Friday, April 01, 2005

ongoing notes, April Fool’s Day 2005

Is there anything more foolish than to write about small press? (I really should be working on my novel.) Speaking of which, Montreal poet-maven Jon Paul Fiorentino has started a blog (worth reading solely for his critique of Carmine Starnino’s most recent collection of essays), as has Calgary poet Laurie Fuhr (we would like her to return to Ottawa someday, but understand her need to travel). I’ve been working on my own response to Starnino, and the result should (hopefully) be up in a few weeks when Stephen Brockwell, Anita Dolman and I (with the help of Paul Dechene) release the fifth issue of our

Calgary AB: After Calgary poet / publisher / editor derek beaulieu shut down his years of publishing chapbooks and other ephemera through his housepress (and the amount of coverage he got claiming lack of coverage), as well as his years with dANDelion, filling Station and endnote (a small publication dedicated to more critical inquiry, I’ve always been disappointed that endnote didn’t go further than it did), I had been hoping he would get back to it after a break. Recently returned to filling Station, it’s entirely possible he has, with the appearance of the chapbook fractals in my mailbox today. The first chapbook (it seems) published in a lettered edition of twenty-six copies by Calgary’s No press, with hand-stitching, lettered copies and hand-cut pages, it feels like a derek production.

Of all the visual poetry happening in Canada, beaulieu’s is perhaps the most persistent, appearing in journals, chapbooks, books and ephemera more often than anyone else’s (not that there are many journals in Canada that would consider publishing them), and is often some of the most interesting. Collecting two sequences, "andor 1-5" and "portrait 1-4" ("portrait 4" appeared a long time ago as above/ground press poem broadside #101), the pieces in fractals seem to work more from photocopy manipulation than his previous series. And he does seem to favour the series, his "Calcite gours 1-19," that appeared in part in his Coach House trade collection with wax, and later in full, as an issue of STANZAS. The visuals lately have seemed rougher, even lighter, something the clean and very lovely production of the chapbook almost contradicts. Still, the evolution of beaulieu’s visuals is an interesting thing to follow, to see where he ends up going next. At some point, I think, I would be very interested to see how beaulieu tackles a trade collection of visual poetry (equally interesting would be a trade collection of visuals by Jason Le Heup, the Vancouver-born member of the Toronto group Prize Budget for Boys).

Not that photocopier manipulation is a new thing, jwcurry has done his versions, as did bpNichol and I believe John Riddell (it would make an interesting essay, I think, to map the use of photocopy manipulation in visual poetry), a history that beaulieu would know far better than I. The quote at the beginning, from the Minolta CF1501 / CF2001 Operation Manual, "The environmental requirements for correct operation of the copier are as follows." reminds me of something Coach House maven Stan Bevington once said of bpNichol, how beep taught him how to use all of the printing equipment by not knowing how to use it properly, and being willing to experiment with what shouldn’t be done.

I can’t say for sure if derek produced this, or if he has any more or if there will be further publications from this No press. Certainly, you should email him and ask:

Prince George BC: Now that Winnipeg poet Rob Budde is all settled up in Prince George, British Columbia in his teaching job and family and such, he has started producing chapbooks under the name wink books, almost an extension to another of his Northern BC publishing ventures, the online journal stonestone. Starting with my american movie (2003), Budde has recently released two other chapbooks, the collection one hour more light, poems by Jeremy Stewart (2004), and another of his own, software tracks (2004), and, as both claim, "published in limited personalized editions sporadically."

I don’t know who Jeremy Stewart is, but I’m intrigued by his one hour more light, a long poem built out of fragments, writing thick physical lines on Prince George and veering off in various directions.

Handing out handbills from the tables, the kids
all want to be there on September 13th. We don’t mind
getting kicked out for soliciting. The waitress is rude, but
she gets our bills right. The Legion show is coming
together. Subversion, Negative Aggression, Dead
Reckoning; I scream and play lead
in Telepathy. We headline. When 300 tickets sell,
we make ourselves sick with the money

Some of the lines in one hour more light have potential, but I think what makes Stewart worth watching is for what he will eventually do, and not necessarily what he is currently doing. A promising poem (with terrible drawings), I can dip into this collection anywhere and not get bored. I would like to see more.

Budde’s software tracks, as he writes in the colophon, "is heavily influenced by Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. It came about as an attempt to write a cubist CT scan of the american body. It is part of a larger text called declining america." The same project his my american movie is part of, Budde seems to be taking a page from Prince George poet and publisher Barry McKinnon, who has long been publishing chapbooks of his own work that have later been collected into larger trade editions, both through his Caledonia Writing Series and Gorse Press. For years I’ve been enjoying the poetry of Rob Budde, but it was his collection traffick (Turnstone Press, 1999) that made me realize he was onto something real, and atmospheric. Easily one of the most consistently interesting younger poets in the country (I would include Toronto poets Stephen Cain and Margaret Christakos, as well as Vancouver poet Mark Cochrane on that list), Budde is a poet who doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

Written in very long lines, here is the poem "anorexia," that writes:

Doubled, this hedge-like structure should be trimmed unevenly through acupuncture dismissals. Perusing a periphery for a new hegellain bagel metaphor.
A Jacobean development: after-the-fact but so much more cocktails.
Expectantly, custard takes on the spoon, calls for a sudden, an exacting conjunction.
Walking is walking over.
The zipper was.
Window frame spillage, beading, the bones wary even over cotton weave. A relenting. Whoop whoop.
Alibi in stitches.
Litmus lime twist.
A swindle refusing lack. Ignore the next one.

In an unpublished interview, Budde talks of the collection as a whole, saying, "declining america is not polemic and does not so much address America the nation (if such a thing exists), but is rather an exploration of ‘america’ as a linguistic strategy. The book represents ‘american’ language as a habit, a way of life we all (in Canada and throughout much of the world) engage in, it parodies, and offers some alternative language strategies. A long poem called ‘my american movie’ address ‘issues’ most directly but is in the form of performance rants/monologues. This piece was written in response to Beaudrillard’s book America in which he travels philosophically through the American southwest. Another long poem, ‘software tracks’ is subtitled ‘a cubist ct scan of the american body’ and is a series of Stein-like (Tender Buttons) sections each titled with a bodily affliction (‘lung cancer,’ ‘apathy,’ ‘depression,’ ‘obesity,’ etc). It is a book written out of fear but into issues of language politics not overt politics. Chomsky, Roy, Moore, and Nader have done enough in that area–there’s only so much Adbusters can take."

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