Friday, March 17, 2006

Ongoing notes: mid-March 2006

I only just got copies of my new poetry collection [name , an errant, just appeared from England's Stride; its lovely] but already it's seen it's first review. If anyone is interested, you can either get copies directly from him, or send me $20 + $2 for postage (outside Canada, $22 US; outside US, its easier to get directly from the publisher…) and I'll send you one (signed if you want, even). My eleventh poetry collection, it's also the first publication of mine (ever) that includes blurbs (quotes from reviews and/or articles are a whole other matter); the whole "blurb" business is a strange one. I remember interviewing fiction writer Barbara Gowdy a few years ago for her novel Mr. Sandman; she said she found the whole idea of blurbs on books suspect, and there are folk who seem to blurb almost every second book. Far more worthwhile are those who rarely blurb; think of Patrick Lane's Winter (Saskatoon SK: Coteau, 1986), blurbed by John Newlove; think of The Last Word Anthology (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 1995), blurbed by Michael Ondaatje. How often have they said anything? Still, was quite something to have folk such as Douglas Barbour + Sheila Murphy say nice things about the collection. Thanks. The next book, aubade, includes a variation that Harold Rhenisch was nice enough to rework of a quote taken out of a review he did in Arc magazine of my collection red earth; thanks, too. But I will still admit it feels odd…

in other news, did you know that Edmonton fiction writer Thomas Wharton now has a blog? Then there's the community blog started by Wayde Compton and others for their Hogan's Alley historical project in Vancouver. I've added a number of other new ones on my sidebar over the past little bit, including Kate Sutherland (Toronto) and Ariel Gordon (Winnipeg), being ones I actually read regularly. At some point I'd like to add the list of writers with blogs section on my own website as more of a "catch-all," once I have the time (ah, time); otherwise, Maine writer Steve Evans has an interesting list of (mainly American) poetry links here on his page. If there are any blogs out there I might be unaware of, please shoot me an email and I'll be sure to (eventually) check it out. Here's a magazine I'm apparently in any day now; apparently I've been "tagged" by Joe Blades; an interview with Swedish poet and translator Lars Palm (what's he doing in Spain?) that says nice things about ottawater; did you know about ross priddle's five million copies project? Does anyone know about this small press exchange? After the piece I wrote on late Montreal poet Ruth Taylor recently, I've since seen two more pieces on her here & here; & then a sad note from Chris Sorrenti on Ottawa poet, editor & Sasquatch reading series founder Juan O'Neil who died a few days ago. & now March break is over; I want nothing else bad to happen.

Prince George BC: I like that I can always count on transplanted Winnipeg writer Rob Budde to remind me about so much happening up there in Prince George, British Columbia [see also the piece on him in the March/April issue of Word], whether through his blog or through the publication of his chapbook series, wink books (check out, too, his new book flicker out from Signature Editions in Winnipeg). The fifth in the series that includes (mostly) titles by Budde and one by Jeremy Stewart, is Budde's Finding Ft. George (2006). Located half-way up the province, and the home of the Carrier Sekani people for thousands of years, the City of Prince George rests on the site of a river junction discovered by Europeans in 1807 when explorer Simon Fraser passed through where the Nechako River joins the Fraser (the story goes, had Alexander MacKenzie found the join during his canoe trip of 1793, the town would probably have been named after him). Fraser went on to build a tiny outpost on the site he called Fort George, after King George III. Budde's new chapbook, Finding Ft. George, is a collection of a number of small pieces, including the seven part poem "Finding Ft. George," that talks almost as Budde writing his introduction to the city that has become his home, writing of the place itself, the people he found there, and mundane elements such as looking for a home, and working to place his own future through, among other things, the past of a northern logging town.

dear pg/4

purdy's cariboo horses aren't
here, really
he is, the beer and gruff
grasp on what it means
to have balls (barry says
he pulled that one)
or more

foley's cache, stewart names
the past, ft. george
the traces of settlement sediment
piling up to the big
boxes in college heights and
the moonscape subdivisions
gargoyles of vinyl siding

it's about leaving the cities. fully.

back and forth history slides i
swing hearing fawcett and thesen
creeley and the lines
highway and rail intersecting
river taking us all away

pg is writing, worrying
over the line, what it is taking us for.

