Ongoing notes: early January 2006
New year, new writings and new readings, although one can consider that in this, as in so many things, it is simply ongoing. Will any of you be around in February when I read at the Atwater Library as part of the Atwater Poetry Project in Montreal on February 16? Massachusetts poet and academic Lea Graham was here with her husband in Ottawa for a few days around New Year's Eve, visiting friends of theirs that now live in Maxville, of all places. If you ever get to meet them, make sure you do, cuz they're plenty of fun (she's writing an essay on Suknaski for the Guernica Editions collection on his work that I'm editing). And remember, above/ground press 2006 subscriptions are still available for $30…makes a great gift! Late on plenty of publications (you have no idea how far behind I am), some forthcoming ones include Sharon Harris (Toronto), Cath Morris (Vancouver), Karen Clavelle (Winnipeg), Barry McKinnon (Prince George BC), Dennis Cooley (Winnipeg), Stan Rogal (Toronto), Lori Emerson (Buffalo) and Stephanie Bolster (Montreal). Send me money so I can make more! And check out my review of the anthologies Writing the Terrain: Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets (University of Calgary Press) and Post-Prairie: An Anthology of New Poetry (Talonbooks) in the January/February issue of Word: Canada's Magazine for Readers + Writers. And have you considered taking my upcoming poetry workshop?
New York NY: I am very interested in 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, Erica Kaufman and Sina Queyras. As it says inside Rachel Zolf's from Human Resources (chapbook #82; Rachel was nice enough to send me a copy), "belladonna* is 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 other writers in the series include Nathalie Stephens, Mairéad Byrne, Lisa Robertson, Erin Mouré, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, Leslie Scalapino, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Kathleen Fraser. Most are still available for $4 (US), but a number of titles are already out of print.
Through her two poetry collections Masque (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2004) and Her absence, this wanderer (Ottawa ON: BuschekBooks, 1999), Toronto writer Rachel Zolf has certainly been producing more and more interesting writing the past few years, but it’s the writing in her work-in-progress Human Resources that has really moved her work up to another level. A long series of fragments, Human Resources explores the language that sits between critical prose and office-speak (an almost gibberishly double-talk). Working through a poetic that includes critical writing and thinking, the pieces in Human Resources take a page from Montreal poet Erin Mouré (a direction also being taken by expat Canadian Sina Queyras), that the essay doesn't have to be separate from the poem.
The mystical white crow, the sword & the flower that
shattered stone standing in a Chelsea gallery watching
an artist get fucked by a collector for $20,000 U.S., it's
always the first cliché 44 would mom off our tongue
they love best: your dreams are possible, you can create
the life you want, there's no better time to make an
investment in your future. How limited the sphere you
negotiate liu Ouagadougou pogrom, "flourish" boasting
too many vowels, "thrive" too abstract. Internal censor
cheapening the impact of words, no nick or dent in the
narrow way the victorious city ritualist G-3 monoculture.
Like the unemployed former Democrats from Flint
swerving behind Bush and false, disfigured certainty, you
hand over the car keys to Jesus and the boss pockets 200
bucks an hour
Zolf has been publishing bits of the work-in-progress in various places (I even published a fragment as an above/ground press broadside), so keep your eyes open for other pieces in other places. Information on the belladonna* series can be found on their website, through email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by writing the editors c/o 458 Lincoln Place, #4B Brooklyn NY 11238
Vancouver BC: In a package I received from the publisher a while ago is Vancouver poet Lissa Wolsak's A Defence of Being (Ireland: Wild Honey Press, 2005). A 48-page chapbook, Wolsak's A Defence of Being is a sequence of combined fragments that exist as a treatise for existence.
