Don’t forget the ottawa small press fair turns twenty-five years old next month! You should totally come out for that. What else is happening? I'm at IFOA later this month, participating both as part of a small press fair and on a panel on small press, which is pretty cool. I had a book or two out this year (here and here), don’t forget. I mean: you knew all of this already, right? And did you see that 2020 subscriptions to above/ground press’ TWENTY-SEVENTH YEAR OF PRODUCTION are now available?
Wolfville NS/Montreal QC: I’m extremely impressed with Montreal poet and critic Klara du Plessis’ chapbook unfurl: Four Essays (Wolfville NS: Gaspereau Press, 2019), an assemblage of some of the sharpest and engaging critical work I’ve read in some time. Her language and detail are swift, electric and utterly delightful, and some of the sharpest, smartest prose I’ve seen. As the small collection opens:
Unfurl, for me, is the shape of a leaf managing itself into growth. It’s the gesture of a front uncurling itself, standing upright, broad-shouldered and confident. It’s a leaf from a book, a page inscribing poetry that is organic and energetic and lends itself to my mind.
Un-furl is a negation with a generative definition. The word’s semantic growth is so strong that its prefix denoting absence is satiated, incorporated, and reinvigorated into verdure.
Unfurl is a collection of four review essays, each on a different recent poetry title by a Canadian writer—Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erín Moure, Lisa Robertson’s 3 Summers, Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk and an overview of a couple of titles by Anne Carson, a short essay that begins:
Anne Carson never completes a book. Currently, I am surrounded by her books. Plainwater is on my lap. Red Doc> lies open beside me and Decreation peeks out from underneath it. It crosses my mind that I need an extra perpendicular desk to lay out Eros the Bittersweet, my printout of “The Gender of Sound,” the multiple inserts of Float. And yet, Anne Carson never completes a book.
Sometimes I feel I spend my whole life rewriting
the same page.
As she writes, again, in her opening pages: “I am attuned to heed work on language, ars poetics, self-referential dialogue of grammar and poetics. I seek out female embodiment of intelligence through sensuality, racial integration into geographies of mind and space. Yet each essay also stands alone. I am not flattening these poets through similarity. Rather, it’s a curious, beauteous phenomenon to see the reading of four poets’ work channeled so clearly through a mind, a set of concerns, an ecstatic moment of being animated to write. There is endless strength in considering how poems go together, enter into dialogue with one another, rub up against one another, contrast and scratch at one another as they draw on an archive of an individual’s reading practice become writing. My reading mind à my writing mind, unfurl.” I can only hope that these essays are a teaser for an eventual full-length collection.
Minneapolis MN: New from American poet Rosmarie Waldrop comes the stunning chapbook Rehearsing the Symptoms (Minneapolis MN: Rain Taxi, 2019), a short assemblage of poems – “Wanting,” “Thinking,” “Doubting,” “Knowing,” “Doing,” “Coupling,” “Escaping Analogy,” “Meaning,” “Translating,” “Loving Words” and “Aging” – that sit at the heart of what Waldrop’s work has been doing for more than five decades: utilizing the poem as a space for sharp thinking on being, writing and literature. Given the amount of work she has published over the past fifty or so years (something evidenced through Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop’s recent Keeping / the window open: Interviews, statements, alarms, excursions, edited by Ben Lerner, with an introduction by Aaron Kunin that Wave Books produced earlier this year [see my review of such here]), I find it stunning just how breathtaking and relevant her work continues to be, writing evocatively around specifics and abstracts, language and being, and the impossibly concrete, as in this excerpt of the poem “Loving Words”:
I’ve filled my house with many different things. As if to create an ecology to encourage diversity of experience. The way areas with greater numbers of animal and plant species are said also to have a greater number of languages.
Yet I’ve retreated into the two dimensions of page and perspective cavalière. Turned my back on the window in favor of definitive articles on perception. Of introversion and subcutaneous shivers.