Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley


Friend I had in college told
me he had seen as kid out the
window in backyard of an
apartment in upscale Phila-
delphia the elder Yeats walking
and wondered if perhaps he
was composing a poem or else
in some way significantly thinking.
So later he described it, then
living in a pleasant yellowish
house off Harvard Square,
having rooms there, where,
visiting I recall quick sight of
John Berryman who had been
his teacher and was just leaving
as I'd come in, on a landing of
the stairs I'd just come up, the
only time and place I ever did. (Unpublished Poems)

The University of California Press has just issued two extremely large volumes of poetry by the late American poet Robert Creeley, essentially collecting all of his published poetry in The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1975-2005 and the reissued volume The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1945-1975. Reprinting his substantial output of work including For Love (1962), Pieces (1969), A Day Book (1972), Mirrors (1983), Life & Death (1998), If I were writing this (2003) and his posthumous On Earth (2006), the new volume also includes a short selection of unpublished poems, four small poems that were found in a folder after he died in Texas near the end of March, 2005. Very few poets see their substantial works, let alone their "complete" works collected into a volume or two in their lifetimes, and it reads as a testament to Creeley's strength and influence as a poet that his work has stood up over the years as well as it has, in volume after volume of reprint and reissue. Unfortunately, even though Creeley was overseeing the original production of the volume of more recent pieces, he didn’t live to see the final book. As his widow Penelope Creeley writes in the preface to the The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 1975-2005 volume:

In the hospital in March 2005 ― on the last night of his life, as it turned out ― he asked for the hard drive of his computer, so that he could work the next day on the manuscript for this volume of poetry.

Now I can only guess what he might have done. We had talked about his writing a new preface. He had thought about what he wanted to say: These are my poems. I love them and stand by them.

In retrospect, I realize the courage such an act takes, the courage artists have every day to produce something out of the raw feelings and intimate perceptions of life, then to hold it up to public scrutiny. In reading these poems again, I hear Robert's voice, and I see the last twenty-seven years of my own life laid out, almost a diary. I think of the way I first saw this writing, just words on a page, a little distillation of a day, tender and vulnerable and fresh, a moment, untried, yet a whole world of
thought, life, and history in each. Those words, "This is my life's work. I love it and stand by it," are such an affirmation. To come to that moment, to say so clearly, without hesitation. To have that heart. Yes. Here it is. That heart.
In a blog entry I wrote the day after Robert Creeley died, I wrote: "Long called the poet of the domestic, it was Creeley who helped me realize you don’t need complicated words to express complex ideas, but instead, a better understanding of simple language." Part of his strength, along with being a poet of the domestic, writing domestic matters, that domestic matters, Creeley's poems worked layers of deceptively simple language in his poems that read as though written in a single complicated exhalation on the page. How does one get to move so effortlessly in a few short lines?

First Rain

These retroactive small
instances of feeling

reach out for a common
ground in the wet

first rain of a faded
winter. Along the grey

iced sidewalk revealed
piles of dogshit, papers,

bits of old clothing, are
the human pledges,

call them, "We are here and
have been all the time." I

walk quickly. The wind
drives the rain, drenching

my coat, pants, blurs
my glasses, as I pass. (Mirrors)

One question through all of this, with the substantial biography that literary critic Ekbert Faas, who had written on Creeley and so many other writers for years, published a few years ago on the life of Robert Creeley up to the early 1970s, Robert Creeley: A Biography (Montreal QC: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001), will there be a subsequent volume that speaks to the rest of his life?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

new poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore, Ottawa

If anyone is interested, I've just booked a series of dates for my new seasonal poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore, Wellington & Holland, Ottawa, happening on four Mondays and then four Wednesdays -- March 19, 26; April 2, 9, 25; May 2, 9, 23 (around both bookstore & my wacky schedules)$200 for 8 sessions. 7pm to 9pm.

for information, contact rob mclennan at az421@freenet.carleton.ca
or 613 239 0337; an eight week poetry workshop, the course will focus on workshopping writing of the participants, as well as reading various works by contemporary writers, both Canadian & American. the end-goal of the course will be a collective chapbook publication. participants should be prepared to have a handful of work completed before the beginning of the first class, to be workshopped.

Here's a nice note Amanda Earl wrote about one of the previous workshops...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the Montreal Zen Poetry Festival

I got an email today about the "inaugural Montreal Zen Poetry Festival," happening the same weekend as my birthday party [March 17th, Carleton Tavern, Ottawa....], March 16-18 in Montreal. According to their email:
An eclectic and highly respected assortment of renowned Zen poets, translators, scholars and monks from across America will be descending on the city of Montreal from their mountain hermitages to headline performances alongside poets from Quebec, Ontario and Japan.

Hosts for the Festival include CBC Radio Noon’s Anne Lagacé Dowson and Homerun’s Bernard St Laurent. The Montreal Zen Poetry Festival promises to be a lively and thought-provoking event unique in Canada.

Friday, February 16, 2007

a as in Artie, g as in Gold (1947-2007)

I have been thinking a great deal
about my bike that will be stolen.

I don’t like things whose inevitability
works against me.

