Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ongoing Notes: late late May, 2006

With all the yelling about BookThug stuff a while ago (hoping it will fade away, eventually, and not give anyone, specially a. rawlings, any more problems), its been overlooked (somewhat) that if you ever get to hear or witness a Gustave Morin reading, you should by all means take it. He is one of the most engaging readers I've heard in some time. And quite a nice young fellow, I must say. Or if you can hear Ottawa poet Monty Reid play bluegrass, take that too; highly talented, hugely entertaining, and one of the nicest writers around. And I have to thank Anne Stone and Carol Hamshaw, who were nice enough to put a couple of issues of The Capilano Review in the mail for me, including that long longed for George Bowering issue from 1979; I think I owe both of them flowers, or something (at the same time, as we all eagerly await Stone's third novel…). And did you see the goodly compliment I got from Canadian expat Sina Queyras? How sweet!

Joe Blades, stalwart Broken Jaw Press publisher has produced a sampler of my 12th poetry collection, aubade, out this fall; the sampler printed in a run of 300, apparently, for BookExpo this weekend. Print out your own copy!

Jennifer Mulligan has been sending me a pile of links lately: here's one to a "sex at 31" variant dedicated to Barry McKinnon, here's another about the Conundrum Press 10th anniversary.

And the construction has started (finally) on my little street corner, so I can barely work in my little back room (do you know that joke about Ottawa having only two seasons: winter and construction?).

Don’t forget the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, don’t forget my reading on June 8th at the Art Bar in Toronto; don’t forget the ottawa small press fair.

I am killing myself slowly with Iron & Wine.

Calgary AB: Calgary lad ryan fitzpatrick doesn’t produce a lot of chapbooks, but when he does, they're the kind that everyone seems to want to get their hands on. His most recent, Larissa Lai's Nascent Fashion, is certainly no exception; produced tall instead of wide (just fold your 8 1/2 x 11 sheet the other way), Nascent Fashion is a graceful little poetry production by a writer getting more and more attention over the last couple of years (did you see the special issue that West Coast Line did on her a while back? Or my resulting note on it?).

emergency rings on the dollar
calls planes to existence
all immanent and breathing
we pass as pigeons
ideological contagion howls
digital signals and flags
wave hands semaphoric
call for metaphor the fundamental
whine of discontent
we civil our eyes as towers
twin the geography of a thousand and one
brown elsewheres we marked as target
market labour pool
disposable as plastic razors
double action blade for a cool smooth
all sexy until the bluff
the snuff cleanly
executed in real time imovie
the biochemical bludgeon
half-lives deplete cancerous uranium
military aircraft flatten desperate
breed of suicide
we mime our own grief
for verité of hourly cast
spell horror at flash recognition
we share soft biology
difference our capacity for hardware
our impermeable fear
we factor in our right to win (n.p.)

There are some marvelous lines and connections being made in her poems, all of which (at least from the West Coast Line issue) seem to be somewhat structured along the same lines, with that easygoing flow of idea to idea to idea, leaping as intuitive jumps from line to line (much in the way of Toronto writer Daniel f. Bradley, somewhat, writing as intuition) as much as she writes the collision of culture against culture; the poem exists in the collusion of such spaces.

all containers are dark inside
whatever engine
its oily ancient fuel
whatever medium
asphalt, salt water, fresh water, track
i thorn my foot to escape the shoe
dim the lights myself
before the boss does
who is a man
what is a machine
what has a mind
what is web-enabled
o parent
corporation my body
a cell to be bought
i flash appear when you need me
based in turkey
shanghaied to vietnam
the former yugoslavs slave as
mexican labourers max hours
push borders that pushed back
illegal where once master
carded now home without
all uniform
my black hair
flesh rip each time the contract
relocates the girl
the same girl different
my dreams rust containers
i slow boat from china
to meet yesterday's demands (n.p.)

