Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ongoing notes: early May, 2006

Did you know that the Carleton League of Supervillains stuff that ___ ________ did back in 1996 is all still on-line? & here are a bunch of links I've been finding lately: someone reviewed the STANZAS issue by Rachel Zolf that I published, moons back. Apparently someone wasn't a big fan of my collection stone, & here's someone who took parts of the Montreal book & read them out loud (can you say permissions, anyone?). Someone out there thinks a poem of mine is sexy (& i agree); a review of a publication I'm in; a poem I wrote a while back; a repeat of my Shift & Switch review. We all know who this Australian Rob McLennan is, but who the hell is this Rob McLennan (hint: neither of them are me)?

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my technical support, Jennifer Mulligan, including a counter on this blog of mine, with over 31,000 hits since we started keeping track; that just seems crazy. & congratulations to Vancouver poet & Nomados co-publisher/editor Meredith Quartermain, who won the Dorothy Livesay Prize (BC Book Awards) for her collection Vancouver Walking (Edmonton AB: NeWest Press, 2005); sometimes it is about the winning.

& did you know that above/ground press is seconds away from publishing its 500th item? & did you know I'm involved in that Purdy conference this weekend (on the late Canadian poet)? I've even made a publication for it: purdyesque, with poems by George Bowering, Stephen Brockwell, Gwendolyn Guth, Steven Heighton & myself, to go with the poetry reading in the middle of the conference. its free if yr part of the conference / otherwise $5.

Listening to Martha Wainwright all day. Doing work to avoid doing other work.

Montreal QC: Recently the editors of Vallum magazine (published by the "Vallum Society for Arts and Letters Education") started producing somewhat-elegant looking chapbooks out of their Montreal base, starting with a chapbook by New England based Fanny Howe, with her long poem Tramp (2005), and Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach's Ariana's Threads (2005). I've been a fan of Howe's work for some time, but find it rather strange that there wouldn't be someone closer to home that they would have been interested in publishing (see the Vehicule Press list of Montreal authors, complete with photographs). Paired with a chapbook by one of the two Vallum founders/editors Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach, the chapbook series apparently works to pair an established writer with an unknown, soliciting and publishing two poetry chapbooks at a time. Still, Auerbach has been publishing in journals and as chapbooks for a while now (it would have been nice to have a list of such in her bio, or some other information on what she's done previously; I know she self-published a couple of chapbooks a while ago, and then there was that STANZAS issue a while back…).

Built in seven sections of numbered fragments, Howe's Tramp continues the movement of her writing being part of a grander scheme of fragments embodying a larger whole made of pieces; as living and the world exist in parts that sometime connect and sometimes don't, so do Howe's poems, working through and through themselves in marvelous array.


Before the star bowl tips
And I can fall without fear
How will I support a bed,
A candle, the chilly sheets, the thoughts of a planet
Girdled by rust.

I've been twelve winters
In this auxiliary star-drome
Spaces dominated by ice.
Heat-resisting contacts, chilled to shrivel.
Like diamond mines spanked
On the bosoms of the idle
And the sparkle of sweat in the creases of the rest.

This is such an old story, listen.
The poor are hard-working
And the rich get more through talking.
Money has always
Been huge and out of sight like God
Who does not exist but is. (p 35, VI)

Howe is one of those few poets that reads as though everything she writes is an extension of all that has come before, as she is able to make not only connections to and through her own previous work, but in a way that extends her range instead of limiting it. "What is shorter than a step? / An indrawn breath." (p 28).

Seeing the chapbooks side by side, there seems very much a resonance that Auerbach's writing in Ariana's Threads has been informed by reading Howe's work; her pieces are fragments with a thread running through them far tighter than what she has previously done, but still along similar lines to her previous works.

Dahl has generated axioms & axial cables
he has planted flags on the moon
and trailed moving devices on the planet Mars

has accidentally set off reactors
agony, incense & the spoiled body
how to heal himself
the sewage all around,

islands then & now
different, accustomed to shearing sun

how casually dismembered, flies biting feet
how mesmerizing the tenor of death

but really only in anticipation,
not dead yet (p 14, "Horizon," pt. ii)

Moving through sections built out of fragments, such as "Lost, For Love," "Signals," "Horizon" and "Desire," the thread is the character Ariana herself, working through the poems as the poems work their own ways through her. I know that she has been working on a first trade collection for some time, and it will be interesting to see what she makes of the form, after years of producing her writing in smaller units.