For those who might not know, Budde is pulling on obvious histories of writers either from Prince George and long left (Brian Fawcett and Sharon Thesen; even though she was born in Saskatchewan, she was raised in Prince George), or who came through to do readings (with small publications) through Barry McKinnon over the years in his position as events organizer / Gorse Press publisher, including Robert Creeley and Al Purdy. Thanks in many ways to McKinnon moving up there for teaching work in 1969, there is a lot of literary history up there in that old logging town of Prince George.

dear pg/7

i dreamt of this place six years
before i saw it for the first time;
cutbanks and evergreens, the draws
and eskers pliant to the lull of river sleep

i dreamt prince george before it was

fish flash, a brown hand, a willow basket

prince george like an ice dam, flotsam
caught against the jam of bush

you see them, deriding the cops, imbibing and
disdainful—the bush people, from outside yet
land and spirits are not so separable—
the undergrowth grows over, back
out beyond what we blue-printed

the tallest building in prince george
unlivable, watches smoke, the churning
of products through machines and mouths

nostalgia is the thoughts we have when nothing
else works

There is something about Budde's writing that has really opened up since he moved west and then north, some, to teach at the University of Northern British Columbia a few years ago; immersed for some time in considerations of the long poem and the open form, there is something more that has opened up there, making me wonder just what it is that Prince George has that the rest of us don't. There almost seem echoes through the small collection of McKinnon's own chapbook Death of a Lyric Poet (Prince George BC: Caledonia Writing Series, 1975), referencing not only his move north from Vancouver to Prince George, but the difference he felt it made in himself as person and writer [the series was later included in his Governor General's Award nominated collection The the. (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1979), and finally in his collected/selected The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2004)].

Budde produces absolutely lovely chapbooks; I only wish he would do more (he probably will, but he just had another child recently…). Check out his blog to find out how to get copies, and find out more about his work.

Vancouver BC: Wherever they are, I'm glad that Nancy Shaw and Catriona Strang are still producing work, such as their collaborative chapbook Cold Trip (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2006), five years after their previous collaboration, the collection Busted (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2001). It's been a while since either of them had individual trade books, whether Shaw's Scoptocratic (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1992), or Strang's Low Fancy (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1993) and Sleep: A Performance Notebook (Seeing Eye, 1997) (she also had some work in Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology, published by New Star Books in 1999). As much as I enjoy their collaborative efforts, will either of them ever have individual collections again? (I'm certainly hoping so) Like any good collaboration between two writers (see Sheila E. Murphy and Douglas Barbour's Continuations, out this spring, or Jay MillAr and Stephen Cain's Double Helix, this fall with The Mercury Press), there are actually three involved: the two involved, and the invisible third, containing elements of the works of the collaborators, but somehow different, made up of the meeting between them.


Everyday I count
Here I go again
What have I been missing
I come home at night
It must be night

This is not the question
Be fair not simple
I must look
Not in spite
Poised or

This is not a description
Of my feelings about
The trope
The torrent
The forged address

Crushing vial
Blew me back
A long way back

I should have been listening
To every word you sang
Rapt pious chant (p 5)

I have to admit, there is something that feels strange about writing on poems that reference winter, in these first few days of spring. I do like the feel of these poems, the way the lines and phrases bounce off each other in unexpected ways. I like the way these pieces resonate against the allusions of snow.


If you were irascible
I could not guarantee
If I could collect fidelity
Wherein I skipped a phrase
With debt, fever and despair
More beautiful
Than your rejected heir

I regret
I envy convention
I collect devotion
I am of a size
Absorbed in your step
A step still clipped
Between honey and remains

We are not your allies
We must complain.

I cover thinly
More deeply
To become
In a fashion
In this gap
I strike discrepancy
With favour

The facts in each hand
Where I advance anew
A fear to regulate
On the scale of your forecast (pp 13-4)

Mount Pleasant, ON: Mt. Pleasant (near Brantford) poet and Laurel Reed Books publisher (and Andrew Suknaski enthusiast) Kemeny Babineau was in Ottawa recently, and gave me a copy of John Barlow's -MINUS 45, SOME DAYS IN WINTER (Laurel Reed Books, 2006). Toronto's master of automatic writing, Barlow has produced innumerable works over the years, mostly self-published, whether his range of ephemera, chapbooks, magazines and small anthologies, to publication in other venues, including Rampike and side/lines: a new Canadian poetics (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 2002), the trade books (almost completely unseen but for Barlow), ASHINEoVSUN and Safe Telepathy (Exile Editions), and the CD/booklet The UFO's Of South Toronto (Balmer Press). In his work, he writes the kind of automatic poetic that could be compared perhaps to Vancouver poet Gerry Gilbert, but more expansive, condensed and surreal than, in comparison, Gilbert's excess. As Barlow wrote in his statement for side/lines, "In Canada everything open minded one says is presumed to be false. The level of dogmatic robot faith in making such assessments of others' intents lacks all power of the skeptical in my opinion. It's a strange phenomenon. Being male my lengthy arms often suggest themselves as a means to correct this glitch. But maybe bodies are just meant to be good poetry and it's hard to work violence in. I am only a pacifist by result. Everything functions better without cruelty. Many of my closest friends are poisonously cruel, compulsively oppressive. I am very careful to study the necessity out of which they operate as such. Often it takes many years to adequately assess the precise nature of their cruelty, of the mistake that they are making. Often then it is only by this I refer to as witchcraft anything can be done. i.e., what of primitivism anyway and, what of nonprimitive primitivism?" (p 15)

massively crowded bus
most of whom had waited 40 minutes
as too full buses arrived a nasty wind ripped away

i was sheltering from the wind behind a post
hoping to see the bus
and the borgs in their heated cars
were wondering why i was hiding
behind a post

it was a warm day this morning, sprint biked to the station

massive temperature plunge through the day
with insane bitter vengeful winds noise in the shipping doors

sudden deep freeze is spontaneously harmful all over the place
thanx to my whale dna it's rarely a concern
but it's alarming for everyone else

and if my fingers freeze and brea koff
i'll need a whole new art form

Part of what the format of such a reproduction doesn’t allow, is the fact that his small press texts usually include handwritten notes, artwork and, in the case of a number of his publishing projects, text overlapping text, making the illegibility part of the text itself. Barlow is one of those folk in Toronto who have been involved in small and strange publishing for so long, that any conversation about the Toronto small press scene is incomplete without him; if you ever see him anywhere, you should just automatically give him money for whatever little production he has on his person. A lovely little booklet produced in a numbered run of eighty copies, you can find out about getting a copy through emailing Babineau c/o, or writing him at 206 Ellis Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, Ontario N0E 1K0

Atlanta GA: I've been going through various publications by )ohn Lowther's 3rdness lately, a little press out of Atlanta that sent me a package of various chapbooks. One that caught my eye was dāna lisa peterson's essential core (2005). A collection of small moments, of small poems, I like the way she packs her small pieces, like a row of tiny seeds.

an atlas of maps

or spread out between fingertips,
an hour is an inch but can be added. if you
say so decision making proceeds along the
flow line. an outstretched hand is a similar
runner where dislocations can be produced
from pressure difference like aids to an
obstruction but at the end we can look back.

You can find out more about the press by writing Lowther c/o 2805-D Clairmont Road NE, Atlanta GA 30329 or by emailing j(dot)lo(at)earthlink(dot)net. He says he's willing to trade, perhaps, chaps for chaps.

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