Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ongoing notes: early March 2006

I know you're going to my TREE Reading on the 14th, right? And you know about these podcasts of Ottawa poets that John W. MacDonald has been on about lately? The reading I did in Montreal a few weeks ago is online as a podcast, on the Atwater Library website; & have you seen the new reading series that Mark Truscott is starting in Toronto? Joe Blades recently posted a photograph of Hugh Thomas, who had bootlegged (with permission) some above/ground press items for a recent book fair out there in Fredericton, New Brunswick (I couldn’t get my act together to mail anything). The long list for the ReLit Awards is now available, & includes first collections by Shauna McCabe & Andy Weaver. March 23rd, 8pm; be sure to get to The Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Street) in Ottawa, as American poet Lea Graham launches Calendar Girls (above/ground press) & Ottawa/Moose Creek ON poet Nicholas Lea launches light years (above/ground press), with an opening reading by special guest (& local fan-fave) Stephen Brockwell. & notice that William Hawkins, Ottawa's most dangerous poet, reads at The Dusty Owl Reading Series on March 19th…

Ottawa ON: Another small item from jwcurry is the chapbook (he came over to borrow my long arm stapler to put it together a couple of weeks ago…) BEFORE THE GOLDEN DAWN by david uu by Daniel f. Bradley. As the colophon at the end states, "170 copies published as / CURVD H&Z 457 / in early february 2006 / of which 20 are #d & signed / / cover by jwcurry after / Gregg Simpson's original" (n.p.), and another page gives the date of Bradley's composition as October 1989. The small publication reads as an abbreviated collection of notes and corrections on uu's original text (which I am now intrigued by; I have discovered since that it is also a small publication made out of corrections), with a cover image taken directly from the original publication's cover image, as Bradley writes in his (with the smell of gestetner so very very fresh, smelling just like Mom's high school…):

notes on david uu's BEFORE THE GOLDEN DAWN.
these notes are really my version of the book.
the book was published by weed/flower press in 1971.
without a doubt has had a great influence on the next
several years.
i'm writing this last night. i have read:
would read:
page two would read in the middle of the page:
four lines down:

For those who don't know, the late david uu (David Harris) was a Vancouver-based visual and concrete poet who was contemporary of bpNichol (Harris' son Thoth ran a reading series in Montreal a few years ago). Bradley's collection is an obvious (do I even have to say it?) response to UU's BEFORE THE GOLDEN DAWN, published in 1971 by Nelson Ball's Weed/Flower Press (publisher of books/chapbooks by bpNichol, Clayton Eshleman, William Hawkins, bill bissett, Anselm Hollo, Victor Coleman, George Bowering and multiple other Canadian and American poets, as well as Ball himself).

Bradley's small collection ("suddenly available from Curvd H&z"), described by curry as a "Borgian tribute," is available for $5 paper, $20 cloth (and copies of the original david uu publication are available as well from curry for $12.50 paper). As I've said so many times before, everyone should send him cash (and prizes), and write him for a list of available titles, whether as publisher, author and/or bookseller (he has one of the largest collections of small press in Canada) c/o jwcurry, #302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Ontario Canada K1R 6R7. Otherwise, he usually shows up to the ottawa small press book fair (watch for it June 17th…), and sometimes the Toronto Small Press Book Fair (but less often).

Ottawa ON: I know that the Dusty Owl reading series has been publishing bits here and there, including their poetry journal The Dusty Owl Quarterly, and chapbooks here and there, but they seem very quiet about this; I almost never see them. One thing that caught my eye recently was Leo Brent Robillard's small chapbook/poem The Drowning (2005). Before he moved from here to teach high school in Athens, Ontario, Robillard was editor/publisher of The Backwater Review, a chapbook poetry and fiction journal in Ottawa in the mid/late 1990s (we were heartbroke when he stopped doing it), and later on, the author of the novel Leaving Wyoming (Winnipeg MB: Turnstone Press, 2004).

The Drowning is a short poem on the Long Sault hydroelectric project that happened in the 1950s, just west of Cornwall, Ontario, when a number of towns were forced to move or simply be abandoned when the hydro dam was built, before being submerged under thirty or forty feet of water. If you travel down to Morrisburg (be sure to check out Upper Canada Village when you're down there), you can tourist around a building with various histories of the old villages and lost towns, including those that were moved, and those that were simply abandoned. Also, check out Don McKay's poem Long Sault (London ON: Applegarth Follies, 1975). Out of print for millions of years, the only place to find his fantastic early poem on the project (McKay grew up in Cornwall, so probably witnessed parts of the event) is either in a library (unfortunately, it wasn't reprinted in his 2004 selected poems, Camber), or (more likely) in a second-hand copy of Michael Ondaatje's The Long Poem Anthology (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1979). Here is the opening to Robillard's five page piece:

They blew the dam
at eight o'clock,
but the drowning took
four days.

On the dike at Cornwall,
the crowd
waited for a wave
that never came.
They followed the river's
newborn arms instead—
tendrilling through stone
like the time elapsed photography
of the root
system of trees.
By that time the next day,
the basements
of Mille Roches
had become the real estate of fish.

Check out their website for a list of titles as well as their monthly reading series.

Ellsworth ME: I've always been envious of Sylvester Pollet's Backwood Broadsides, a series of small folded monthlies (produced in editions of 750 copies) that currently number very close to one hundred (if not more). Previous authors in the series include Jackson Mac Low (14), Meredith Quartermain (39), Rachel Blau DuPlessis (41), Sheila E. Murphy (45), Robert Creeley (50), Jennifer Moxley (62), George Bowering (84), Alice Notley (94) and Peter Quartermain (95). The most recent two that I've seen are Joanne Kyger's Night Palace (number 96) and Robert Kelly's Samphire (number 97). I love the ephemeral nature of these little publications (even with their enviably high print runs), and almost wish there was a book somewhere that collected them all; would that be too much to ask? I want to see what I've been missing.

As a fan of the work of Richard Brautigan, I just have to reprint this poem from Joanne Kryger:

Don Allen

Once he took Richard Brautigan and me north out to
the wine country circa 1964 when it was really empty
and spring blossoms were on the trees

He'd point and Richard and I would run out from the car
and hack away at all the branches we could find
and finally the car was all filled up

When he dropped us off in the city
He took just one very shapely branch
& left us on the sidewalk

with this huge mound
of drooping greenery and blossoms
and drove away into the night

September 14, 2004
d. August 29, 2004

I think it would be worth you sending a dollar just to read this poem properly, and not with all the spacing my knowledge of blogger removes. Here's a piece by Robert Kelly from his small publication:


I have had enough of it,
this knowing so much and you not being here,
the word is a mighty wizard and all that
but why is the doorway empty

(why do all the books of the philosophers
look like dead pigeons on the autobahn
their wings made to flutter a little
from the wind of passing cars?)

because I'd loved you with satyr passion
there never will be a need for telling lies,
not with us, not with us,

all we need now's for us to keep
tenderness in goat-foot fashion

keep watch beside your sleep.

(from "The Old Satyr to the Young Platonist")

I like that these publications are small enough to often include a single poem and/or a sequence, and not just a hodgepodge of single short poems. As Kelly writes as a footnote about his ongoing poem, "Samphire is offered in homage to John Cowper Powys, a great neglected writer of the 20th Century. Huge formal ambition, determined Pagan Humanism, he wields too an uncanny grasp of the fragile beauty and complexity of the human male. His masterpieces are A Glastonbury Romance, WolfSolent, Weymouth Sands. Find him if you can. (RK)." For me, mister Canadian, part of the entertainment of these is knowing that most of these are important American poets I just haven’t heard of yet, thanks to the fact that small press doesn’t cross the border easily (unless I'm really into faber & faber books, which I'm not, really). The only way I've seen most of these writers (if I've seen them at all) is through various bits of ephemera.

To subscribe: $10 yr, 8 issues ppd. Back issues @$1.00 (presuming US $), c/o Backwoods Broadsides, Sylvester Pollet, 963 Winkumpaugh Rd., Ellsworth ME 04605-9529

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