Rubber Boots, A Love StoryThe other night I went to the launch of the new issue of Ottawa's Arc Poetry Magazine (formerly Arc: Canada's Poetry Magazine) at Cube Gallery in Hintonberg. I'm not always a follower of the goals of the writers or writings inside an issue of Arc, but I very like the redesign of the journal that happened after long-standing editors John Barton (who moved to Victoria, BC to run The Malahat Review) and Rita Donovan left; with new editors, and poet Anita Lahey (and others) taking charge, a new look, and art director Serge Duguay has certainly made for a more attractive product. The issue itself features poetry by Jan Conn, Stephanie Bolster, Adrienne Barrett, Barbara Myers, Monty Reid, Bren Simmers [see my review of her poetry chapbook here], Gerald Hill, Tom Wayman (and a disparaging poem about Calgary), Adam Chiles, Roger Nash, Margaret Avison [check out the Jacket magazine feature on her here] and others, as well as a very interesting swimming essay by Barton on Margaret Avison's poem "The Swimmer's Moment," pieces from a collaboration between Peter Sanger's poetry and Thaddeus Holownia's photographs, as well as an interview with Sanger on the same, conducted by reviews editor Matthew Holmes.
They sing of fish guts, cow paddies,
and mud puddles; the places you've been.
They embrace the back of your knees, calves
held in the whoosh and slap, a lullaby
in this season of leaving.
An antidote to empty coat hangers,
they wait for you like dogs
at the back door. (p 52, Bren Simmers)
ElephantFor a while now, Arc has been doing the "How Poems Work" feature on their website, which was once in The Globe and Mail, and are currently in the process of expanding that further, as Arc editor Anita Lahey writes in the "Editor's Note":
If my grandmother spoke of seeing one
in Regent's Park, I forget.
She kept the ebony figure, broken-tusked;
a little picture of Jesus by the radio.
Fed each kitten born out back
as the neighbourhood sank.
During a boom, developers razed
the place next door,
filled the lot and stopped the light.
Her heart would've gone out
had one shown up on her back porch.
She'd have set out dishes
that my mother, when her heart did
go, would have brought in and washed (p 17, Stephanie Bolster)
In this first-ever transatlantic online poetry exchange, Arc and SPL [Scottish Poetry Library] will post 12 monthly essays in which a contemporary Canadian poet introduces the work of a Scottish counterpart, or vise versa. Visit arcpoetry.ca to see which Canadians appeal to John Burnside, Tom Pow and John Glenday, and why―or to learn which Scots are read voraciously by our own Aislinn Hunter, Carmine Starnino, Miranda Pearson, Mary Dalton and Stephen Scobie. Our reviews editor, Matthew Holmes, suggests the Canadians and Scots might each represent what he calls "the slant rhyme" of English culture. We are excited to be part of an effort to study and solve that slant, its angles and variations, the way Conn homes in on other exotic species. (p 8)Arc does seem one for the prizes, after taking over the Archibald Lampman Award a few years ago (for best book of poetry in Ottawa), as well as the internal Confederation Poets Prize (best poem in previous year of Arc) and the Critic's Desk Award (best feature and short review in previous year of Arc), both of which I applaud, and think a bit much at the same time. As well, Arc is announcing a call for submissions for the 5th annual Diana Brebner Prize, named after the late local poet who was devoted to fostering new literary talent, as "a special award for poets who have not yet been published in book form." This year they're even letting me judge. I was one of those who, back in 1993 or 1994, Brebner wanted to mentor, until she realized she wasn't sure what I was doing, so we just met for coffee and talked about our children…
Stuck In the Jardins Des Plantes
(for Liz McCrea)
The black gates swing closed at the far end of the garden
for your benefit, since you are the only person left
and you realize that being locked in among the unfurling plants
would be worse than being locked out.
The Paris night flares like another world
but you are in this one.
It's too early for blossoms, and the trees
are just maps of where the trees will be
later. Instead of petals there are white labels
species and tombstone information that you can't read
in the dark, and it's not the information
you need right now. Didn’t you always want
the garden to yourself, to be lost
among the chlorophyll, and without your
cellphone to boot, and to hear only the voices
of the dead that wheeze in the shrubbery
and the pruned-back roses. Maybe not.
It's late, and your feet are sore.
It's the living that you worry about, that you want
to find. So you walk to the far end of the garden
and back again, looking for security
but they don't know how to find the one
you are looking for, the one who said he'd meet you
by the garden gates an hour ago.
They don’t know anyone with that name.
All they can do is let you out. (p 20-1, Monty Reid)