Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ongoing notes: mid-June, 2015

(Do I even still write poems? I can’t recall. Where do I even find the time?)

And of course, the big Chaudiere Books 2015 spring poetry launch is on Thursday at Raw Sugar Café! William Hawkins (Cameron Anstee reading for him, given a recent illness) and N.W. Lea, with a special acoustic set by Jesse Patrick Ferguson.

Philadelphia PA: I’m always happy to hear about new (or at least, new to me) presses, so was thrilled to receive a copy of Rosmarie Waldrop’s gorgeous new chapbook, IN PIECES (Philadelphia PA: O’CLOCK PRESS, 2015).


To feel an idea is different. And rare. A private fluency of figment and frontier. A splinter in the sky. Let’s not get sentimantic. The word “reality” is a word. Atoms are unpredictable, a warp in a continuous field, a gamble against the powers of disorder. But grammar can unpack a sentence it has taken you so long to understate. What open window? What thin but penetrating light?

Waldrop’s stunning sixteen-part essay-sequence proves, yet again, that some writers (not nearly enough) continue to improve, even after decades of publishing. IN PIECES manages to cohere in multiple directions, contemplating language, poetry, sex and the poetic line, allowing the most incredible connections through the almost-collage of thought, sound and sentence.

Toronto ON: In Rachel Rose’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at CanLit (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2015), the Vancouver poet (and current city Poet Laureate) plays off Wallace Stevens’ infamous early 20th century poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” a poem that has been riffed and repeated and pilfered by dozens upon dozens of poets for decades (my favourite has to be Robert Kroetsch, who composed his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Lemon”). As her poem opens:

Let’s say it, then. Let’s make it explicit. Let’s lick the clit
            of it. Let’s fornicate it.
The way you fuck and the way you write are exactly the
            same. Isn’t it a relief to have it out in the air? Not a
            metaphor, but a critical difference, a preference, not a
            simile, but a simulation, a seduction of the ideal reader
            with a piece about some pieces.
and some of us fake it
and get away with it
and some of us are very quiet
and regret it
and most of us are insecure about it
and some of us do it in public
and some of us are very private
and some like to experiment
and most of us do it the same way over and over

Rose’s poems is saucy and revelatory, expanding Stevens’ original short haiku-like passages into a rush of longer sentences that have the force and weight of water, and revel in a particular kind of seductive play that also pushes to explore, criticize and indict a level of complacency in Canadian poetry. We need more poems (and criticism) that call us on our shit. As she writes:

            You love the serious, heterosexual guy you’d go fishing
                        with. Because women can’t be men and Chinese can’t
                        be guys and homosexuals can’t be the best and you only
                        teach the best. It’s a math proof and the answer equals
                        you. Because it’s all about love, true love, those whom
                        you truly, truly love.

            Isn’t that unfortunate? Isn’t that serious? Because the best
                        by any other name is still you, squared.

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