Why have you driven through my heart?
Make that what. (The Beautiful Chemical Waltz)
Born in Brockville, Ontario on January 15, 1947, one of the original Vehicule Poets Artie Gold died in Montreal on February 14, 2007. Out of commission for years due to bad health (including various allergies and breathing problems), Gold published a number of collections in the 1970s and early 80s, including cityflowers (Delta Can, 1974), Mixed Doubles (The Figures, 1975; with Geoffrey Young), Even Yr Photograph Looks Afraid of Me (Talonbooks, 1975), 5 Jockeypoems (The Word, 1977), Some of the Cat Poems (CrossCountry, 1978), Poo Comix (private printing, 1978), before ROMANTIC WORDS (Vehicule, 1979) and Golden Notes / Living on Gold (prose; private printing, 1981), with another little chapbook of 1970s poems appearing more recently, THE HOTEL VICTORIA POEMS (above/ground press, 2003). He was listed as co-ordinating editor of the group anthology The Vehicule Poets (Maker, 1979), and had poems included in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The New Canadian Poets, 1970-1985 (ed. Dennis Lee), The Oxford Anthology of Canadian Poetry (ed. Margaret Atwood), Four Montreal Poets (ed. David Solway) and Poetry Readings, 10 Montreal Poets at the Cegeps (ed. Michael Harris). Ken Norris, fellow Vehicule, was seminal in getting Gold’s selected poems, The Beautiful Chemical Waltz, published by Farkas’ The Muses’ Co. in 1992, that even included a small slate of previously unseen poems. Of the Vehicule poets, Gold was the wildest, the most daring; Gold was the one who went the furthest for the poem, took the most chances, and therefore, had the most to gain, and the most to lose (wasn’t it Bowering who once called Artie the group’s Arthur Rimbaud?). As former teacher and mentor George Bowering wrote as part of the introduction to Gold's selected poems:

A hundred years after Rimbaud wrote his first poems and landed in his first jail cell, I was teaching creative writing, as they called it, in Montreal. Naturally, quite a few students I sat with have gone on to publish poetry, but none of them at the time read as much poetry as did A. Gold, as he then signed himself, with the possible exception of his friend Dwight Gardiner. I was delighted to find that Artie had read Jack Spicer and Frank O'Hara especially, and that he thought of them when he wrote his own stuff. At that time the established Montreal poets, and the vast majority of the would-be poets, did not read Spicer and O'Hara. My fellow professors had never heard of them.

But Artie had, and that is how I knew that he was serious about poetry. He was not interested in getting famous or expressing his uniqueness or preparing himself for a job teaching creative writing. (Artie never chased any kind of a job very hard.) He wanted to know what was happening at the front of the arts. What I noticed in 1970, and what keeps coming through his poetry, is his learning, his engaged reading of the avant garde. Unlike too many of his peers, he really knew what surrealism was, and he also understood the history of glass art, for example. A tremendous collector, he had an apartment crammed with geodes, art-deco lamps, Arthur Rackham illustrations and insolent cats:

you could have seen his silhouette
leaping like a made up mind
across balconies
below streetlight moons

Late night halloween superhero Artiepoet. For Gold the image is what the human mind can do. Reference is not as important as utterance, or maybe we should say that when it comes to skewing one, it will be reference. In this way Artie Gold is not Arthur J.M. Smith.

Spicer and O'Hara reminded their readers that poetry is made of speech, and speech can be exciting no matter the subject. In other words a young poet doesn’t have to write about suicide or seduction to be interesting.

In fact smart-talking poetry corporal Gold was, in my opinion, just what the seventies needed. We had a lot of younger lyricists consolidating their post-language territories, solemnly dishing out free-verse stanzas on the northern experience or immigrant families toughing it on the plains. Gold is a city poet for sure, wielding lingo instead of Canadian agenda:

So many things remind me of you
The birth of christ: Georges de La Tour (around 1633)
page 126 Art news Annual/1955: The repentant Magdalene
a nude, Kirchner painted. A Matisse (pp 11-2)
In the 1970s in Montreal, Gold was one of seven poets gathered around Vehicule Art Gallery that eventually helped Simon Dardick with the editing and content of the subsequent Vehicule Press (the press was housed in a room at the back of the gallery), with the group eventually known as the Vehicule Poets – Gold, Tom Konyves, Stephen Morrissey, Ken Norris, Claudia Lapp, John McAuley and Endre Farkas. Gold, along with the rest of his Vehicule peers, wrote and read voraciously, started reading series and magazines, published in journals across Canada, and took advice from various older upstarts such as Louis Dudek, George Bowering, Lionel Kearns, Daphne Marlatt, bpNichol, Barry McKinnon and David W. McFadden. As Gold himself wrote of their little group for the anthology The Vehicule Poets (1979):

I would not like to see perpetrated in the calling of this collection The Vehicule Poets any mythic understanding that bonds exist between these poets greater than common sympathy arising from the shared perplexities of the Montreal English lifestyle.

I don’t somehow feel people will understand the spirit in which seven of us have just upped and borrowed a tag none of us really wants to wear to the bitter end.

So here we are and if we are together and need a name and can't rule one house with seven different signs, well, hell, let it be Vehicule.
Gold’s first collection of poems, cityflowers (1974) and his selected poems, The Beautiful Chemical Waltz (1992) both sported introductions from western Bowering, who first encountered the young student Artie when George was teaching at Sir George Williams (what later became Concordia). As George wrote in cityflowers, “So in the years 1967 - 1971 I encountered lots of young Montrealers who wanted to be poets, but only two who wanted to step fully into the world, the world, of poetry. These were Dwight Gardiner & Artie Gold. The only two I knew with holes in the knees of their jeans & great big libraries at home. Of course they were not in a hurry to get publisht, & of course they got to know each other. They both became familiar, & of course they got to know each other. They both became familiar with the energy centres of Canadian & American poetry. Curiously they were the first 21-year-olds I ever saw getting turned over by the great dead poet of SF, Jack Spicer, & the great dead poet of NY, Frank O’Hara.”

