Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ongoing notes: late November, 2013

My work is to point out the inescapability of neglect and call for a slower, deeper interaction with it. As we reached the end of our inaugural experience of neglect, our attention returned to skin, the sonic sibling of skim.
                jennifer h. fortin, GIVE OR TAKE
Sugar Grove NC: Produced as “Ark Press #2” is Oakland-based poet, visual artist, and freelance writer/editor Pepper Luboff’s new chapbook, the absolutely striking And when the time for the breaking (2013). Luboff’s breaks, halts and staggers are held together through the most tantalizing lyric flow, sometimes breathless, sometimes staccato and even written out in an extended burst. The first of the three-page poem “Metaphor: Lake Merritt” reads:

Night water wavelets muscle back the city lights’ shining
the lake’s necklace, head and taillights’ intervals,
buildings and rooms flicked on.
    The path around flecked
                                    with bird shit, down shed in flight,
                                                          and broken mussel shells.

A coot flips at a right angle
                             (carmine eye arcing)
              submerges. Coots sink their heads,
                                                            leaving bobbing commas.

An egret’s plumes sign sounds.

            A cormorant looms, moon-bathing—
         fist-like epaulets on its shoulders.
                           It draws on its wings;
                        the fists behind uncurl a little,
                           a benediction gesture:
                                       people, whom distance diminishes, squat
                   on the dock, swooshing lines
into the lake. Fishermen. They still; wait for tugs.
Two joggers p’t, p’t, p’t, p’t, pant, enlarge and louden. Passing
one says, I think:

Kelowna BC: Having only discovered them recently, Sean Johnston was good enough to send over copies of the chapbook series produced by Ryga: A Journal of ProvocationsJake Kennedy’s Studies (2009), Sheri Benning’s Dollhouse (2009), Lee Maracle’s Raven Can Do Anything (2010), Chris Hutchinson’s Not Unlike (2010) and Ed Allen’s When Everybody Was Upset (2010). Unfortunately, Johnston says the series no longer exists, which is disappointing. Produced in editions of one hundred copies each, these gracefully-designed chapbooks are by authors Canadian and American alike, with a strong eye, it would seem, on emerging writers in the Kelowna, British Columbia area. One of the highlights of this series is in the short introduction that opens each publication, all but one composed by Johnston himself (the introduction to Maracle’s chapbook was written by Frances Greenslade). Johnston’s introduction, “A New Objectivity,” to Kennedy’s chapbook (a number of poems that ended up in his 2011 BookThug collection Apollinaire’s Speech to the War Medic) reads:

Jake Kennedy’s poems are informed by an impulse toward truth, despite the erudition and education of the postmodern artist and reader, despite the fact that we are told there is no such thing. It’s clear the truth is flawed – from the moment of its articulation, at least, but maybe from the moment of its conception. The easy way out, then, is to deny the impulse to move toward it, to give in to the idea that we live in the intellect, which forbids truth, and not in the world, which demands it.

As one of the poems asks: “Why not start from belief?” Why not start from what we can hold and work our way outward from there? Each object is its own centre and we are, with Kennedy’s poems, caught in its rings, considering our place in the world, not the world’s confusion surrounding us.

Kennedy begins in the world with these meditations on material objects – grass, trees, bullets, the screen of a drive-in – and moves outward from them into a world that is wild and domestic at the same time, a world that is inclusive enough to include the heart in its intellectual investigation of life. The tiger, to paraphrase one poem, is not concerned if its stalking measures up to other performances of stalking – it’s out for blood. It hunts to survive.

One of the most compelling titles in the series is Alberta poet Sheri Benning’s memoir-essay Dollhouse, writing on ideas of home and place, her childhood and sister, as well as directly on her sister, Heather Benning’s documentary/installation “The Dollhouse” – “a suite of 30 photographs that present the transformation of an abandoned farmhouse in rural Manitoba into a life-sized dollhouse.”

            As children we relate to people and objects with a directness unshackled by the protective cynicism of adulthood; we seek security, but remain open to the world, allow ourselves the sigh of comfort in the place of a loved one’s arms, or in the quiet conversations with a favourite doll. Tuan suggests that this openness grants children the ability to know the world more sensuously than adults, adding that this lost childhood gift of receptivity ‘is one reason why the adult cannot go home again.”

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