Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ongoing notes: suddenly October, 2006

Thanksgiving; Mulligan & I went over to Sunday dinner at Clare Latremouille's house, even though Clare & I were barely able to keep ourselves awake (see also: post-festival). A spectacular meal & company but an early evening. Will I see you at my Montreal reading this week? Have you signed up for the book fair? Will I see you at all of those other events? I keep finding dead mice in my apartment; they come into my apartment to die. How am I supposed to feel about that? I need something new to listen to. & did you see Amanda Earl's last words on this fall's ottawa international writers festival? Or that fractions of my novel-in-perpetual-progress "Missing Persons" [see a fragment of it here] is forthcoming in a small press book fair publication by Tina Trineer?

Victoria BC: It's good to see Jason Dewinetz' greenboathouse books producing lovely limited-edition chapbooks again, with the three-story collection Those Girls by Jessica Westhead (the press has produced fiction chapbooks before, including one by Ottawa-born Victoria writer Sara Cassidy that even went into multiple printings…). Made up of the stories "Bev's Chick," "Those Girls" and "Some Wife," the three stories tell the stories of the collisions between relationships, told predominantly through dialogue, and manage to highlight both the small and large moments concurrently, of what is and isn't important, but feels essential at the time.
"Pete," Bev says to me the next day, "you ever meet a woman you could talk to?"

"No," I say.

"Well, I'll tell you, it's a thing." And he pats Marilyn on her knee, which you can't see because it's covered by this big sweater she's wearing, with a cat on it.

Marilyn says, "Ah-choo," and we all look over. Then she sneezes.

Marilyn says her sneezes before she does them.

"You guys want to hear how we met?" says Bev.

"Sure," we all say.

"You want the rest of your fries?" Marilyn says to Bev.

"They're yours," he says to her, and slides them over.

Stuggy looks up from his Rib Feast.

"I saw her in the coffee shop," Bev says to us. "I had a coffee and she had a coffee and I walk over and go, 'That's funny – we both have coffee.' And what did you say?" he says to Marilyn.

"I said, 'It's a coffee shop,'" she says, with Bev's fries in her mouth.

Bev shakes his head. "The sense of humour on her. You should see it."
With characters that feel in their teens, Westhead does have a talent for getting inside a teenager's head, and bringing it out in dialogue, of those mundanities and teenage essentials. What would have been nice in this collection, though, would have been a biography for the author; all I know from this collection is that two of the stories appeared previously in Geist and Matrix. What else has she done? Where else has she published? What else has Westhead done?

Sarnia ON: She was here for only a few days, but last year's John Newlove Poetry Award winner Melissa Upfold was here long enough to launch her first chapbook (the result of the prize) welcome to beautiful san ria (Ottawa ON: The John Newlove Poetry Award Chapbook Series / A Bywords Publication, 2006) and her poetry journal VARIATIONS VOL IV: DIAGRAMS. The author of more blogs than anyone should have (blame living up north, I suppose), Upfolds suggested that "san ria" is the name of the mythical alternate place to living in the inherent ugliness of Sarnia, Ontario. I like that she is, through everything else, writing and producing small strange publications; her writing has some interesting moments, but doesn’t feel quite "there" yet. I'm not worried; with the amount of work she's been putting into this over the past few years, it's just a matter of time.

After Everything Else

There is a sadness in lying next to you
in a rectangular space made to hoard

when the arch of your elbow and the shadow
of your face on pillow seem
so insufferably secluded.

The contour of torso an
impenetrable solid

unfastened from the duvet
but fixed securely to the frame.

Her VARIATIONS VOL IV: DIAGRAMS includes poems by Lily Plumptre, Adam Petrashek, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Jordan Wilcox, Scott Moynes, Amanda Earl, Jamie Bradley and Theo Von Waldow. Published on individual cards, each has a painted/silkscreened image on the back of a printed poem.

Of plaid and earthtones

if brighton beach were a living room,
this would be it. two children play
pretend on the floor. the girl tells
the boy what to say; he says it and
she is glad. four people sit
on two chairs and one terribly proud
sofa made for three and seats two --
these must be the adults. the adults
allude to what one another must say:
they get ahead of themselves and have to
sit down, confused, because they are
already seated.

when children start to combine ideas
they use the word 'but' to indicate that
they are aware of everything but reality.
the adults just nod - bored of neil simon,
but too scared to say so. children are
scared of nothing yet, not even sex or death,
and will poke and prod until they learn. (adam petrashek)

To find out more, Upfolds has a blog for the little magazine here.

Exeter England: Apparently just down the road from Stride, is Shearsman Books, publisher of fine books and the journal Shearsman, now out with its double issue, "69 & 70" that arrived in my mailbox over the past week. Edited by Tony Frazer, the new issue includes poetry by Paul Batchelor, Linda Black, Richard Burns, Kelvin Corcoran, M.T.C. Cronin, Mark Goodwin, Anthony Hawley, Matthew Jarvis, myself, Valeria Melchioretto, Mary Michaels, Erin Moure, John Phillips, Anna Reckin, Elizabeth Robinson, Peter Robinson, Geoffrey Squires, Sasha Steenson and Janet Sutherland, along with an essay on Roy Fisher by Peter Makin, and translations of Pura López-Colomé by Jason Stumpf.

Hearth, rad, ing. The river'd risen.
Crusts of ice hang in the trees.

Hearth, rad, ing. In spring I won't stand
where I did in the autumn.

Hearth, rad, ing. Where the muskrat pulled
weed and shell to the water's surface.

Hearth, rad, ing. Frozen surface hanging
in the trees!

Where I was and am not, but I am standing.

Do you want a lesson from life? There is
none to be found in the cantigas.

Peorth, thorn, ur. There is none in the river.
Ice pans cling frozen in the trees. (Erin Moure, from "Snowfall")

One of my favourite pieces in the journal has to be Elizabeth Robinson's "from The Woman in White," but there's no way I could reproduce that here, so I'll give you instead a fragment of Kelvin Corcoran's "Basil Bunting and Dylan Thomas in Tehran"


When Thomas read for the Anglo-Iranian Society
Bunting was not in the audience, he would return
later that year and go about his own dubious business;
apparently the reading left Mrs. Suralyir shivering with delight.

Why do I pursue this coincidence where none exists?
Both me were entangled in the politics of oil for gain;
if our peers were so involved we would enjoy hating them,
how we would revel in such irrelevance.

Bunting was a spy: Thomas a drunk.
In Country Sleep (1952), the dark enfolding hills of song.
The Spoils (1951), the moment of knowing, free of itself.
Voices drawn from a well deeper than history.

In their great flood of the music of water of music
a chorus explodes; sing sing you reckless bastards,
sing your headfull of singing birds
winging it across the drinkless desert.

And here's one of Anthony Hawley's "P(r)etty Sonnets"


tired campfire
fired marshmallow
my luck done
dry done
felled timber
sage of sorrow
page will
hear it all fore you
bear it
forgive me now, i cannot run
walk around in circles
talk in squares

For information on submissions, subscriptions and/or other books they're responsible for, check out their website.

London ON: Thanks to blog kudos from critics Joanne Saul and Christl Verduyn through their essay in the new issue of Open Letter: A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory, Twelfth Series, Number 9, Summer 2006. Called "Productive Parenthesis: Interviews and Dialogues from the Poetics & Public Culture in Canada Conference," it was the same conference at the University of Western Ontario held to honour Frank Davey and coincide with his retirement. I'd heard from poet Aurian Haller that someone had referenced me and my blog as part of the conference, but he couldn't for the life of him remember who (drove me nuts for months). As part of their piece "Creative Criticism: the 'Writer as Critic' in Canadian Literature" they included a nice credit at the end, writing:
A final example of the creative writer as critical essayist shares many of the qualities of the collections in the NeWest "Writer as Critic" series. A striking number of Canadian poetry blogs and/or websites present some of the same attributes of the essay writing discussed above. What is particularly exciting about these blogs or weblogs (journals that are available on the web) in the context of the writer as critic is their interactive nature, with their emphasis on links and linking; their focus on intertextuality; their focus on community; and the fact that they are public while being extraordinarily private — they are, in a sense, a collaborative diary. In a practical sense, the web offers writers, particularly poets, a place to publish poems, write articles, and share enthusiasm for the art form. The most important aspects of the web generally and of blogging more particularly are links (nothing has done quite as well before it) and a commitment to real engagement with an audience. The latter is an element that public intellectuals have perhaps talked about more than achieved. In his blog entry for Thursday, February 3, 2005 for example [wrong date, by the by], Canadian writer and editor rob mcclennan [note: their typo, not mine] makes reference to: Kristjana Gunnars, Phyllis Webb, West Coast Line, Robert Creeley, Cole Swensen, Bad Moon Books, Red Deer College Press, Fred Wah, and George Bowering (and those are only the ones with actual links). "Part of the joy of writing," mcclennan [there it is again] states, "is the surprise of where it ends of [why all the typos? should be "up"] taking me, whether a title or a reference taking me to another title, even as little as a poem in a journal." He concludes his entry by declaring "Writing, as an act of exploration and discovery. Don’t write what you know, George Bowering once said, write what you don’t know."
I originally started this as a huge THANK YOU to them for even paying attention, so hoping my niggling on typos don't offset; to read the rest of the essay, or anything else in the issue guest-edited by Jessica Schagerl, pick up a copy; for more information on this or further issues, check out their website.

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