O'hara died like christ
a blue chrysler struck him down
he died suddenly in a field of white yellow daisies
scattered among grass, he died surreally
in a kitchen wallpaper (excerpt, from The Beautiful Chemical Waltz)
Artie Gold was an important poet for me from the time I discovered his work in my early twenties from his then-new selected; I could mention the years I wandered Montreal's Ste. Catherine's Street with my Artie Gold book in pocket, trying to understand the workings of the city through its pages. It was a few more years before I was actively engaging with more of the city's writers in a useful way – expat Ken Norris, Peter Van Toorn, Anne Dandurand and Bruce Whiteman, or the younger group of writers just beginning to emerge in the mid-1990s, such as Catherine Kidd, Corey Frost, Colin Christie and Dana Bath. But even as others came and went, there was the constant and even present absence in Montreal (in my mind) of Artie Gold, who had long gone underground by that point. I first learned Montreal from the point of view of his poems.
I came to this city
naked and from a small town
and have rearranged some of its objects

I will hitch-hike out of here one day
with my hair in my eyes and a good breeze blowing
and cause a little confusion I'm sure--

though no more than a hair
discovered in a gravy. (excerpt, from before ROMANTIC WORDS)

It wasn’t until The Muses' Company "last supper" in 1995 that I actually met Artie Gold, however peripherally. Arriving at Ben's with then-Ottawa resident and poet Elias Letelier-Ruz (at the suggestion of Norris), the informal gathering was to honour the press and its achievements, as well as the achievements of publisher/founder Endre Farkas, who had just sold the press to Gordon Shillingford. I think I mumbled something to Gold about him being great, before pushing a small stack of chapbooks across the table at him; I was far more excited meeting Gold than meeting Louis Dudek. I don’t really remember anything after that.

More recently, on February 15, 2004, Montreal poet Artie Gold was celebrated by at small gathering in the boul. Ste. Laurent studio of friend Tom Paskal, with a number of his friends old and new there simply to say hello, including fellow Vehicule poet Endre Farkas, artist and photographer Chris Knudsen, and Adrian and Lucille King-Edwards (owners of The Word bookstore). And celebrated, not for any particular reason, but for the fact that almost no-one has seen Artie Gold in so long, due to his numerous ailments; I thought it an opening into something, not realizing it would be the last time I'd see him. Allergic to everything, with an oxygen tank nearby, it had been years since some had seen Gold at all, with his increasing inability to leave his apartment, let alone the inability to let others come in. Consider the bad timing of a Montreal black-out the same night, and a small group of friends with him in the stairwell, wondering what the hell we were doing, watching Artie climb four flights of stairs, stopping every step or so to breathe (it took about half an hour). It did seem odd timing that, around the same time I got the phone call invitation, Vehicule Press publisher Simon Dardick was organizing the reissue launch of Peter van Toorn’s Mountain Tea, originally released in 1984 by McClelland & Stewart, but long out-of-print. It seems safe to say that February 15th, 2004 was “old poets day” in Montreal (three years nearly to the day Artie died). And a couple of us, including Adrian and Lucille, as well as Jennifer Mulligan, were able to easily attend both, directly leaving the van Toorn event for the “Artie Party.”

Still writing over the years, Gold claimed, and still in good humour, despite his health, with a quick wit that can still turn twice on the same dime, a trade collection of new writing hasn’t been seen of Artie’s since 1978, with the publication of his before ROMANTIC WORDS that year through Vehicule Press (amid the rumours of a “lost” manuscript around the same time that never saw print, involving Coach House and David W. McFadden, supposedly called Romantic Words. The rumour has yet to emerge as anything more than that – no-one claims to actually have a copy anymore, so it’s impossible to know what might have been in it). It was only a couple of years before, after years of living with boxes of writing in storage, and he somewhere else, that Artie had moved into an apartment that could house both, basically trapping the boxes of unseen poems there in his apartment with him. When the anthology YOU & YOUR BRIGHT IDEAS: NEW MONTREAL WRITING (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 2001) came out, I quoted him at the beginning of my introduction and mailed him a copy (I think I accidentally mailed him my copy); he later said that he not only enjoyed it and read it repeatedly, but that something about the paper stock made him itch all over for days. I don’t think there could be a finer compliment, that he was willing to continue reading and re-reading the collection, despite the itch.

Still, over the years, the rare poem appeared in the hands of Lucille King-Edwards, handwritten on a scrap of paper or a napkin, or in the hands of another Montreal poet, Sonja Skarstedt. Remaining in their quiet hands, seen only by them. In March 2003, I was lucky enough to have a new poem of Artie’s arrive, typed by him on a postcard. Artie had even sent it on the back of an Artie Gold postcard that had been published in the 1970s by Ken Norris and Jim Mele's CrossCountry magazine (I published the new poem in the first issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club).

there’s Mitch w/ his I just
swallowed Charles Bronson
smile towing his Chester
Goulde pitbull who’s
watching his legs move
with the same stupified
wonder a man might give
his hernia if his guts
out of the blue went roping
cattle. Yippie-ai-Yai
yippie-ai-Yoh. / who wants
blow– I only / sell / halves!

A. Gold, March 2003
Around the same time, Gold gave permission to release of a stack of unpublished work into my hands, nearly 700 pages of writing from 1968 to 1978 (the photocopies of a stack that sat in Ken Norris’ Maine basement for years), with the hopes that there would be something publishable; some of it appeared very briefly as the chapbook THE HOTEL VICTORIA POEMS from above/ground press, named after the hotel Gold lived in during the period some of the poems were composed), all during Artie’s own claim that he has far better writing in his apartment, if anyone could get to it (but he wouldn’t let anyone try). My favorite of these acquisitions was getting a copy of the “lost” Gold poem, “doublet,” published in an edition of 30 copies by Barry McKinnon’s Caledonia Writing Series in Prince George, in the spring of 1978 (the same time Gold also worked the press to make 80 copies of his “sex at thirty-one” poem, one of a couple of "sex at thirty-one" attempts he made around the same time), included in a package of other materials from former Gold collaborator and The Figures publisher, Geoff Young. That’s a long way for a poem to travel, from Prince George to Great Barrington, Maine and back to Ottawa. I immediately made a broadsheet of it (with Artie’s permission), in a handout edition of 250 copies, later doubling the run in reprint. Even Vehicule Press historian and longtime Gold editor Norris hadn’t heard of them poem.

I rode her a different direction
like a constant collision lodged
Oh, why would you want to publish that, Artie keeps saying of the older work, but you can if you want. And then he’d laugh. Part of the hopes of the stack of poems was an eventual collection of "new" poems (even as Gold taunted me with the stack of more recent poems), and a potential second selected, but after a few months of negotiation, the whole project was nixed by Gold without explanation. On my end, the months I spent boiling nearly seven hundred pages to a file of about a hundred poems or so that I still have to finish going through; what does one do with seven hundred of someone else's poems?

there is the pipe smoke
that is like plankton in water
it is proof not only I
thread bare hallway rugs in slippers
I have seen 2 girls there
one watching the other
the other watching the one
the both watching me
as I turned to go
by some silent consensus
one spoke , they both spoke
said - hi! (like -
snappy! )
and sometimes the phone rings
that is in the morning. one night
a hand, pausing on its way
down the long hallway, for a second
felt my doorknob
but it was not my hand
so it went on, on to its own.
like a waterfall behind a lightswitch
things wait there just out of reach.

jan 6.77

On April 8th, 2004 in Montreal, they held the publication launch of the 25th anniversary Vehicule Poets anthology, The Vehicule Poets_Now (Winnipeg MB: The Muses' Company, 2004), including new and old work by all seven poets (Gold's section, instead, was a selection of previously published works), with all coming in to read for the event – Lapp from Oregon, Konyves from Vancouver and Norris from Maine – but for Artie Gold, due to his health. It wasn’t possible for him to be in such an open space with that many strangers, with whatever smells and animal hair brought in on their clothes. Even the "Artie party" put Gold in the hospital for three weeks. Again, it was western George Bowering writing the introduction again, unable to escape his own Vehicule days, even if he wanted to, writing of Montreal poetry during and just before the Vehicules happened:
But by the time I arrived there in Canada's centenary year, English Canadian Montreal was a poetry ghost town. The old guys were still around, at least part of the time, but they were not causing any trouble. Cohen and Mayne had moved out. Roy Kiyooka was there, but his best poetry was in the future. There were some English-language poets in their thirties, but they were staid. They resembled the academic poets in Iowa and the versemakers trying to get something together in the postwar desert that was the English tradition. They fashioned metaphors and crafted stanzas and considered the spirituality of nature as opposed to the disappointments of contemporary city life.

They may have thought of poetry as the sullen art.
Artie Gold was one of those who helped make the art less sullen, the best of the bunch, writing his poems in Montreal and further, thanks to those Vehicule days. I will miss those postcards that I don’t get anymore.

related notes: Endre Farkas' on Gold's passing ; a poem I wrote a few years ago about Artie ; an Artie Gold note by Brian Nation ; Todd Swift note ; Brian Campbell note ; and as Endre Farkas notes in a follow-up email, "If you wish to view Artie's Obituary and sign the guestbook you can Google Montreal Gazette Obituaries and follow the instructions. There will be a memorial in early April-date to be confirmed. If you wish to be kept, informed-go to www.endrefarkas.com."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In No One's Land by Paige Ackerson-Kiely

Another from Ahsahta Press is 2006 Sawtooth Poetry Prize winner (as judged by D.A. Powell) a first poetry collection from Lincoln, Vermont poet Paige Ackerson-Kiely, In No One's Land (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2007). There is a particular kind of language I find enviable in Ackerson-Kiely's writing, a way of electrifying the world, and something that comes out more fully in her prose (but is more subtle in her poetry), especially in the two-page "Biography" and "Author's Statement" included with the press release that ends with "You are beautiful, and I don’t need you. That should take some pressure off us both."

How could you not love any piece of writing that begins "I was born in Biddeford, Maine, at the behest of my parents in October of 1975." and also includes "I thought I was on track to study Asylum Law, but was reorganized by youthful pregnancy and the thrum of filial responsibility. I began to write poetry when my babies were, well, babies as a way to amass privacy and some sense of independence from my role as the go-to." (both from her "Biography"). Yet, as much as I love her prose, the poems in her collection In No One's Land are the ones that aren’t the prose-poems but the other pieces, working her subtle edge through line break and the breathless pause.

The Potential of Rapture

I locked up all
of the beautiful things
that might move me.

The bell around a dark ankle
turning and turning.

A stranger smiles.
Her face is no curling-up
in bed.

If I knew the world was going
to end, I'd just run out into
the street and fuck the first
chick I saw, says
a teenage virgin.

Where you go when you are scared

that we might have the verdant
and the humid. Friendly air.
People meaning their handwaves.
An answer is the way you can jump
from a ledge equal to your height
without getting hurt.
Your home.
Every pane of glass

someone laid on their precious
breath. There.
Or there.

Boy I am
leaving too many rooms
for the crowded street. Lay
down your sweet head
for now

to know as we do know
to know. To know
one damn thing. (pp 31-2)

Ackerson-Kiely's poems seem to write a kind of distance through landscape and the body, writing through relationships with liquor store clerks, Foucault, various men and the spring thaw with a combination of heartfelt and even rapturous desire and arms-length trauma; these are poems about how much the narrator will allow herself, even in the finest moments. Even in the darkest moments.

Spring Thaw

Spring with your disheveled mouths beginning
to open. Glad I am for doorways.
For a simple frame.

In winter I allow you to guess correctly
that I was sleeping. The paw of me
placed over the snout of me. My friends
the dead flowers in a windowbox
nowhere I knew where my friends were.

I allow you to guess correctly. The confidence
you will gain will make speaking—
a tomcat sprays the dogwood—blooming.

Hello. I was forgotten. When my jaw at first
unlocks I will say no one has loved me as much. (p 23)

In her "Author's Statement," she writes that her "[e]arly attempts at writing were anonymous letters relegated to paramours through inter-campus mail. They were thrilling to compose, and left me feeling fully independent of their subject—desire, and the body, worship and godliness, and I will say that when I began writing poetry in earnest, about 5 yeas ago, the thrill of that independence returned." Her biography ends with "I am currently working on a second book of poems, loosely based on the writing of Epicurus, tentatively titled The One-Life Theory, and a novel about infanticide." As much as I am looking forward to that second poetry collection, it is the novel, based on the prose from the press release, that really intrigues.

Monday, February 12, 2007

talking (as I am want to do) at algonquin college: fiction recommendations

On Friday I did a reading and short talk in Nadine McInnis' writing class at Algonquin College, talking a bit about writing, publishing, sending work to magazines, how/why I started with poems, and all the other things that seem to make up a considerable part of my daily routine, and read a few pieces from my upcoming The Ottawa City Project (Chaudiere, 2007) as well as name , an errant (2006). Apparently she's had a number of folk come through her class so far, including local fiction author Alan Cumyn, for this first year of teaching in the writing program there. Apparently another of her classes there have been going through historical fiction lately, so I recommended the new book of interviews Herb Wyile put out, Speaking in the Past Tense: Canadian Novelists on Writing Historical Fiction (Waterloo ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2007).

I've done a number of these classroom Q&A bits over the years, at Concordia in Montreal (for David McGimpsey), at University of Manitoba (through Alison Calder and then Dennis Cooley), at the University of Northern British Columbia (for Rob Budde), at the University of Alberta (for Andy Weaver), at York University (for Priscila Uppal), and at the College of New Caledonia (for Barry McKinnon), just to name a few. I always have fun doing these things, and the Q&A segment always makes me respond in ways that force me to think about what it is I'm actually doing here and there, far more appealing to me than trying to figure out a presentation of any sort (I never know what anyone actually wants to know from me…). Still, every time I get asked who I would recommend as contemporary authors whether in poetry or fiction or both and I always draw a blank; why do I always draw a blank?

Nadine asked me who I would recommend to them as contemporary fiction, so I've been thinking about that over the weekend; here's a bit of what I would recommend (I'll try to stick to Canadian fiction, and over the past decade or so, works that have really stuck out…):

Nicole Markotic, yellow pages (Red Deer AB: Red Deer College Press, 1995); a novel about Alexander Graham Bell; I just can't say enough good about her magnificent novel about silence. Since she's so slow to publish (a few poetry collections have happened as well, that I'd easily recommend), I think more folk should know about her one little novel. Will there be a second?
Aritha van Herk, Restlessness (Red Deer AB: Red Deer College Press, 1998); really, I would recommend just about anything by Aritha van Herk, but this, her most recent novel, might be a good place to start; is this a good place to start? About a woman who hires a man to kill her, because she is simply tired of existing; the novel is actually the conversation between the two of them meeting moving up to the act itself. She works a powerful flowing prose. When will she have another book of fiction?
Elizabeth Hay, Captivity Tales: Canadians in New York (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 1993); published before she got noticed by readers and newspaper editors across the country for further books with The Porcupines' Quill, Inc. and McClelland & Stewart, Inc., there is something captivating (pun intended) and extremely compelling about this book that weaves wonderfully between novel, memoir and near-essay, working herself as a character researching the stories she ends up telling in this magnificent little novel; an under-considered gem by Ottawa author Elizabeth Hay, who is also possibly the nicest fiction writer in the city.
André Alexis, Despair, And Other Stories of Ottawa (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1994; since reissued by M&S); the book that got him noticed, the story goes that he was doing a reading in Toronto and was picked up by Coach House Press simply on the strength of what he was reading; a strange, twisted book of stories, it's lovely to see someone write so well, as well as be willing and so able to work against the grain of Ottawa stereotype. Yes, there might be despair, but in Alexis' hands, it was never so twisted. I reviewed the book for the Ottawa X-Press when it came out, so those words on the back cover of the newer edition are mine, which feel pretty strange…
Sarah Dearing, Courage My Love (Toronto ON: Stoddart, 2001); one of my favourite novels of the past few years, Dearing's second novel is probably the only book I've actually picked extra copies up of to give to friends. With Stoddart publishing gone, I'm not even sure if this title still exists, which is really unfortunate; hopefully someone will pick up her third book when she finishes it, and be willing to reprint this book about recreating one's own life in Toronto's Cabbagetown.
Dany Laferriere, Why Must a Black Writer Write About Sex? (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1994); when I met writer Dany Laferriere at the ottawa international writers festival in 1998, he was my favourite Canadian fiction writer, author of such previous books such as Eroshima, An Aroma of Coffee and the infamous first novel, How to Make Love to a Negro (without getting tired) (if you ever see the film version of such, try to see if you can spot Laferriere in one of the scenes…). Probably his finest novel, written in much the same way as Elizabeth Hay's New York book mix of fiction/memoir (adding in reams of social commentary), it talks about how he didn’t have to write his first novel at all, but for the title, since most people who knew of the book hadn’t actually read it anyway. What made him so very interesting, and I think so successful, was in the way he wrote from the perspective of a black man from Haiti living in Montreal, writing from the privilege of the outsider (who can usually tell what's going on far better than insiders), not realizing (perhaps) that almost everyone in Quebec, whether language, religion or colour, has an argument for outsider status.
Suzette Mayr, Venous Hum (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004); I've read a few of her books since reading this one, and this one has to be read to be believed. High school reunions, cannibalism and a lesbian woman having an affair with her best friend's husband? Part of a group of writers that Vancouver writer George Bowering once referred to as the "Calgary Renaissance."
Sheila Heti, The Middle Stories (Toronto ON: House of Anansi Press, 2001); yes, there was a lot of hype for her and this book when it came out (because she'd published one of the stories in McSweeney's), but the book more than lived up to it. The first of Toronto author Heti's two books of fiction, I loved the fable aspects of her stories and the way that they moved. She turned real life into near-myth.
Jaspreet Singh, 17 Tomatoes (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 2004); another author of the near-myth, this collection of linked short stories works their fables through the realities of an East Indian army camp. One of the loveliest books I've read in a long time.
Madeleine Thien, Certainty (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2006); I've talked before about how great this novel is (see if you can find where...); you should just believe me by now.

Read anything by Gatineau author John Lavery, the mad fiction genius of the Ottawa-Hull area. Two books of fiction through Toronto publisher ECW Press Very Good Butter (2000) and You, Kwaznievski, You Piss Me Off (2004) — he manages to twist and manipulate language like the master he is, and has been compared (favourably) to authors such as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. Apart from Leon Rooke, easily the best reader of fiction I have ever heard.

Michael Ondaatje; read everything before The English Patient (1992) if you haven’t already. Especially Coming Through Slaughter (1976) or Running in the Family (1982). You won't be disappointed. Margaret Atwood's Surfacing (1972) is my favourite of her works so far (I have yet to read the myth novel), and Timothy Findley's Stones (1988) is the only short story collection I pick up every few years to re-read (okay, that's a bit before my ten-year mark). Vancouver writer Anne Stone (finally) has a third novel happening with Insomniac Press in the spring; Tim Conley (who reads with Clare Latremouille at Collected Works at 2pm on Sunday, February 18th) also has a great book of short stories from the same publisher, edited by Stephen Cain. What else can I tell you?

There, my little list of highlights (selected). Better late than never, I suppose.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kate Greenstreet's case sensitive

Thanks to Ahsahta Press, I recently discovered the work of American poet Kate Greenstreet, through her first trade collection, case sensitive (Boise Idaho: Ahsahta Press, 2006). Working the extended and continual poem as both the serial poem and essay (reminding me somewhat of Montreal poet Erin Mouré, who also learned some time ago that the poem and essay don’t need to be separate beasts), Greenstreet picks up other lines and responds to them as well, in a collection built in five sections, including "Great Women of Science," "[SALT]," "Book of Love," "Where's the Body?" and "Diplomacy."

13 [did not originate in the pools where it was found]

I'm going to say it's clouds. Or rain.
You'd be thinking—
about the end of your life. Somewhat.
And also—
the things you’d care about

would be different than the people you knew.
These are harder, I think.
It's just a feeling that we have—the desire to go deeper.
No, in fact, I often don't, and other people do.
I like to taste it first, to see.

Not by reputation.
It depends
on who's gauging it.

There is no term.

To keep it, to tame it.
It would believe it couldn't fly.

The granules
on the feathers.

I don't think that could prevent it from flying,
but the feeling of the weight would stupefy it somehow. ("[SALT]," pp 35-6)

The kind of almost journal-entry fragmentation to the poems that make up this collection, this book, are extremely appealing to my own sensibilities of working the book as the individual unit of composition and what exactly that means. Much like the work of Mouré or Toronto writer Margaret Christakos, Greenstreet wraps her poems in and around each other, pulling reference both from her own pieces as well as other sources, and turning the pieces further apart as she weaves them into magnificent, living creatures.

Fragment. No suggestions.

Did she say who sought refuge
in unhappy love

Day by day, we're moving into night

Slight accent, and the falling
"Leave a window open"

"Which of these is life? the true life?"

It's meant to be sad and bright, lit up
like the boat of the dead

I thought 2 hands would be 2 people ("Book of Love," p 66)

A while ago, she wrote on her blog (where she has also been interviewing a great number of newly-booked poets about their work) that her last name, Greenstreet, is a constructed one, that she and her partner created; one that he took legally, and she married, making it theirs. Since all writing can be considered a form of self-creation, I think it would be very interesting to see her write further on this, this episode of self-creation through self-naming. So few of us make such an interesting choice, for whatever reason. Does this become a weight lifted or a weight created?

[Kate Greenstreet reads with Ottawa poet Rhonda Douglas at the Factory Reading Series, Thursday May 10 at 7pm (reading at 7:30) at the Ottawa Art Gallery; Douglas, director of the TREE Reading Series, will be launching her first poetry chapbook, published by above/ground press]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Roger Farr's Surplus

One of the first season of poetry collections from the newly formed LINEbooks (out of West Coast Line magazine) is Vancouver poet and critic Roger Farr's Surplus (Burnaby BC: LINEbooks, 2006)[see my review of their previous title, companions & horizons: An Anthology of Simon Fraser University Poetry edited by Stephen Collis, here]. There have been a number of new publishers in Canada appearing lately, what with Wayde Compton's own Commodore Books (also distributed by West Coast Line) or Jon Paul Fiorentino and the late Robert Allen who formed Snare Books out of Montreal's Matrix magazine, or even our own little Chaudiere Books project in Ottawa. Managing editor Michael Barnholden, writer and editor both, has had his hands in a number of projects over the years, including work with Talonbooks, New Star Books and The Kootenay School of Writing, as well as his own poetry title a few years back with Coach House Books, and his work as editor/publisher of legendary west coast publisher Tsunami Editions (a number of which have been re-released online through Brian Kim Stefans' ubuweb, and others threaten to re-release on the KSW website; the backlist of titles still in print, apparently, will finally be available through this new LINEbooks project).

