Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ongoing notes: late December, 2015

Another year, nearly done; where does it all go?

Toronto ON: From one of the COUGH regulars [see my review of the latest issue here] comes Toronto poet Emily Izsak’s Stickup (Toronto ON: shuffaloff / Eternal Network, 2015), a collection predominantly made up of short, quirky, observational lyrics. The shuffaloff / Eternal Network coupling (otherwise known as the collaboration between Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman’s small publishing enterprises) has been producing an intriguing number of chapbooks over the past couple of years, with nearly a dozen titles, including a couple of first chapbooks, by poets such as John Clarke, Victor Coleman, Michael Boughn, Robert Duncan, David Peter Clark, Ed Dorn and Oliver La Carerna Cusimano [see my review of such here]. Part of what appeals about first chapbooks (or, close to first; there is no biographical information to know if she published anything prior to this) is knowing that, most likely, they showcase the best of everything that particular author has composed up to that point, and Izsak’s Stickup feels very much like that kind of collection.



I am not her tender eyed sister,
second choice first fucked.
Her fingertips are creased with miltless lust.
She is not your vestal lamb pure of

I imagine you grinned at her
leopard print undergarments
and I can’t

            i can’t.

For all of my suspicion,
how did I miss
her candy lips
on your computer screen?

You don’t need to make anyone
feel lovely
but me.

The appeal, also, comes through that very same variety, utilizing different shapes and structures as exploratory, some of which is quite strong, and some of which is less so, but somehow all imbibed with a vibrant energy. At some forty pages of material, the diversity of styles somehow cohere as a unit, with some really striking lines, such as to end the short poem, “ON WALKING THROUGH ALLAN GARDENS,” where she writes: “This exhibitionist greenhouse / flashes a German shepherd.” Or, the end of the poem “POW!” that brings out the more gymnastic elements of her language and cadence: “Call it ornithophilia, / I am smitten by your umlaut crowned / spit curl. Come now, / let’s dodge radioactive chondrules / till we’re dry lipped and sick with soroche, / too hypoxic for the kettledrum clatter. // Lady, you’ll say, / you looking dazzling in my leotard.”


Shot in the head like a three-legged horse,
what a way to go.
Hey man, did you ever get to, you know, “pet the rabbit”
before you kicked it?
The bucket that is.
Let me tell ya, I know a coupl’a girls up here—
blunt force trauma, nothing infectious,
not that it matters now, I guess.
Did it hurt?
Not the bullet, I mean the part where you feel like leave you
like a goddamn puff of smoke
after you’ve held it in your lungs so long your eyes tear up.
He kinda reminds me of you,
that gum chewing Chief,
anyway, his hands are as big as yours,
big as my face,
which sorta worked out for us.
But you gotta be careful.
Keep those mitts in your lap or something
‘cause I don’t want nothin’ else to end up

Brooklyn NY: From Brooklyn’s Ugly Duckling Presse comes a new chapbook by American poet (and Toronto resident) Hoa Nguyen [see my profile on her here], her TELLS OF THE CRACKLING (2015). Given her most recent poetry collection was a selected/collected poems, Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008 (Seattle WA/New York NY: Wave Books, 2014) [see my review of such here], it has been three years since the appearance of a collection of new work, after her As Long As Trees Last (Seattle WA/New York NY: Wave Books, 2012) [see my review of such here]. Three years might not be seen as a long time between publications, but Nguyen appears to release work slowly, meaning three years between publications could be considered the speed of light (and we are enormously grateful for the speed, by the by).


Dream of childhood friend Wendy
casually exiting my apartment window
to jump to the roof-top deck
so we can perch and talk with city
views           but she is too casual
                and I see her miss
the landing       not jumping
far enough       an absolute plunge
ten stories down

    Her yelling regrets
cry out       Stop           o no   o no

I cover my ears so as not to hear the impact

Not to refer to widow          or want
To mention the dream scream
Frantic 9-1-1 dialing       I can barely

Let’s let it at this

Take the risk

The thirty-some pages of short lyrics in TELLS OF THE CRACKLING continue Nguyen’s work in the small, personal moment, presenting a series of narratives presented in halting breaths, pauses and precise descriptions. Her cadences are marvellous, and constructed entirely for the sake of attention. I haven’t yet heard her read, but, reading these poems, I am reminded, yet again, that I would very much like to.

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