Wednesday, January 25, 2006

belladonna* chapbook / reading series, NY

After getting Rachel Zolf's belladonna* chapbook directly from her a while ago, I got a package of a whole bunch more from the publisher. As I wrote in a previous post, the belladonna* reading and chapbook series out of New York City that has promoted the work of numerous women writers both American and Canadian over the past few years, produced and organized by Rachel Levitsky and Erica Kaufman (with help from Canadian ex-pat Sina Queyras), citing itself as "a reading series that promotes the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable, dangerous with language." Hosting an interesting mix of new and established, some of the chapbooks now in my little apartment are Alice Notley's "IPHIGENIA" (#36), Leslie Scalapino's "'Can't is 'Night'" (#50), Nicole Brossard's (trans. Lise Weil) "Matter Harmonious Still Maneuvering" (#66), Susan Howe's "118 Westerly Terrace" (#68), hassan's "Salem" (#72), Erín Moure's "Befallen I" (#74), Lisa Robertson's "First Spontaneous Horizontal Restaurant" (#75), Mairéad Byrne's "Kalends" (#79) and Nathalie Stephens' "You But For The Body Fell Against" (#81)(although I wish these publications would also include biographical information, so I could know a little bit more about each author...). I'm a big fan of reading series that can get themselves together to produce chapbooks by the reader, not only giving a chance for a larger awareness of particular writers than who might have been in the crowd, but producing a printed record of each event (it very much appeals to the archivist in me).

One of my favourite of the series that I've seen so far has to be the work of Nathalie Stephens, a Canadian poet I've been following (and publishing) for years, as she moved back and forth from Toronto to Montreal to Guelph, Ontario and back, before finally heading down to Chicago (where I'm pretty sure she still is). No matter what the other chapbooks might hold, there is just something about her text that I keep coming back to. With a number of trade collections under her belt, in both English and French, I don't know why Stephens' work doesn't get more attention than it does, so it's extremely cool that she is part of this series.

The madness scores the skin. We balk at it before taking it in. We
remove what covers. We are loathe to begin.

We solicit leaving. Shun the evening. The turn of the orange
sun. The encroachment of what darkens. We fall fast. We bargain with
our pain. We deny the thing that moves through dusk into the body.
The ink-swell of rage bottomed into a flat plane of sufferance. Even our
vocabulary is wrought of disdain. And the voices rise against us. And the
hands admonish the thing we refuse to touch. And the body ignites the
sorrow drowned in us. And the mouth starves the motioning of language.
And the skin scars the having lost. Accuse the song named after us.

We are the unburied. And distrust.

-- Natalie Stephens, "You But For The Body Fell Against"

They have a whole list of publications still in print, which can be purchased through their website, or by sending a query to them at 458 Lincoln Place, Suite 48 Brooklyn NY 11238.

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