Thursday, September 23, 2010

Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by U.K. Women Poets, ed. Carrie Etter

This anthology gathers not readily found in the pages of Britain’s broadsheets or larger-circulation literary journals. More implicitly, Infinite Difference makes the case that Britain’s tendency to divide poetry into the categories of “Mainstream” and “Experimental” or “Avant Garde” undermines our sense of the rich array of poetries being written. While this range might place at one end of a linear narrative poem, and at the other end a fragmented, associative one, the land between us is rich and various. The expanse might be further evidenced by suggesting different extremes as points of reference, such as the degree of engagement with the natural environment. The poetries being written in Britain today might in fact be regarded as being on a spectrum holding infinite points of difference, and this anthology as bringing to a larger audience work on that spectrum that has had limited, if not quite ultraviolet, visibility.
As most anthologies must, Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by U.K. Women Poets (Exeter England: Shearsman Books, 2010), edited by Carrie Etter, responds to a particular need, that of, as her rich introduction explains in some detail, the particular absence of more experimental writing in British journals, and even further absent, the work of the wide array of women writing in same. 

Publishing the works of twenty-five poets ranging from relatively new to established, Etter showcases a magnificent array of writing, from former Calgary poet Frances Kruk to Andrea Brady, Denise Riley, Redell Olsen, Anne Blonstein, Anna Reckin, Elisabeth Bletsoe and Caroline Bergvall.

I-Body 5

I can’t read
what I have somewhere

not written anywhere

but in this space of virtual

I can only find with click

mind spewing. (Sascha Akhtar)

Admittedly, most of the names here are unknown to me, but a couple I am aware of, and Etter’s anthology can only provide a further jumping-off point, allowing each a small sampling of writing, and a poetics statement, something I’ve always appreciated. Kruk, known predominantly on this side of the ocean for her involvement in visual poetry as well as her association with Calgary’s small press community over the past decade, begins her statement, writing:
With coat hangers and live wires in hand, Frankenstein’s secret girl bastards run through these poems spitting blood and oozing their calculated poisons. While each poem stems from different serial projects undertaken between 2004-2007, the sciatic pathway connecting them is rooted in the uneasy pathology addressed in my work as a whole. By uneasy pathology I refer to my recurring engagement with themes that cause tension or disquiet for myself or for others, from the exposition of viscera to the committing, witnessing, or experiencing of psychic, physical, or political violence that shapes alienated human existence. Confronting cultural malaises requires the recognition of poetry as a locus of resistance, of soothsaying. It is a revelator of raw forms and textures and realities that mean. There must be a material to realize this: in my case it is the body, in one form or another.
Given the wealth of experimental writing I’ve become aware of over the past decade in the United Kingdom, the argument of a lack of opportunities seems surprising, in this day and age, but is difficult to argue for or against, given this distance. Who am I to say, or even know, otherwise? I am barely aware of what the print journals are in the UK, and what I am aware of, seem less interested in this kind of writing, certainly. On the other hand, much of this work has also been readily available through alternate venues, such as Australia’s Jacket magazine, Switzerland’s Dusie or even England’s own Shearsman, among other places, but the strength of the book remains the same, putting the work of some worthy writers into a single volume. This is a magnificent anthology. Will someone, perhaps, create a follow-up that allows boys inside as well?

a man wishes musical must know
tunes or how contingencies chose

in good steel or sharp towards no
proper control avoids too hollow

bodies cut off an inch above part
plant in wing remove feather I

I say marrow the cut should be
made away from the groove fork

formed thumb index then pare
down to beak of ploughshare

or sparrow symmetrical cut on
inner angle to point tiny piece

angles not on right bevels flow
freely divisible two more than

properly tempered whetted keen
thimble against colour to skin (“from A Newe Booke of Copies,” Redell Olsen)

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