I would be very interested to see what Lai could do in the form of a trade collection; will there eventually be one? And through all of this, I still have to wonder what ryan himself is working on? He puts things out here and there but not often (blogging many many pieces as they come to him); is he working on a larger collection? Is he working on further chapbooks? What makes up all of his own silences?

To find out about copies of this or any other of his publications, write the publisher, ryan fitzpatrick, either c/o MODL Press at 7419 - 25 St. S. E., Calgary AB T2C 1A3 or through email at

Pacific Rim, US: Riveting, powerful and even dangerous is the second collection by American poet Barbara Jane Reyes, her Poeta en San Francisco (Kaneohe, HI: Tinfish Press, 2005), winner of the 2005 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets. As poet Juliana Spahr begins on the back cover of Reyes' book, "The US has been at war since its beginnings. And it has taken this to new levels in the last fifty or so years. In response, US poetry that matters has become one long, necessary lament."

"The pure products of America go crazy."

en esta ciudad, where homeless 'nam vets
wave old glory and pots for spare change;
she grows weary of the daily routine:


and especially:

aquí, en las calles de esta ciudad,
they pray their tropical dreams will come
true again: blow jobs under a sticky table.
cheaper than a pint of watered down beer.
they want to touch her, on their greasy lips,

maganda ka mahal kita magkano ka

and if she believed in God,
and if her tongue had not been severed,
then she could issue this damnation:

wala kang pag-asa pag darating ang araw ng pahayag (p 21)

There is so much loaded in this poem it seems difficult to begin, whether politically, socially or culturally. These poems are the result of an admission of such things as they collide. These poems are witness and exploration to what happens to love and the body and a city in the bay as seen by an unflinching gaze.


forgive, forgive, for principles won't do. river's thralls of strange
witchcraft and the breaking strain of ships. you have angered the
evil spirits of the machine, and they demand appeasement. this is
why you have come, a man presenting himself as a voice, always
suspecting the jungle's eyes are not human. if they are, capable of
humanity, then they are the first men, wordless, taking possession
of accursed inheritance. no, you wish for deliberate belief. you insist
upon absolution and deliverance. and so it shall be. (p 89)

Great Barrington MA: Even though he isn’t running the publishing house The Figures (since 1975) anymore, Great Barrington poet and visual artist Geoffrey Young is still producing books, such as his fickle sonnets (Great Barrington MA: Fuck A Duck, 2005), with drawings by Donald Baechler. As well as running a summer art gallery in the town he made his in 1982, he is the author of such other recent poetry collections as Admiral Fever (with drawings by Philip Knoll), Pockets of Wheat (drawings by James Siena), Cerulean Embankments (drawings by Carroll Dunham) and Lights Out (drawings by James Siena).


Suppose the Army Corp of Engineers reversed
Earth's magnetic field, causing rivers to flow upstream?
We'd be in a movie starring Christopher Walken,
Cheering for and then resisting Evil incarnate.

Damage is seductive when dressed as beneficence.
It takes a tool to manufacture a tool, it takes a fool
To wreck it. Have voice, will cavil. Rhythms
From deep inside the mantle rise to find us

Their arc's true target. Shlock feeds the plot's
Inner pitbull: no baton can count off what the theme
Is up against. Music maps convention, saps a blithe
Ear, moments when a three note melody and its

Tracking shot are bliss. Earth spins in the dark
Of space where a flick like this feels right at home. (p 69)

Sonnets might not be my favourite thing, but there is a particular joy to these that can't be overlooked, and Young has been doing this long enough that the subtle moves through the form are worth reading, and rereading. To find out about copies, write c/o 5 Castle Hill, Great Barrington MA 01230 or email Young at

Prince George BC: There are a lot of interesting things happening up there in Northern British Columbia, predominantly around the activity of poets/editors rob budde in Prince George and hardy f. in Fort St. John, who together have taken to producing the email/pdf journal Norther. A forum for the work of northern writers, it publishes exclusively the work of those who live "north of 50." The second issue, which arrived in my hotmail inbox a few days ago, includes writing by G.P. Lainsbury, Si Transken and Earson Gibson, as well as "Norther Manifest.oh axe" by hardy f., and the piece "Gentle Northern Summer" by George Stanley, taken from his poetry collection of the same name (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 1995). As they write in their brief introduction:

is cultural suppression good enough?

