Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ongoing notes: mid-May, 2011

[photo taken during an afternoon writing in Toronto's Courense Bakery this past Wednesday, at Bloor Street and Ossington] Why is it that so many American publishers send me listings for, and copies of, their new publications, and so many Canadian publishers don't? I would like to review more Canadian small works here, but find it difficult to even hear about such. Is there really not as much happening up here as I would like to think?

Perhaps I can find new things to read and discuss at some of these upcoming small press book fairs in Niagara Falls (June 4), Toronto (June 19) and Ottawa (June 25); will I perhaps see you at any of these? Then, of course, the Dusty Owl anniversary reading on Sunday afternoon, or, otherwise, Pearl Pirie reading at The Sasquatch Reading Series.

Ottawa ON: Ottawa poet Monty Reid's Site Conditions (Ottawa ON: Apt. 9 Press, 2011) reads as an interesting sidebar, an extension of the local elements discussed in his ongoing “In the Garden” series (produced so far through chapbooks by above/ground press, Obvious Epiphanies, LaurelReedBooks and others).

6. Scaffold

We built this rickety structure
out of insect legs and wind

so you can't see what we're working on.

When we take it down
we'll be gone.

Reid's poems have always been highly aware of space, moving from the geographic spaces of Alberta, specifically Drumheller, to Luskville, Quebec (The Luskville Reductions) and an island near Kingston (Lost in the Owl Woods) to more recent personal spaces, such as the “In the Garden” poems, and now this, a twenty-poem sequence composed on a construction site. Reid's poems often explore the small and simple moments, pausing there, to extend. Meditating on a construction site, a poem stretched as far as it can go.

12. Architect

The architects are on site
with their hardhats and blackberries.

This was supposed to be a bridge, they say.
This was supposed to be a temple.

This was supposed to be

Now it's not.

Fort Collins CO: Anyone interested in the construction of the poetic line, the construction of the sentence should be reading, among others, American poet Kate Greenstreet, just to see how well she does it. The author of two trade poetry collections, case sensitive (Ahsahta Press, 2006) and The Last 4 Things (Ahsahta Press, 2009), she is the author of a small handful of poetry chapbooks, including RUSHES (above/ground press, 2007), and the most recent called (Fort Collins CO: Delete Press, 2011). Greenstreet's is one of the best examples of poetry-as-thinking, how her straight statements twirl in her wake, held together by the strength of intent, safe as houses.

We know a little bit about the driver.
The red kimono is wrong.

He had a brother, who died when they were very young.
Who was older, and handsome.

I think everybody wants to hear
why it happened—what's on the other side
of that wall.

Animal to person, person to plant. Who's not going to accept a call?

Mostly, we kind of liked each other.

I could remember the life
in the chair, the mirrors hung to misdirect misfortune.
The little one with the little flowers—something something May...

A slow, determined poet, Greenstreet has long played with the straight line and journal sequence, allowing fragments and poem-fragments to interplay, setting one poem down after another, setting one journal entry and suggestion of loss down like the cards of a tarot deck, each piece changing the entirety of what it is that you see. Each of her small constructions are damned powerful, and restrain themselves from hinting at so much more.

The building is designed to make you look to heaven.

The ice?
A lake.

Two years after he disappeared, I woke, having dreamed of him.

Ottawa ON: Former Montrealer, currently living in Carleton Place, Ontario Claudia Coutu Radmore [see her recent 12 or 20 questions here] recently published a small collection of poems composed predominantly in couplets, her Accidentals (Ottawa ON: Apt. 9 Press, 2011). Over her past few years of publishing, I haven't been as interested in her work in Japanese forms or in her lyric historical narratives, but intrigued by the extended lines in these couplet-pieces.


movement of air in and out of a cave entrance pulls
at small creatures accidentals drawn in by the suction

of cave breathing how is it that mongoose pups pick
their own parents defend territorial zones around them

three-metre-tall phorusrhacid terror birds once roamed
patagonia eagle-beaks devouring dog-sized creatures

in australia's tropical north the discovery of the one-
and-a-half inch armoured mistfrog thought extinct

small islands of meaning
to keep nothingness at bay

Composed nearly as breath-lines, her long lines intrigue, and make me wonder what she might accomplish with short prose and/or the prose poem?

San Francisco CA: From Chicago poet Lisa Fishman, author of more than a couple of trade poetry collections, comes the poetry chapbook at the same time as scattering (San Francisco CA: Albion Books, series 3, no. 1, 2010), a poem-collage that begins with:

Every twin

to tell you of is singular

as flowers in a hatbrim

or roses on the seat beside a man asleep

The train goes through this borough

on the island is it

land or I am leaving

out the story all for you

It's difficult to tell if this is a single, continuous piece composed out of fragments, or a series or sequence of self-contained untitled poems, and perhaps that doesn't really matter, existing as nearly a series of journal entries. In the piece, Fishman writes of the double, the doppleganger, a subject discussed at length by poets including Eli Mandel, Andrew Suknaski and Lisa Robertson; who might Fishman's double be? Is she simply her own, feeding off her own self?

That boy lying down on the weight of the ground
pushing back against his weight, did correspond
by breathing—if he thought so
then, or later, hard to say
You miss me
when I sleep late in the morning

Slightly altered in tone and structure from each other, they combine into a kind of poem-collage, and even containing the same series of queries, writing “The question is who to be writing // this single // moon in the daylight full.” Perhaps, between Fishman and Greenstreet, they merely prove Jack Spicer's mantra (repeated by such as Michael Ondaatje), that the poem can't live by itself any more than we can?

No comments: