Friday, August 30, 2013

Ongoing notes: late August, 2013

[a view of the bookshelf closest to my desk] Another summer, nearly over. I’m always reminded of one particular song by Leonard Cohen during this period: “The summer’s almost gone / The winter’s tuning up.”

We pack the apartment, prepare for the new house; prepare for the baby. The next few months will be one of enormous change.

If anyone is willing to help move over a couple of loads of boxes on either September 10th, 11th or 12th during the day, send me a quick email. The more the merrier, and the faster it will go.

Enormous change, and possibly even chaos. I welcome it.

Ottawa ON: I’m fascinated with the occasional items that poet and Apt. 9 Press editor/publisher Cameron Anstee [see my profile on both he and the press here] has been producing over the past couple of years through St. Andrew Books: limited-edition chapbooks of his own writing, predominantly produced to coincide with one of his readings, or some other event. After The Turning of Pages Should Not Be Audible (2011) [see my review of such here] and She May Be Weary (2011), the third of these chapbooks is One Hundred Additional Frightening Things (2013), “Published in an unnumbered edition of 30 copies for a reading at Raw Sugar Café, Ottawa ON, 10 August 2013, with Christine Miscione, Nicholas Papaxanthos, and Michael e. Casteels.” As a poet, Anstee has long favoured the sequence, and most (if not all) of his dozen or so chapbooks are chapbook-length sequences that highlight the breath, the meditative lyric stretch, and a particular cadence of attentiveness to the line. The poem here feels stretched further than what Anstee has composed previously, with distances between the stanza/sections, some of which works brilliantly, and some of which feels as though it doesn’t hold together as tightly as some of his previous works.

water in lungs, everywhere
a knife, removed
the moment before no longer falling
locked at the knees
the same pain just a moment longer each time
any new ache
bones in the fresh air
full anaesthesia
no answer from many doctors
and then -

Taking title and epigraph from Jim Smith’s One Hundred Most Frightening Things (blewointmentpress, 1985) [see Anstee’s discussion on the book and poem here], Anstee’s writing focuses on such small, personal moments, etching and imprinting each word on the page. Given the meticulous care he gives to each phrase, it is difficult to imagine any of this poem drifting away anytime soon. The poem ends:

naked, the first time
naked, this time
writing about sex
how dry my hands already are
I continue to break watches you give to me
it often feels beautiful to live here
Gee, You’re so Beautiful That It’s Starting to Rain
the best parts remain with you
days I can say nothing to
there is a touch that will be our last

Iowa City IO/Wall Walla WA: New from The Catenary Press is American poet Jennifer Moxley’s limited-edition chapbook, FOYER STATES (2013). Produced in a numbered edition of one hundred (I have number seventy-nine), FOYER STATES is a reworking of fragments of The Iliad, focusing on Helen, and her abandoned daughter Hermione, among other characters such as Eurydice and Aristaeus. Through two short sequences, Moxley’s lyric exploration balances a fine measure between formal language and a more experimental lyric, between the old and the new, a balance that not only holds the poem together as a whole, but manages to make the whole sequence thrum with a fresh and renewed energy. Moxley isn’t the first contemporary American poet to explore the story, given Lisa Jarnot’s work on the same a few years back, holding her own lyric line between the ancient and the contemporary. Is this a singular and self-contained work, one wonders, or part of something far larger?

To assuage the hatred of having a mind but understood the privilege.
She listened to fate and saw its face: A woman holding a dying soldier.
A lover, a mother, it makes no difference. The solace of woman’s flesh
Shredded by pointless death. To hide their murderous exploits experts

Punish the girl. Eurydice bitten into lament. It was her fault.
Her unedited sweetness demanded ending. Aristaeus followed suit.
Loveliness, he believed, must be consumed. The thoughts of a man
(was he really a man?) who caused the death of all his bees.

It was Hermione who told us that when in death Eurydice missed
Only the scent of earth’s flowers, had forgotten her husband’s song. (“FOYER STATES”)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Elizabeth Bachinsky, The Hottest Summer in Recorded History


is that when we are giving one, there are many more people watching us than we are watching. We make an effort not to watch them. We speak to the space just an inch about their heads. It looks as if we are looking at them, but we aren’t. we are looking just past them. It is for their comfort. Especially those close to the podium, for whom the fear of being looked in the eye is especially great.

The purpose of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (New York NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009), edited by Cole Swensen and David St. John, was in reconciling the break that runs through American poetry and poetics. As Swensen says to open her introduction, “The notion of a fundamental division in American poetry has become so ingrained that we take it for granted.” In Canadian poetry, those divisions exist as well, and few connect so well as through Vancouver poet Elizabeth Bachinsky, who manages to navigate her way through the confessional aspects of her trade collections Home of Sudden Service(Gibsons BC: Nightwood Editions, 2006) and god of missed connections (Gibsons BC: Nightwood Editions, 2009) with the procedural of Curio: grotesquest & satires from the electronic age (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2005; second edition, 2009) and I Don’t Feel So Good (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2012). On the surface, it reads as though she negotiates the divides in her own writing through sending manuscripts of one kind to Nightwood Editions, and manuscripts of another kind to BookThug. Bachinsky’s response, it appears, is to keep the two sides of her interest relatively separate, while allowing the occasional bleed from one to enter into the other. Still, it’s uncertain whether or not the divide in her writing begins as a conscious thing. In her fifth trade poetry collection, The Hottest Summer in Recorded History (Nightwood Editions, 2013), Bachinsky returns to a collection of lyric semi-narratives, composing a number of pieces as travel poems, written during an extended period of Canadian travel, in which the author was engaged with readings across the country.

for David McGimpsey

What do I love to say? I love to say
We always do this. We always walk through
Mile End on a weeknight before supper and then you
and I go for steaks on Saint-Laurent and they
leave butter on ice and loaves of dark rye bread
and a dish of cold kosher pickles on a table
covered with white linen. I visit when I am able.
I say whatever comes into my head.
I say I love this place. Love the families
who come in wearing fancy suits and dresses.
There’s a good one. A gold dress. His
suit is good, I think. I can’t tell if he’s
rich. But tonight you’ve got money and so do I.
We always drink the wine and eat the rye.

In many ways, I Don’t Feel So Good, her previous trade collection, was Bachinsky’s way of reconciling the two previously distinct and separate threads of her published work, providing some procedural to her narrative confessional. In this new collection, the thrust behind each poem is in the narrative, at times speaking directly, so to speak, into the camera. Many of the poems in The Hottest Summer in Recorded History read as variations on the epistolary, as most are composed directly for or to an individual. Given that her list is predominantly that of Vancouver and Montreal writers, including Jon Paul Fiorentino, Amber Dawn, Michael Turner, Gillian Jerome, Peter Dubé, Jenn Farrell, George McWhirter, Donato Mancini and David McGimpsey, it highlights the fact that these were pieces composed during her Canadian travels. There is an ease to Bashinsky’s poems in this collection, free from the tensions that brought some of the strength to her previous collection, which emerged from a series of journal entries, which in itself, is a variant on the epistolary. One of the poems in this new collection, “I DROP YOUR NAMES,” writes directly of and to Jenn Farrell and Gillian Jerome, composing a poem of name-dropping that speaks of the problems with being too name-droppy in poems. It opens:

When I see your poems
and see my name there
on the third line, balancing
like a teacup on the lip
of a ledge, and there is Gillian
on the fifth and Jennifer
on the sixth, I am moved
to tell you, please stop
putting our names in poems.

Instead of being ironic, the poem feels exactly part of the same problem she discusses. Despite knowing most of the authors that she speaks to and for in this collection, a number of these pieces feel so personal as to interfere with the poems. I don’t mind name-dropping (as she calls it), but the names included shouldn’t be distractions, or require the reader to know who these individuals are to appreciate the piece. And yet, the strongest poems in The Hottest Summer in Recorded History emerge when those individuals she writes are put aside, allowing herself to compose, and not simply gesture; as though there is something sitting just outside of the poem she doesn’t have to explain.


In which I dream of bikini academia,
my flat-ironed hair smooth and soft as sun-

tan lotion slicked on my taut, perfect abs
which I flex on Venice Beach, one

perfect flex after another perfect flex
as I crack the perfect American book of poems.

I am brilliant as a collegiate smile. The weed, the sex,
central to my thesis. The palms

give me shade, cool my fierce beauty
which is angular and angry and knows just what it is worth.

And who is on that muscle beach with me
but stranger after stranger, each tall and tooth-

some? I bite. My lines American lines
because they sink right in. I can fly anywhere,

but it’s you who fly to me, parched for limes
steeped in vodka, the breeze off the Pacific, my black hair.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Charmaine Cadeau

Charmaine Cadeau was born in Toronto. Placeholder, her latest book, was published by Brick Books in 2013. Her first collection of poetry, What You Used to Wear, was published with Goose Lane in 2004. She is an Assistant Professor of English at High Point University in North Carolina.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book afforded me a place in a community of poets and writers, and their friendships and camaraderie is unmatchable. My first book was the product of writing and revising over a very short period of time; there’s almost a decade between my first and second book, and I spent a lot of time honing similar preoccupations (like fidelity, etc.) I read a lot in that intervening decade, too, and came to what I read more deliberately than when I was greener. Also, I was thinking a lot about visual art when writing Placeholder, and realized that some poems in my latest book don’t translate as readily to aural performance as the poems in the first. Both books make me feel vulnerable.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I came to playwriting first, especially writing for children. I’m knacky with writing dialogue because I think it’s associative in a way that metaphor is, or can be.  I’m not good at withholding, and that seems to me to be so important in longer narratives.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I always have irons in the fire—scraps of writing here and there, so starting isn’t a challenge. I don’t begin with a book in mind so much, so I don’t plot out a framework. I just chase lines of inquiry, birddogging! I am generally a slow writer, or at least it takes me a while before any editorial stuff feels helpful. A very small percentage of my poems resemble early drafts. I wish I took copious notes because I’d remember my process more clearly; my notes are really fragmented, and that probably comes through in the final form.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

This is vague, but it’s the best I can do. A poem begins with a line that develops rhythmically in some way. Everything that I write that has integrity is probably all part of the same project, meaning at this point in life I think I have my figurative worry stones lined up and return to them in some way when I’m writing.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I enjoy readings. And I enjoy being alone. Writing is very solitary for me, so when I do readings, it’s always a bit of a jolt at first. I feel like a bear fresh out of hibernation. Man, that light is bright!  I learn a lot from audiences, which helps me with projects down the road more so than in an immediate sense.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

My writing (I hope) is an extension of my theoretical concerns. I had fun playing with the long history of placeholders in my book, from math to philosophy to language. The overlap of absence and presence is uncanny. I hope my work raises questions because I write from a place of being unsettled myself about things, so I don’t deliver answers (or if I do, it’s like Zoltar in Big). Then there are questions that matter greatly to me that I want to see preliminary answers to because we need to make some changes in an immediate sense, even when those answers are tricky, like the recent debate surrounding the rights of pregnant inmates; what to do about carbon emissions; healthcare access in the US where I now live. I turn toward prose instead of poetry to address the latter kinds of things for a bunch of reasons, some of which are unpopular.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I can somewhat answer this question in a personal way, ie: what is my role as a writer. For me, it’s important to nurture emerging writers (so I teach and edit a journal that includes some first-time publications, etc.); it’s important to plug into the writing community (so I attend readings, read a lot, have written reviews, etc.); it’s important to foster a broader culture of reading (so literacy and literary development programs occupy some of my time); and it’s important to use my own writing as a way of establishing some kind of ‘truth’ and putting it out there to bounce around with other things. So, broadly, the role of the writer is kind of kinetic like that—get the work out and see how it interacts with people, other books, other things. There’s a lot of responsibility in that, too (c.f. Frankenstein).

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Most of the experiences I’ve had with editors up to this point have been essential and humbling and gratifying. That kind of cocktail in various proportions depending on the editor. I fantasize about having an editor who becomes a lifelong friend—but then I think we’d both be too cloudy.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

I like EM Forster’s sense that the writing process should be a way of arriving at what you think. I think social media necessitates a revision to his idea because there isn’t enough process, but Forster holds true for longer, contemplative writing projects.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?

I can’t change gears efficiently between the two, so I try to lump different kinds of writing into different times of the year when possible. The often-linear progression and development of critical prose requires different muscles for me, and I need some non-writing time to adjust back to poetry. But the intellectual and creative work of each is symbiotic. With criticism, I’m forced to evaluate and account for my reactions to things—to move from reaction to sustained thinking. It helps me keep my assumptions and preferences in check, and think metacritically about my own writing. I love criticism that reads as poetry and vice versa, but writing that way isn’t my forte.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I wish I had one, but these days I take scraps of time when they come. In the summer, my typical day begins when my toddler wakes up, and just goes from there.  My writing time usually begins with straightening up a room, making a hot drink, then lots of quiet. No internet, no phone. Just books and notes and time alone.  I know it’s a good session when my drink gets cold because I’ve been caught up with something.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Lots of conversation and long walks without any conversation.  And reading old textbooks about physics, geology, whatever.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Home is now like a series of knots on a cargo net. My son’s yellow blanket; rocky manmade beaches on Lake Ontario; forest floor.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I want to write a note about all four (nature, music, science, and visual art), but I’ll just say that nonliterary influence is very important to me in these ways and others. I’m a pretty visual person, so systems, structures, patterns, and where they rupture influences how I see things and what I write about.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I always find questions about other books really tricky to answer because it is so contextual. I’m always excited by the work my Canadian contemporaries are doing. Also, there are ways of seeing things that writers like Alice Munro, Elizabeth Bishop, and others have that I turn to for my life outside of work.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Teachers Without Borders.  And go on a honeymoon.  Maybe do Teachers Without Borders as a honeymoon.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Some of the most gratifying work I do is literacy development, so in my alternative life, that’s what I’d do.  And bake.  Birthday cakes.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

The struggle I have with it.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I just reread Manatee/Humanity by Anne Waldman. I screened Barbara Kopple’s Harlan County U.S.A. last fall at the university where I work. It still strikes me as an important and interesting film.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on some collaborative projects with nonwriters. We’ll see how it goes.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

new from above/ground press: twentieth anniverary titles by mclennan, Barwin, Reid, McCann, Reed + The Peter F Yacht Club

The creeks,
rob mclennan

See link here for more information

Seedpod, Microfiche
Gary Barwin

See link here for more information

Moan Coach
Monty Reid

See link here for more information

Labradoodle, An Essay on David McGimpsey
Marcus McCann

See link here for more information

After Swann
Marthe Reed

See link here for more information

The Peter F Yacht Club #19
above/ground press 20th anniversary special,

See link here for more information

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July/August 2013
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy of each

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal (above). Scroll down here to see various backlist titles (many, many things are still in print). Coming soon: 2014 annual subscriptions!

See longer list of all previous 2013 (so far) titles here;

Review copies of any title (while supplies last) also available, upon request.

Monday, August 26, 2013

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Patrick F. Durgin on Kenning Editions

KENNING EDITIONS was founded in 1998 to publish KENNING: A NEWSLETTER OF CONTEMPORARY POETRY, POETICS, AND NONFICTION WRITING (ISSN 1526-3428). The newsletter sought to represent non-hierarchically three generations of writers working under radical modernist impulses; to challenge them to publish under the rubric of “progressive social discourse,” in exploration of Williams’ statement regarding finding (or not) “the news” in poems, “men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there”; and to transgress geographic and linguistic boundaries. In thirteen issues, the newsletter featured work by authors such as Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Barbara Guest, Lyn Hejinian, Jackson Mac Low, Nathaniel Mackey, K. Silem Mohammad, Sawako Nakayasu, Leslie Scalapino, Juliana Spahr, and Brian Kim Stefans. It also published symposia, chapbook editions, and more than one broadside insert.

In 2006, KENNING EDITIONS devoted itself exclusively to publishing high-quality trade paperback volumes of new and archival writing by authors whose work reflects the diversity and innovation for which the newsletter came to stand.

KENNING EDITIONS is a not-for-profit venture and accepts monetary contributions.

Patrick Durgin is coauthor of The Route (Atelos, 2008, with Jen Hofer) and has published numerous chapbooks, including Imitation Poems (2006) and Color Music (2002). Durgin is also editor of Hannah Weiner’s Open House and The Early and Clairvoyant Journals of Hannah Weiner. He teaches critical theory, literature, and writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Patrick Durgin @ Pennsound and @ EPC

1 – When did Kenning Editions first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?
Kenning Editions began in 1998 as a journal, which I published usually in spring, summer, and winter. Eleven issues plus two chapbooks, the first being K. Silem Mohammad's first book Hovercraft, and the second being a poets theater collaboration between Barbara Guest and Kevin Killian entitled Often. Once the journal had played itself out, I published a batch of chapbooks and ephemera, including a few titles under the "No Press" imprint (there is now another such No Press, unrelated). In 2006 I devoted my efforts to producing durable, offset paperback books. My original goals have shifted less than other, more important things, like method. I set out with the hypothesis that continuing to explore the ways contemporary writers were exploiting radical modernist techniques would yield insight into the relationships between literary production and civic discourse. These relationships shift more than anything. I guess that's the lesson.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
I was involved with underground and independent music and fanzine culture before I became involved in literary publishing. I think editing is a kind of listening.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
Small publishing is a broad category. I'm not sure what that means in the context of this questionnaire, exactly, because, on one hand, print culture has undergone several important changes since I became involved, and the platforms for circulating poetry I find of interest have proliferated and diverged such that, as a matter of degree, that kind of enterprise is able to shrink to service very specific projects. This is good, but I question whether as many editors are exploiting the opportunity. In some ways, the opposite is true and platforms, missions, critical values are less frequently articulated. The creative writing industry has benefited from the fragmentation of literary publishing, especially, being able to reciprocate with credentializing organs and even the promise of careers. I publish because I am thinking through aesthetics, politics, various problems, and I never can do it alone.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
Nothing unique, perhaps.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
Give them away.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
My standard contract stipulates that I will not edit the text in any way, leaving the author to engage me as they see fit without being obliged to take advice. I do not understand the expectation that the actual composition of a work should be approved in the same capacity as publishing it.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
Small Press Distribution is my distributor and I love them. Print runs range from 200-2000.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
I am transforming Kenning Editions into a non-profit corporation and I gathered a board of directors whose editorial advice--in terms of acquisitions--I trust. I think of myself as the series editor, and then I sometimes work with editors on specific projects, such as Kevin Killian and David Brazil, coeditors of The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
I have always done both simultaneously, so I don't perceive a change, really. It is true, though, that I never write without the work's circulation in mind.

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
I edited Hannah Weiner's Open House for Kenning Editions. And now my poets theater script PQRS has just come out. To me these aren't self-published, because what matters is the capacity in which the work is done. I understand self-publishing as a gesture, and I have done it (under no imprint). But doing these two books with Kenning Editions was for me a practical matter in every respect. Years ago, I was influenced by mail art and fanzine culture. But at this point, I am trying to translate something like what Dischord Records had done in releasing Minor Threat and Fugazi records. It is only logical to align the writing, editing, design, publishing, promotion, and distribution. It is simply the most efficient way for me, a writer slow, as though averse, to finish a project. And like Dischord, Kenning Editions represents a community and is not at all a matter of "vanity." Quite the opposite. From time to time, I can contribute to it in terms of the actual discourse, rather than solely the circuitry. If it were obvious that the press were the right venue for a project, who would know better?

11– How do you see Kenning Editions evolving?
As a non-profit, I hope to strengthen present interests, such as archival projects and acts of "recuperation," pursue much more work in translation, and better outreach via a radically revamped online presence. I will, of course, explore grant writing and partnerships with institutions that can facilitate this.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I am not a proud person, but I still marvel at the poets theater anthology as a clerical feat. All people who bought other things when they could have bought a Kenning Editions book have overlooked something about themselves. My biggest frustration is all of these people.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Most directly, Floating Bear. The first issue of Kenning took a signal of permission from a copy of Floating Bear under glass in the Beat Culture and the New America exhibit circa 1996. Then there were a handful of presses that I could more or less count on, such as Sun and Moon, Roof, O Books.

14– How does Kenning Editions work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Kenning Editions in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
Literary community is wholly imagined, and often presses lend a material substrate to the imagination thereof, though much more effective are the private and apparently ephemeral bases in parties, readings, etc. I think a press can serve community by demonstrating that there is a difference between projects and institutions, though I am still determining how to discern this difference.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
Yes. They serve a particular title, or they don't. In 2007 I took a batch of Kenning authors on a short reading tour of the west coast, from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and Dolores Dorantes was along. We worked some bilingual variations on Hannah Weiner's "Romeo and Juliette" for performance along the way, and this really started to inform my sense of what was drawing me to publish the range of work we were doing at that point. In 1998 I organized a benefit for the journal in San Francisco--there was another in New York some years later--and many small presses donated merchandise for a raffle, etc. Friends ran the thing, donated their labor and material support. This sort of thing is probably transposed to Kickstarter now, in terms of how one registers affinity. There is a lot of voyeurism there, I suspect, like a donor's circle plaque in virtual space. (I haven't done Kickstarter yet.) I think we can learn more by being in the same room. And I should know. Living in the Midwest, I couldn't afford to attend either benefit event.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
This sort of thing, for one.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

I commission books or request manuscripts for consideration based on something more appreciable and less clerical than submission and award. I never want competition to enter in any remote sense, because I am convinced that it not only fails to reveal merit but is the least pertinent condition for experiment of any kind--sort of like the legion of scientists pulling salaries from R & D at Pfizer. Someone wise once described to me publishing and pharmaceuticals as similar industries because, like practically none other, the market price is established by the brand. We set the cover price, not "the market."

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
Ambient Parking Lot, by Pamela Lu, has a premise that is theoretically indefensible and yet works for every reason; that is why it is like the internet: you never stop reading it.

Propagation, by Laura Elrick, is the most prosodically satisfying series of poems I have ever read, and yet I was also able to publish it!

PQRS, by Patrick Durgin, features Julietta Cheung's staged images of raw, processed meats.

12 or 20 (small press) questions;

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lee Ann Brown, Crowns of Charlotte NC ODE


upon looking at Romare Bearden’s mosaic of the same name
at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library

The door opens, backlit
On a round purple rag rug mimosa mosaic

Before Dawn opens the mosaic door
Backlit onto round rug rag in spiral

Broom propped near another mother watching
Her daughter carry a bowl of green, round

Figs or sprouts? Her grandmother beckons
Open palmed over patchwork tablecloth

Of orange ball & bluegreen squares. At the same
Moment my mind flickers to my mother

Taking care of my daughter. I am the woman
Shadowing the doorway watching them play

Watching thy/ my mother

It feels as though I’d barely finished and posted my review of American poet and filmmaker Lee Ann Brown’s third solo trade poetry collection, In the Laurels, Caught (Albany NY: Fence Books, 2013) [see my review here] when another collection, Crowns of Charlotte NC ODE (Durham NC: Carolina Wren Press, 2013), appears on my doorstep. Fifteenth in their “Poetry Series,” Crowns of Charlotte NC ODE follows very much in the footsteps of In the Laurels, Caught. Where the earlier collection explored a more general territory, composed as “a collection of lighthearted, deep rooted-poems written around the Appalachian region of North Carolina in Madison County,” the focus of Crowns of Charlotte NC ODE is far more specific, exploring the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where the author was raised. Existing as an extension and companion volume to In the Laurels, Caught, Crowns of Charlotte NC ODE is a study of Brown’s own point-of-origin, adding, with these two collections, to a tradition that includes Andrew Suknaski’s Wood Mountain Poems (1976; 2006) and Arkansas poet C.D. Wright’s ongoing work, as well as Toronto poet Sharon Harris’ work-in-progress writing Sarnia, Ontario, or my own collections writing Glengarry County, Ontario: bury me deepin the green wood (ECW Press, 1999) and Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011). Brown explores the history, geography and people of Charlotte, North Carolina, digging deep into the language and lilt of the locals and her own family stories and archaeologies, as well as the history of she whom the city is named for, utilizing details and exploring the space.


So elegant my grandmother
So close to her father

That someone recognized her
A thousand miles away

Aquiline nose, large eyes
Skin translucent in photos

I knew her in wrinkles
Where I must have gotten
My under-eye designs

She had very fetching hats and
A sense of style to beat the band

When she brought the preacher
A cold glass of water

Clear eyes flash
Green goblet of glass

O perfect Love
He wasn’t on the list

Brown seems to favour the song and the sonnet, as well as the ode, structures that keeps coming up in what I’ve seen in her writing. Her poems are rich with sound and rhythm, childhood recollection, historical anecdote, the music of John Coltrane, juvenilia and a deep, abiding love. Sound, song, rhythm and speech play integral roles in poems such as “ACOUSTIC WINTER,” “CAR CONVERSATION,” “HOMECOMING” and “‘SCUSE MY BOARDINGHOUSE REACH,” running deep throughout the whole of the collection. As the first stanza of “BALLAD OF WINSTON-SALEM” reads:

Sweet Deborah, she is dead, pretty baby, O
Sweet Deborah, she is dead, pretty daughter, O
Sweet Deborah she is dead
We lay flowers at her head
And across her final bed in the air-ee-o

One of the strongest parts of the book comes from the final sequence in the collection, the fifteen sonnet sequence, “Double Crown for Charlotte,” writing directly around Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), including the rumours of her African ancestry. Queen Charlotte, after whom the city of Charlotte was named, was wife of the “mad king,” King George III. In each poem, Brown explores Queen Charlotte’s history, and uses the final line from each poem to open the next piece, finally accumulating in the fifteenth sonnet, constructed entirely out of these repeated lines. Through repetition, and variant usage, the repeated lines shift, alter and change weight, turning themselves around into new shapes. The sound of similar lines in a short space bring weight to the poem, and to each line, altering all that emerges around them.

The town I grew up in is feminine—
To crown us all with a laurel wreath
I saw a map early on of North and South.
A gloss written in between lines:

The greatest monarch of the north must bow
in the bedroom. King George whines:
            O sing
of human DNA’s complexity—

A dog which shows its teeth but never dares
to decode a painting. One has to get close.
Who didn’t want to let go of their Queen?
Sophia Charlotte was also a painter,

but my favorite is a photograph.
Do me the favor to burn this if you love me and believe me.