you have the blues city girls
and boys - and we know it.

past trees or pulp. go over rivers
( drunk) through mountain ranges or mines.

publisher get out. it took you this long. you eat too much debris. all yr pronouns have been burned for heat.

drive one day too long. read the map like a menu.

there's yr smile. now get out. and space impulses disappear. no silence in weather. move pure norther. to the centre - a thick stand of wild meaning. (p 3)
From the text of the issue itself, here is one of the pieces by Si Transken:

Excellent Assets

the good news is that those first decades of my life
were surrounded with, & saturated by, the badwill of
pedophiles, rapists, thieves, lunatics, & desperate graspers.

thus, i learned a bountiful array of ways to lunge, dive, hide
fight, resist & even thrive in the midst & mist
of creepiness, crawliness, commonness.

thus now when surrounded with, & saturated by, the badwill of
managers, administrators, funders, politicians,
insurance company representatives,

other evil doers & mundane terrorists i rapidly
& effectively know where to get & put
walls, cuts, lines, poisons, camera crews, bullet proofing,

impenetrable smiles - i know when & how to shine
what's there's or mine & all the
excellent assets of my durable studio. (p 13)

I must admit, there is something strange about a journal you can only get by having it emailed to you; why not just put it online for a larger audience? Can a journal of this kind still reach a large audience. To get a copy for yourself, or to even submit (remember — north of 50 only), send them an email at

Waterloo ON: Finally out are the two spring and one delayed-fall titles from the Laurier Poetry Series published by Wilfred Laurier University Press; slim volumes of critical selecteds, after the first title, a selected Lorna Crozier title, appeared last fall, they have added Field Marks: The Poetry of Don McKay (see my note on his work here), selected with an introduction by Méira Cook, Speaking Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt, selected with an introduction by Tanis MacDonald, and The More Easily Kept Illusions: The Poetry of Al Purdy (see my note here on the recent Al Purdy conference at the University of Ottawa), selected with an introduction by Robert Budde.

As General Editor Neil Besner writes at the beginning of each volume:

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, poetry in Canada—writing and
publishing it, reading and thinking about it—finds itself in a strangely new
conflicted place. We have many strong poets continuing to produce exciting new
work, and there is still a small audience for poetry; but increasingly, poetry
is becoming a vulnerable art, for reasons that don't need to be rehearsed.

But there are things to be done: we need more real engagement with our poets. There needs to be more access to their work in more venues—in classrooms, in the public arena, in the media—and there needs to be more, and more different kinds of publications, that make the wide range of our contemporary poetry more widely available. (p v)
Each volume includes an introduction by the editor, as well as a non-fiction piece at the end by the poet (with the exception of the Purdy volume, which includes at the end an essay by Russell Morton Brown). As Di Brandt writes in her own afterward, "You pray for the rare flower to appear":

There is a mystery at the heart of poetry: people want to know the recipe, but
there is none. There is what Don McKay calls "poetic attention," to the beauty
and ugliness, joy and suffering, of everything around you, there is the
heightened attentiveness to sound, rhythm, image, breath, spacing. The grand
struggle with form, the impossible leap between the blood, the wild heart,
rooted in primitive, fantastic memories and sensations and dreams and desires,
and the page in front of you, the here and now, the material world in front of
you, the solid or rickety stage you stand on.

There are many schools of brilliant tricks to sharpen your formal skills, imagism, surrealism, decadence, vorticism, to name a few that have been important to me, projective verse, dada, sound, dub, transelation, rewriting of old forms, ghazals,
ballads, hymns, psalms, prose poetry, science poetry, l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e, oulipo.
You can never get it right, the form resists you, has a mind, a will of its own. (p 51)

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