetry (Toronto ON: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971) and bpNichol's The Cosmic Chef (Ottawa ON: Oberon Press, 1970). Despite this, the other night in his apartment, curry ran through a list off the top of his head of important studies, anthologies, book-length essays, journals and other publications that have worked to discuss the importance of Canadian concrete and/or the contributions of Canadian women in writing and publishing, that have managed to overlook the contributions of Copithorne (including as footnote if at all), despite a productivity that is working its way up to five decades long.

In his four hundredth issue of 1cent, produced as the thirteenth issue of his ongoing news notes (for Judith with love, a bibliography of the whole series so far at the back of the publication), Copithorne admirer curry has compiled a small festschrift of sorts, even including the beginnings of a list of her publications, whether as author or editor, something which seems long overdue. I would quote what Columbo wrote in his anthology about Copithorne, but I can’t seem to find my copy of the small anthology. Not that the whole issue is taken up with Copithorne, but awash with short reviews, essays, poems, and other reproductions, with contributions from Lance LaRocque, Maxine Gadd, Pearl Pirie, Richard Truhlar, Ben Watson, Bob Snider, Laurie Fuhr, bpNichol, Daniel f. Bradley, Warren Dean Fulton, John Barlow and a whole slew of others, as well as curry himself.

Ran Delimited Poaching or Donut

This far isn’t
which act
out chin

eats ejecting rate
additive plant
crack trapped crab

snare for shore
untoward claims

exact to trans
and as else
to dots miss

could digit that

pulls loose pack
all such tape

legislate m’keep
even no inasmuch
them litter the foot

easy at blight
copies. Awful shears (Aaron Vidaver)

How does one describe the 1cent series? First off, they sell for a penny each [see my piece on such in Open Letter, reprinted in my recent collection of essays], with most rubber-stamped on the back. Some are hand-printed, some made on his 1920s-era Gestetner. Other recent publications in the same series include pieces by Alana Madison, the poem “SLIVERICK” by Margaret Avison (reprinted from the 1969 5¢ Mini Mimeo; curry has wondered out loud, has this poem appeared anywhere else since?), and Tom Kryss’ prose-piece “Roses that Bloom,” among others (even another reprint of some works from Vancouver’s old 3¢ Pulp (precursor to the current Arsenal Pulp Press), including one by the late Ottawa bookseller Richard Simmins).

“Personally I draw the line at buggery,” old Rico said.

“But then maybe I was a bit perverted too before I got married. Everything there is. I tried it.

“The whole goddam world was sexual. There was that breathing I could hear. And the smells. There’s no way you can hide them. No way. Remember, always roll your handkerchief into your armpit before you iron it.

“It must have started with that 16-year old girl from the detention home who worked for my mother, she used to jerk me when I was five or six standing on the toilet seat waiting to be dried.

