Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ongoing notes: West Coast Line + The New Quarterly

Vancouver BC: I’ve been recently going through West Coast Line 63 (vol. 43, no. 3, fall 2009), and focusing on the work of a few, from Vancouver writer and critic Donato Mancini’s “If Violence (Hey You),” Toronto poet Andy Weaver’s “Gangson” and Vancouver writer and critic Kim Minkus’ “Billboards.” Minkus’ series continues a thread of city-specific works that Vancouver poets have been producing for years, from writers such as George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley and Michael Turner to Stephen Collis, Oana Avasilichioaei, Sachiko Murakami, Wayde Compton and so many more. I don’t know any other Canadian city so richly and deeply explored through language poetry and other experimental forms of writing than Vancouver. Just what is it about Vacouver?


cities are about theatre
and their crooked additions
she counts cracks and thinks about her current coordinates. of money and needles
on her way down she trips over refuse

he said he would meet me here

he has chosen an impossible location and when he calls out each name
magnolia forsythia hyacinth
he is reminded of something
they have been caught up in stalled identities for decades
products, clothes, dishes

where the fuck is he

she rambles herself into a store
fondling merchandise
touching bills in her wallet
fingering furs
she fuels her frustration in circular disputes
then continues to drown herself

Waterloo ON: For The New Quarterly 115 (summer 2010), Stan Dragland’s essay on the work of the late Margaret Avison, “Unsettled With Margaret Avison,” is worth the price of admission alone, and compares favourably to the absolute best of his writing over the years. Does this mean we might not have much longer to wait for a new book to follow the work he started in Journeys Through Bookland (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1984) and continued through Apocrypha: Further Journeys (Edmonton AB: NeWest/writer as critic: IX, 2003)? What has drawn me increasingly to The New Quarterly over the past few years, apart from the immediacy of the relatively new format, has been the captivating and insightful quality of the non-fiction pieces. This issue also featuring an essay by Douglas Glover on his great-grandfather, John Brock, and the events that led up to his death, and the impossibilities that history sometimes provides, as well as unanswerable questions. His piece begins:
My great-grandfather John Brock killed himself with an overdose of laudanum in St. Williams on the North Shore of Lake Erie in March, 1914, the day before he was to appear in court to answer a charge of alienation of affection and criminal conversation. This was in an era when marital rights yet bore the flavour of property rights. Alienation of affection and criminal conversation referred to actions that deprived someone of his spousal relationship. In practice, the phrases meant anything from merely counseling a wife to leave her husband to seduction and adultery.
Another highlight comes from the features on particular authors, introducing relatively new writers to a larger audience, with new fiction and an interview each. This issue introduces us to the clever, wise and brash work of writer Mariko Tamaki, and Leesa Dean, author of the short story, “Hotel Paris.” As much as I like what Dean might be attempting, why does so much fiction about and by twentysomethings sound so much the same?
Jess pumped up the volume on her iPod to drown out the din of a Greyhound night bus nightmare. The Ramones sang The KKK took my baby away and Jess wished they’d take away the kid screaming behind her, too. he was the token bus brat, and judging by his Mom’s overnight bag and pillow, they’d be stuck with him all the way to Montreal.

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