Roger Farr's first trade poetry collection Surplus works a sequence of three extended pieces, the first piece being, "35 Sonnets," that exist almost oppositionally to the construction of a Barry McKinnon long poem; as Ottawa poet and publisher jwcurry once suggested of McKinnon's work, half works toward a central line, and the other half moves away from the same point. Instead, Farr's "35 Sonnets" works directly yet indirectly from an accumulation between the first line of the first piece, to the last line of the final poem, writing from

An unsatisfied need pervades most human beings. (p 9)


Never to end, but continuously, to pause. (p 43)

Writing "Surplus" and "accumulation," obviously, the ends of the means aren’t the two lines, but the ways in which the poems travel between them, working their endless dialogues throughout nearly three dozen sonnets. Here is the first poem in full:


An unsatisfied need pervades most human beings.
Each day the machines accumulate
Like the tires in these photographs by Burtynsky —
A petro-chemical Tower of Rubble set
Against a backdrop of shipwreckers
(They're in Bangladesh, don’t worry).
You can count the rings to tell how old
Their boys were. I downloaded that picture
Now it hangs above the entrance to this Franchise.
Each day the late-capitalist cache accumulates more
Data with less hardware, more shoes with fewer
Factories, more condos with less down, more
Windows but less air, more leaping but
Less and less to leap for, or to.

Part of a group of critics and poets in Vancouver for a number of years, Farr has been involved with West Coast Line magazine and The Kootenay School of Writing and the social and language considerations that both have (in part) come to be known for. Working regular speech, writing theory, working class values and social action, there is something rich and rare in the considerations of west coast Canadian poetry that exist nowhere else, from the mid-1980s and beyond mix of Kootenay School of Writing poets such as Jeff Derksen, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Peter Culley and Gerald Creede, to the Vancouver Industrial Writers Union poets that included Phil Hall, Tom Wayman, Kate Braid and even Erin Mouré. As editors Michael Barnholden and Andrew Klobucar write in their introduction to Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (1999):
Hammer," an early poem by Tom Wayman, who was also a Wobbly, illustrates the lose relationship KSW maintained with labour movements. In it, Wayman symbolically abstracts the common tool of a carpenter ― the hammer ― into an emblem of social unit among the impoverished working classes. The image is hardly new, having signified basic labour in everything from Masonic badges to the flag of the Soviet Union. What is fresh in Wayman's poem is his descriptive prose, detailing the various working situations the hammer must transcend. In the final stanza,

Nothing can stop it. The hammer has risen for centuries
high as the eaves, over the town. In this age
it has climbed to the moon
but it does not cease rising everywhere each hour.
And no one can say what it will drive
if at last it comes down.

Wayman's interest in class struggle is evident throughout the poem. All workers, regardless of their individual working situations, share an important social bond derived from their common oppression by capitalism. Class oppression and the need for social change it subsequently provokes unites, for Wayman, the restaurant cook with the carpenter, and both of them, oddly enough, with the astronaut. Labour does not ever cease in this poem; but neither does the need among labourers for emancipation and their social right to own the relations of production.

Only one year after KSW opened an office on West Broadway near Oak Street, the school co-sponsored, with the Vancouver Industrial Writers Union, a colloquium on what Wayman and others were calling "work writing." Among the issues discussed there was labour's unclear future within a Socred-administered province. Such political uncertainty generated a specific confusion regarding KSW's own relationship to conventional labour groups.

Called the first North American symposium of contemporary work literature, the participants of the Split Shift Colloquium of August 1986 included Canadians and Americans both, such as Phil Hall, Tom Wayman, Erin Mouré, Antler, Kate Braid, Sandy Shreve, Howard White, Clemens Starck, Susan Eisenberg, Robert Carson, Jim McLean, Kirsten Emmott, Eugene McNamara and Glen Downie. As Wayman himself wrote of work writing in his essay, "Split Shift and After: Some Issues of the New Work Writing":
Work writing, on the other hand, states that every job has importance in society and that whoever does that work is an expert concerning the value of this work and how this work affects individual and community existence. Therefore each of us has the right to speak out and be listened to, irrespective of financial status. The present educational and critical apparatus is not likely to devote a sustained effort to promoting this message.

Farr's own Surplus, working a more contemporary strain of political writings, writes the dividing line of lack and excess, in those things that cannot exist but by being extant. In his three sections, moving from tight sonnets to a sequence of poems written in couplets to a poem pulled completely apart on the page, the formal concerns from one to another fit oddly together, as though either completely incongruous, or existing from one side of formal constraint to its eventual breaking apart, the pieces in Surplus layer in amazement even as they layer in cultural and political allusion and anger.


Do I have to spell everything out for you
Do I have to say everything twice

Don't let yourself get disconnected
Even small magnets can erase credit cards

What have we gotten your self into
Art as Technique

Her husband ran off with a tangent
He tickled her pink with his remarks

She touched him with an expensive gift
Hume wrote of "a necessary connection"

A taste of their own application process
Wipe that face of your façade

We're about half-way through now
Let's get our thinking back on (Sorry To Be Late)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn, selected with an introduction by Alison Calder

In The Hills, Watching

Among the nerved grass, thrones,
dominions of grass, in chokecherry dewlapped hills,
hills buffalo-shouldered with shag of pulsed heat, meek hills,
sandhills of rose-hip and aster, in the philanthropic silence
fluxed by the grass, hounded, nervous with its own unaccountability, grass
the grail piston of all,
in hill heat, lying down in the nearness of deer.
All knowing darkens as it builds.
The grass is a mirror that clouds as the bright look goes in.
You stay in the night, you squat in the hills in the cave of night. Wait.
Above, luminous rubble, torn webs of radio signals.
Below, stone scrapers, neck bone of a deer, salt beds.
The world is ending. (originally from Moosewood Sandhills)