Copies are available for $6 each and produced in a run of 150 coipes; they can be found through their website, writing Vallum, p.o. box 48003, Montreal Quebec H2V 4S8 or by emailing

Ottawa ON: Poet Charlie Greg Sark and I were supposed to meet up for a drink at Pubwells the other night; what happened? A poet I haven't met yet, he apparently moved here some time ago from parts east, along with his chapbook kitpu apteket (Charlottetown PEI: Saturday Morning Chapbooks, 2005), published by the now-defunct Saturday Morning Chapbook series (edited/published by Hugh MacDonald, David Helwig and the late Joseph Sherman, other poets published in the series included Zachariah Wells and Shauna McCabe). Writing about his background as Micmac, it sure would have been nice to find out more about him (the chapbooks never include biographical information, which I always find frustrating). Here's the first poem from the small chapbook:


jesus was born on the pow wow trail
he was brought up on Indian
tacos, soda pop and tobacco
his mother learned to dance,
before she could walk.
her father learned to sing,
before he could speak.
they fell in love
while an Indian man, in a cowboy hat
called the dancers forward.
he fell in love with a dancer,
she fell in love with a singer,
they fell in love with a song.
they had affairs with
white dreams, blue skies and
pink cadillacs.
while Indians danced like white people,
with celtic fiddle music and japanese sound box
and residential love carried off pre-teen ambition
to leave, for good.

before he was born, jesus followed the pow wow trail
all his life
his mother, her father―they still do.
but, now they sit in shade
on elders' row
while jesus emerges from the land
beneath the water, soars above the dancers,
their dreams
cleansing them with the shadow
of salt water people. (p 3)

Part of his poem reminds me of the recent show at the National Gallery of Canada by Norval Morrisseau, the first aboriginal Canadian to have a full show in the Gallery space; an artist who was able to bring in multiple and diverse aspects into his artwork, he even had a series of paintings of "Indian Jesus" and "Indian Virgin Mary," making the ideas and images his own. But what of Charlie Greg Sark? Will we ever hear from him again?

Chicago IL: One thing I got in the mail lately that I've been quite taken with is William Allegrezza's Ladders in July (Buffalo NY: BlazeVOX [books], 2005). Allegrezza seems to be one of those "go-to" guys down there in Chicago, where poetry is concerned (although another publication without biographical information; what is it with you people?).

treadles & looms


i will take you to hotels covered in red

do no do it for me

jelly donuts are skin bags for snakes
teeth are casts for bridges

i come from a family of weavers

our valleys are barren
though life remains in microscopic flecks

despite the distance our trap was a loss
a cuerpo

what about the floor

welcome to the tour
today we will explore washington's grounds

i offer this large women for wildlife (p 5)

There is something about the flow in Allegrezza's poems that I quite like, the way they simply move one step at a time down the page almost intuitively. Really, it’s the leaps between lines that impress; almost ghazal-like down the page, jumping from line to line to line in seeming disconnect.

a levertov

the ache of the arch of it

is propaganda intended to destroy

fireflies multiplying in summer heat

alongside stacked numbers for bricks

an ordered harmonic existence as plato assumed

yet he never met lao tze or the periodic table

a deed that no car window can right

with metals from cold country runs (p 59)

Victoria BC: Even though it's probably long out of print, I finally got a copy of Canadian poet and New York resident Sina Queyras' chapbook Still & Otherwise (Victoria BC: greenboathouse books, 2005). Originally, their plan was to keep themselves on track, and release two chapbooks side by side, delaying Shane Rhodes' tengo sed by a year (2004) (see my review of this in the first issue of ottawater), and Queyras' even further, with various bits of life, living and working getting up in the way. The good news is, editor/publisher/designer Jason Dewinetz does claim that he and co-editor Aaron Peck will soon be producing a new run of chapbooks in their award-winning series of limited edition chapbooks.

I'm not entirely sure if the pieces in this collection are included in her third trade collection, Lemonhound (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2006), but they might easily be (a good review of such has already appeared here). There is something absolutely elegant and lovely about the prose of Sina Queyras, flowing on the page as easily and deliberately as water.


She passes the watch repair shop with its grandfather clock
door. No one goes in or out but a dog barks. She wonders if
the repairman has ever heard of Dali. Buttercups wave and
bob. They are so yellow they shine a halo six inches around
each pinky-sized flower. They are so good she wants to eat
them, but they are singing, all along the roadside, and she
cannot eat anything that sings. (p 18)

There is something about the pieces in Still & Otherwise that seem far more sure of themselves than the pieces in her second trade collection, Teethmarks (Roberts Creek BC: Nightwood Editions, 2004), a follow-up to her most remarkable Slip (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2001). As much as I am enjoying this, what I'm really waiting on is her new collection from Coach House Books, simply knowing that these are all probably in there; but when will I know for sure?

Ottawa ON: It's been interesting, over the past year or two, to watch the poetry of Nicholas Lea (no, not the guy from X-Files…) and his pal Jesse Ferguson develop (both have pieces in the second issue of ottawater). Both are from Stormont County, eastern Ontario, ten years behind me, and current residents of the City of Ottawa (Ferguson from Cornwall and Lea from Norman Drive, a road just near Tayside off the 138 highway); both came through Seymour Mayne's creative writing workshop at the University of Ottawa during the 2004-5 school year. Both are working their sides of what they see as Don McKay's pastoral, with, as Lea puts it, bits of Barry McKinnon line breaths and breaks and surrealism. With a lot of potential between the two, here's a poem from Lea's first chapbook, light years, published recently by above/ground press:

night version love #

the aperture-open night might
serve by dint of

movement’s liaison, treasoning tonight
‘s folded over street moves, through

a sound, or a vehicular meld, down
some other east or east-western type

or trap, or mapped out trick, sick with a
feeble thought sought out sought out sought

out bar music, a “common” thru it. bought
beer and dance and the fevered dreamy sequence

of love’s new seed, planted like.

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