Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ongoing notes: mid-July, 2006

Did I tell you: after my posting on Kate Van Dusen (who lives in Toronto now, I found out, & not Vancouver), I got an email from her, & found out that she not only had a book out with Underwhich Editions in 1990 that I didn't know about, but she's working on a "Sex at Forty-Eight" poem, which is pretty cool. Did I tell you: after my posting on my mother + Alan Ladd (father of Cheryl Ladd, I found out, from the original Charlie's Angels…), my aunt Pam in southwestern Ontario sent me an email that included, "I really enjoyed your relating Joanne's remembrances. It was quite a thrill for her to meet Alan Ladd and his dog." Did I tell you: I reprinted a John Newlove broadside I'd done a few years back (the "DEATH OF THE HIRED MAN" poem), for the recent John Newlove documentary premiere (years of research, filming, travel & other work by Regina filmmaker Robert McTavish) at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words? (The same festival is also hosting a launch of the 30th anniversary edition of Andrew Suknaski's Wood Mountain Poems, published by Regina's Hagios Press, & a tribute to him & his work; hopefully by next year we can celebrate at least one of the three books I'm working on by/about Suknaski, whether the forthcoming selected poems with Chaudiere Books, the essays on his work with Guernica Editions, or the essay manuscript by him… do you know of something of his I might be missing, needing for any of these…?)

Did I tell you: I just had a new poetry chapbook out with Peter & Meredith Quartermain's Nomados in Vancouver? Perth Flowers is part of a longer poem, "52 flowers (or, a perth edge), – an essay on Phil Hall," that was written after Wanda O'Connor & I spent a day with Toronto poet Phil Hall & his wife Ann at their cabin in Perth, Ontario last August, & writes as both interview with him & a response to his work. The poem as a whole is part of a manuscript called "glengarry: open field" that I'm still working to get placed; built out of three long poems, including "52 flowers (or, a perth edge), – an essay on Phil Hall," "glengarry: open field, (a postscripted journal)" & "whiskey jack." Other than this new chapbook, none of the manuscript has actually seen print; what journal would want to publish anything so long? (it seems to be too much of what I've been doing lately). The new chapbook even includes a photo collage by Hall on the cover, which is absolutely cool.

Did I tell you: after my posting on what else I've been reading, I found out that Edmonton fiction writer Thomas Wharton is a comic book reader too ("I didn’t know you were a fanboy," I believe, were his words). Although he reads more DC & I read more Marvel; does that mean we have to fight? & Edmonton poet/critic Douglas Barbour told me that Planetary is far better than The Authority

Did you notice: that Toronto poet & editor Mark Truscott responded (with a Gary Barwin follow-up) to my recent post about title-less poems? I think the idea of poems sans titles are entirely possible, but remain (I think) difficult in traditional formats of how poems are presented; is it a matter of switching formats? & honestly, if anyone could pull off poems without titles, it could be Mark Truscott, who writes some of the smartest, smallest poems around (aside from Paris, Ontario's Nelson Ball).

Windsor ON: the new issue of Karl Jirgen's RAMPIKE arrived in the mail recently, the second part of his 25th anniversary issue, featuring interviews with fiction writers Joyce Carol Oates and Alistair MacLeod, fiction by Stuart Ross, Bob Wakulich and Richard Scarsbrook, a whole swath of poetry by Roy Miki, Di Brandt, Douglas Barbour and Sheila Murphy, Christopher Dewdney, Jeff Gundy, Margaret Christakos, Rachel Zolf, myself, Carla Hartsfield and Una McDonnell, as well as inter-media by Charles Bernstein and George Elliott Clarke, and a whole pile of other things. What has always been interesting about RAMPIKE has been its range of content as well as a more international scope, from text to visuals and beyond, including a combination of all of the above, and twenty-five years is nothing to be scoffed at. How does any (basically) one-man show keep going for that long?