“As a kid though, the two horniest things I can remember are Helen’s frothy open crotch opposite mine when we picked wild strawberries in the pasture next to the loam field. That, and the tight, soft, shiny, purple-black udder of the big mare about four weeks after she foaled.” (Richard Simmins, 1cent #397)
One thing that curry has sought out for years, again referenced in this issue of news notes, is to provide and receive a response/dialogue about so many of these works he prints, publishes, promotes and otherwise writes about (one aspect of such that binds, unfortunately, is that he "distrusts people's obsession with things online" which he sees as a format rather restrictive). Another part of this issue includes a piece by Ben Watson, who has written a great deal on Frank Zappa, and his response (very curry-like, if you will) to a recent conference. The first paragraph, for example, of his “Anti-Zappa, Or, Not Getting the Point,” on the “Third International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology, Paris 4-7 July 2008” writes:
I am afraid I must start with a sharp reprimand to the comrades of the Third International. In a revolutionary movement there are always backsliders, blackguards and lily-livered poltroons who think it easier to excise the revolutionary part of the programme in favour of “accessibility” or “market penetration”, even if this destroys the whole point of being here. I note that whoever was in the charge of the posters for this event saw fit to drop the term “Esemplastic” from the conference title, even though the first two internationals – in London in 2004 and in Rome in 2006 – were specifically designated as “esemplastic”, and organized by myself and Marco Maurizi in order to encourage esemplastic thinking. Calling this the “third” international whilst dropping the inconvenient term – and stooping to the banality of reproducing yet another photo of Frank Zappa’s boring face – steals from our efforts whilst contributing nothing. It is another sorry example of the way all attempts at gaining power in this system without contesting it lead to the same old putrid boring nonsense. Moreover, these publicists are doomed to fail. In so far as you advertise using Zappa’s face, you simply offend the Zappa Family Trust, provide a shabby example of bootleg commercialism, and guarantee that you attract people who will not understand a word of what is being talked about.
Other parts of the issue include fragments a work-in-progress that bpNichol was working on before he died, The OTHER Captain Poetry Poems, a review of/response to the second volume of Barbara Caruso’s journals, a brief write-up around comments made by Dorothy Lusk in the Jacket interview Donato Mancini did a few years back, a piece on the mysterious Toronto artist P. Cob (friends of curry will know he has been talking about a new P. Cob project for months) by D.M. Owen, visuals and text by Copithorne herself, and a few other oddbits.

Lewd Basho posing shaved
in black leather jacket

A golden boy
Wearing just flickers of
Candlelight will fuck
Like a star

Make sure to get a good
Look as heaven declares civil
War suicide bombing
White horses enflared

Cheerleader dark
Nights and day hot drippings

They do a nasty
Thing with their chicken legs
Still screaming
Bok! Bok! Bok! (Alana Madison, 1cent #395)

If you’re interested in further information, be sure to write him c/o #302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Ontario Canada K1R 6R7; otherwise, according to the news notes themselves, you can even find a brief documentary around curry’s recent MESSAGIO GALORE take VI at

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ottawa, Toronto + Edmonton book launches, rob mclennan's gifts

For those who haven't heard, I've a new poetry collection out with Talonbooks this spring, as well as one out with Ireland's Salmon Poetry. The Talonbook, gifts, will be launching in Edmonton through The Factory (West) Reading Series, in Ottawa, at the ottawa international writers festival, Sean Moreland's New Stalgica Poetry Series, and Toronto at the Pivot Reading Series (with possible add-ons in Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria). My fourteenth trade poetry collection, and, what, eighteenth book in total? Yipes...

Hopefully see some of you at one or more of these events!

This is also the book that includes a slightly tweaked version of my ALBERTA SERIES chapbook, sex at thirty-eight: letters to unfinished g., published by above/ground press while I was out west, and online as a downloadable pdf but recently.

I don't know how available (yet) my Irish book will be in Canada once it's out, but I'll certainly have copies of my own available.

Edmonton AB: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
7-10pm, Vintage Lounge, 10124-124 Street. Readings and new titles by bill bissett, rob mclennan, Adeena Karasick, Kevin Kerr and Garry Morse.

Ottawa ON: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
8:30-10:00pm, Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities, 314 St. Patrick Street, Corner of Cumberland, as part of the ottawa international writers festival. Poetry and new titles by rob mclennan, Garry Morse, Adeena Karasick and bill bissett. Ticket info here.

Ottawa ON: Monday, May 11, 2009
Open Mic @830; featured readers @915, music to follow; Cafe Nostalgica, 603 rue Cumberland Street, Ottawa (at the University of Ottawa), as part of the New Stalgica Poetry Series, May Edition, hosted by Sean Moreland & JF LaFleche. Featured readings by rob mclennan and Gwendolyn Guth. Info:

Toronto ON: Wednesday, June 3, 2009
8:00-11:00pm, The Press Club, 850 Dundas Street West. Readings by rob mclennan, poet Marianne Apostolides and fiction writer Steven Mayoff. Info: