Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Forestry Diversification Project: New Prince George Poets

Don't Believe the Crows

now that winter has come, I am less
likely to believe the crows
and their outrageous lies. They sit
high in the bare trees making pronouncements
sloughing them off on us
with a shake of feathers. They leave
with a sly nod and I'm not even sure
if they're looking me in the eye
just a swish of wings as quiet
as a ponytail of a girl. I'm more
likely to listen to the wrens
peppering the sky with high trills
the pitch of whip-cracking ice
like a warning. On the road
they make nervous pecks
where the sun barely warms. I'd sooner
take my cue from empty seed packets
grass-heads rustled by the wind

As soon as I mentioned, again, just how much is happening in that Prince George, British Columbia, I get a copy of the new anthology The Forestry Diversification Project: New Prince George Poets, edited by Rob Budde (Prince George BC: UNBC Press, 2006), featuring the work of Michael Armstrong, Kim Bonnell, Michael Cruikshank, Amy Dawley, Justin Foster, hardy f, Earson Gibson, Heather Glasgow, Jesse Haber, richard krueger, Michal Latala, Melissa Linteris, Doug Lussier, Michael Read, Al Rempel, Jeremy Stewart, Denielle Wiebe and Gillian Wigmore. There has been a whole swath of activity up in Prince George over the past few years, much of which can be seen on-line, whether through the journal It's Still Winter, Budde's own stonestone, a recent issue of The Capilano Review on norther poetics, or the various blogs that have been going on up there about Prince George poetics. Budde even produces a pdf journal, Norther, for poets living north of 50, but (unfortunately) it's only available through sending him an email and having him send you a copy (I don’t know why he doesn’t just put it online somewhere). As Budde writes in his introduction:
These poems are NOT about the forest necessarily. In fact, most do not mention forestry. Part of diversification is thinking outside traditional associations of place. Yes, Prince George is a lumber town. But it is much more. It is the celebration of art in the face of a misguided image of Prince George as a single-minded place. This collection presents an alternative vision to the rest of the country.

The fact is Prince George has long been a hot-bed of poetry and it's this tradition that we see carried on in these poets. They are not all young in years but all are in various stages of learning the craft. This collection serves as a stepping stone to that achievement of self-identification: I am a poet. More importantly perhaps: I am a Prince George poet. When I was an "emerging" writer (whatever that means), it was projects like this that defined who I was as a writer. I hope these poets have long and distinguished careers. They bode well for the future of writing in this place.
One of my favourites in the anthology has to be hardy f, working his series of interesting spaces and line breaks, very little of which can be replicated in a place such as this, and I am looking forward to that point when he breaks out of himself and goes further, proving (so far) to be the finest example of slowly working a Prince George/Barry McKinnon poetic into his own.

Old Poet

lungs of ice come
and drink
walking the old icebox poet into submission -
he's been on that stool for centuries, tracking
silent & unchanged paths ( got GPS to confirm nowhere

I'll hold open the grave / be sure
to invite a priest
publishing each ulcer now
and stain'd glass grocery lists…
make him smoke
all the butts
on the grass of parliament
so kindly I will roll
poison'd apples down
from the top
top of the hill

u like them wild thots of topless
was once clean rebel / now dirteye

/ u old white powder

you old poet
bald spot
big bug, wings folded back
talking me down from the
skyline over Los
the writing was
ur flower
is now young poet / seed again

The thing that gets me about this anthology, is that poets inside seem too new, and, as much as I like some of the work here, it's good, but not great, despite the fact that many of them have the potential to be great. I know for a fact that I've seen work by a number of these writers that I've even preferred to the works included in this anthology (like hardy f and Jeremy Stewart, for example); the heart is there but the writing, as yet, is not. I applaud Rob Budde for his efforts to promote the works of the writers around him, but some of these folks just aren’t ready yet; take down their names, watch for them. I will be watching for the time when they are.

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