Was it your intention
to move your hand just then,
to nod, to scratch, to look
this way or that?
Or was it a confabulation
a reassurance that
you had so moved yourself
after the fact? Certainly you can
test and retest, flexing fingers,
lightening your jaw, calmly,
voluntarily. But attention recedes
and soon these willed thrusts, and more,
return to that unattended realm,
that place where the span of you,
is no more than coincidence,
a place against all odds
when you had moved your hand,
as if you actually had. (Christopher Dewdney)
Some of the highlights in this issue have to be the rarity these days of seeing a new Christopher Dewdney poem, spending more of his publishing life over the past decade or so as a non-fiction writer (where has the poet gone?); or even a poem at all by Ottawa-area writer Una McDonnell; its good to finally see more of her work in print, a marvelous little poem called "The Heart's Dumb Memoir" (I think she had something previous in Arc magazine, and the second issue of ottawater; she's currently taking a summer creative writing course at UBC).

The next issue, which I've been waiting on for some time, features contemporary poetics in honour of Frank Davey, after the Frank Davey conference last year at the University of Western Ontario (there's also an upcoming Open Letter issue on the same).

Ottawa ON: Cornwall poet Jesse Ferguson (living in Ottawa the past few years) self-produced a little chapbook of poems for a highly successful shared reading he recently did at The TREE Reading Series with poets Nicholas Lea, Gwendolyn Guth and Robin Jeffers. Jesse Ferguson has been producing some interesting work over the past few months (from what little I've seen, and even included in things such as ottawater, winter 2 and The Peter F. Yacht Club), but the poems in his COMMUTE POEMS (Ottawa ON: Thistle Bloom Books, 2006), the first in what he hopes will be a series of books from a brand-new imprint, has a mix of both good and bad poems (I wonder if he has too many pieces out at magazines, and had little else to include in the collection). His third poetry chapbook, after Near Cooper's Marsh (Ottawa ON: Friday Circle, 2005) and Old Rhythms (Vancouver BC: Pooka Press, 2006), his COMMUTE POEMS gives some good moments in fairly uneven poems, such as in the piece "Winter in Glengarry County," including italicized lines from Al Purdy's "Winter at Roblin Lake," writing:

the endurance of root cellars,
the pride of fading usefully
and the stubble of razed wheat fields comforting as
the little golden hairs on your belly.
There are moments, and there are some bad poems, but the ones that are good are pretty good, and worth the price of admission, and show just what Ferguson is and can be capable of, such as this one, about the recent Norval Morrisseau exhibit at the National Gallery (which is interesting by itself; I recently found a fragment by Toronto poet Phil Hall on the painter). From this chapbook alone, it's as though Ferguson is most effective when he keeps the poems sparse, simple.


Morrisseau's solution
is sophistication, simply put

countless spirit birds screeching
sophistication's dilution

in other words, wordlessly
cutting the crap

and grandfather clausing
into the jetstream of archetype

or better yet, into a water stream
because water lasts

and scoffs our brief

his paintings tell us
there are no new pigments

these fish in fish in birds
are always cutting

to the chase and chasing
each other into otherness

like Norval's fingers
when a brush was too clumsy

for his thick paint
or not clumsy enough
I look forward to what he produces next, whether as chapbook or something further, and hopefully whatever does happen, has at least someone else's eyes to go through first, before it appears. To find out about getting a copy of COMMUTE POEMS, or to hear more about the future of his Thistle Bloom (he says he wants to eventually start publishing other poets), email Ferguson at

above/ground press will be publishing a chapbook of Ferguson's visual pieces, catch a bird (some of his visuals appeared in the most recent issue of dANDelion, as well as on the cover of Nicholas Lea's light years chapbook with above/ground), in just a couple of weeks. Watch for the reading/launch of it as part of the above/ground press LUCKY 13TH event at The Mercury Lounge on Friday, August 18th, just before Ferguson moves east to school at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton (watch out Joe Blades…)

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