When eyes slither up an arapahoeish moon,
mosquito-net yurt spread with summer quilts,
that is…on simple grounds of luminosity
we cross a ravine by way of a fallen pine-trunk,
water, wind, solar energy and peacefully split atoms
in our employ,
pleasures of emptiness and
absence of telo-numb theatrical gestures,
but if, then, one is the gloss of the other,
we haven’t the leisure to defeat,
shall it next press that loving to eve,
for here…evidence…an inchoate ear
is my hand smoldering and agape sits lightly upon us,
and less chthonic thrall
fee-simple (p 36)
For a long time, I've wanted to see more of Wolsak's work in a larger format, and available to a wider audience (in Canada at least), after other publications floating around, including The Garcia Family Co-Mercy (Vancouver BC: Tsunami Editions, 1994), An Heuristic Proclusion (Vancouver BC: Friends of Runcible Mountain, 2000) and Pen Chants, or nth or 12 spirit-like impermanences (New York NY: Roof Books, 2000). Why do so many of these Vancouver poets only seem to get trade books either in limited release locally, and/or larger release in some other country?
~ Writing is my way of listening and ventriloquising
until I reach the place of speaking. Or, in order to
perceive, I create distance, and re-situate my own
epistemological ideas of causation, separation, and
otherness. To find axis, or, an orbital angular
moment, in rejection of its own centrality, always
already disturbing its own refinement. To equipoise
opposing forces, in their moving equilibriums, their
tableaux. (An Heuristic Proclusion)
Vancouver BC: I found myself recently going through my copy of Sharon Thesen's Weeping Willow (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2005) again. Written as a slow sequence for George Bowering's late wife Angela (1940-1999), it moves as an elegy, through the period Thesen spent with Angela before she died. I've always been a fan of Thesen's poetry, and have always wished there would be just a little bit more of it (someday I will have to learn patience), Thesen is the editor of The New Long Poem Anthology, Second Edition (with a lovely cover image by Greg Curnoe; Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2001) and co-editor (with Ralph Maud) of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff: A Modern Correspondence (Wesleyan University Press, 1999), and author of a number of poetry collections, including Artemis Hates Romance (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1980), Confabulations: Poems for Malcolm Lowry (Lantzville, B.C. : Oolichan Books,
1984), Aurora (Coach House Press, 1995), A Pair of Scissors (Toronto ON: House of Anansi, 2000) and a second volume of selected poems, News & Smoke: Selected Poems (Talonbooks, 1999).
Down Larch St. to suppertime.
Angela'd had another dream
in which a school of fish…
& how she should have run off
with the visiting professor…
shouldn't we all have run off with someone.
At any rate
we'd talked for hours at the kitchen table,
Angela dispensed Sweet 'n Low
into her coffee as the windows darkened
and it was time to go so
I put on my coat and drove
down the hill in the Honda
many autumns back then
What I have always admired about Thesen's writing are the slow, considered steps she takes, and her poem on Roy Kiyooka after his death was absolutely heartbreaking in its simplicity, saying everything it needed to say (I was disappointed, actually, and surprised that it wasn't included in her Talonbooks selected; and if I could find my copy of Aurora I'd include it here…). Dedicated to George Bowering and his daughter Thea, Thesen's Weeping Willow writes of her relationship with Angela, and Angela's garden, just outside the bedroom window. Fortunately or unfortunately, grief and wanting to work your way through it can be quite an impetus for writing (see also: Frank Davey's honest and heartwrenching journal about his wife, How Linda Died, published by ECW Press, which is an almost essential read). In fragments written almost as small journal entries, Weeping Willow seems reminiscent, somewhat, of the book that George Bowering wrote for his late friend, the London, Ontario painter Greg Curnoe in The Moustache, Memories of Greg Curnoe (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1993).
I remember the last few times I saw Greg Curnoe he had his
current favourite jacket on. It looked like an often-washed,
blue, somewhat-faded jacket with a small crest on it. The crest
had the name of some town in France. A few days after he died
we were at his house, and at the kitchen door, which is the only
door you use to get into that house, I saw the jacket hanging
on a hook. This is an entrance hall with the laundry machines
in it, I think, and a lot of large shoes and boots. On the wall are
the coat hooks, up really high, just under the ceiling. The
Curnoes are all tall. On the way out that night I saw the jacket
hanging where Greg had put it a few days before. I reached up
and touched it and looked at the crest, but I cant remember
what the name of the town is. (The Moustache, Memories of Greg Curnoe)