Another in the Laurier Poetry Series of critical selecteds is Desire Never Leaves: The Poetry of Tim Lilburn, selected with an introduction by Alison Calder (Waterloo ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2007), after other books on Di Brandt, Lorna Crozier, Don McKay and Al Purdy, and another forthcoming on Winnipeg poet Dennis Cooley. The author of six poetry collections, including Tourist to Ecstasy (1989), Moosewood Sandhills (1994), To the River (1999) and Kill-Site (2003, which won the Governor General's Award, Saskatchewan poet Tim Lilburn is also the author of my personal favourite of his works, the collection of essays Living in the World As If It Were Home (1999). As Winnipeg poet (her first collection comes out in April) and critic Alison Calder writes in her introduction:
Tim Lilburn's poetry should come with two introductions to the reader: have courage, and relax. Have courage because the poetry, on first glance, can appear daunting; relax because, well, it's beautiful words on a page. So you don’t know all about these characters "Nicholas of Cusa" or "Paul Celan"? Relax and listen to the music. An expert on classical music will have a different experience of a Beethoven symphony than a non-expert will, but they'll both enjoy the concert. Lilburn's poetry is no different. His well-crafted lyrics, both thoughtful and artful, treat the basic objects of the world around us at the same time as they gesture towards something that words themselves cannot express. The resulting verse mixes the profane and the sacred, ultimately insisting on the necessary coexistence of both.
Lilburn might not be the poet I most gravitate toward as a reader or writer, but I think I have problems with what could be read as editor Calder's dismissal of the "other" strain of prairie poetry, as she continues:
Lilburn writes about place very intensively, but his poetry may not provide what readers of "prairie poetry" expect. One strand of prairie poetry, heavily influenced by the writings of Robert Kroetsch, Dennis Cooley, and Andy Suknaski, uses vernacular speech to provide a record of prairie experience. This kind of poetry is narrative, conversational, and often, though not always, accessible. It may also rely on the convention of the lyric narrator, a voice confession its thoughts. Another strand of prairie poetry, to which I think Lilburn is much more closely aligned, comes down through writers like Anne Szumigalski and shows up in poetry like that of Jan Zwicky, whose lyrics draw on a wide range of subject matter and philosophical and literary influences to produce an eclectic mix of voices. The distinction between these two strands—John Deere vs. John Donne, let us say—is in some way artificial, as vernacular poetry also draws on a wide range of influences, and more formal poetry often speaks directly to immediate prairie experience.
I think I would rather the description on the back cover that "situates Lilburn's writing in an alternate tradition of prairie poetry that relies less on the vernacular and more on philosophy and meditation." (As a former farm lad, I think her "John Deere vs. John Donne" dismissal even borders on the offensive.) Is this what Calder is responding to, this "other" strain when she wrote her poem "SEXING THE PRAIRIE; or, Why I Am/Not a Prairie Poet," responding directly to Robert Kroetsch's Seed Catalogue (1977) in a recent issue of Open Letter ("Poetics and Public Culture: Interviews, Interpretations and Interventions," Open Letter, Twelfth Series, No. 9, Summer 2006)?

As Lilburn writes in his essay "How to be Here?" from Living in the World As If It Were Home (1999):
We are lonely for where we are. Poetry helps us to cope. Poetry is where we go when we want to know the world as lover. You read a poem or write one, guessing at the difficult, oblique interiority of something, but the undertaking ultimately seems incomplete, ersatz. The inevitable disappointment all poems bring motions toward the hard work of standing in helpless awe before things. "The praise of the psalms is a lament" the old men and women of the desert used to say. Poetry in its incompleteness awakens a mourning over the easy union with the world that seems lost. Poetry is a knowing to this extent: it brings us to this apposite discomfiting.
Part of what appeals about the Laurier Poetry Series is the fact that, but for the Purdy volume, the author selected also has a new non-fiction piece at the end of every volume, and this one is no different, with Lilburn's piece "Walking Out Of Silence," that writes:
Though I concede the intentions of poetry and contemplation fork, poetry still strikes me as a religious undertaking, whether it is written or read, because it is an attempt to listen inside things, an attempt to "hear" the interiority, the deeps, of crows and mountains of basaltic rock : as a result, it constantly edges toward ekstasis, a bewildering, somewhat destabilizing, yet vivifying exile from oneself. While most poets possess a substantial horde of ego, the act they perform of homesteading in otherness proves altruistic : if one of us travels into the cut off world of stones, rivers, then all of us do through the sort of reading which is anagogy. This means that poetry insofar as it is erotic, insofar as it is religious, following desire into things, listening in things, is political: one enters the sole trustworthy politics through a deepended subjectivity.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Restore Funding to Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)

To: Government of Canada
To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage

We are writing in response to the announcement of cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) for Public Diplomacy. This funding currently supports the creation, dissemination and promotion of Canadian arts, Canadian cultural initiatives, and business opportunities for Canadian artists internationally. The health and expansion of existing international networks depend on DFAIT funding not only to create opportunities for artists to participate in an expanded, global economy, but also to bring professionals and key decision-makers from abroad to Canada to create and promote cultural exchange and business opportunities here at home. The $11.9 million cut over two years represents a 100% withdrawal of the Public Diplomacy budget – funds that would normally enable Canadians to participate in international festivals, exhibitions, concert and lecture tours, dance and theatre productions, conferences, and academic exchanges. These cuts to the Public Diplomacy budget will jeopardize Canada's longstanding international reputation as a free and democratic nation with a commitment to supporting Canadian values through its arts. We believe that fiscal responsibility involves securing our long-term investments into the arts and cultural industries in Canada, and that sustaining Canadian culture abroad is an effective and productive use of our tax dollars. The effects of the Public Diplomacy cuts are aimed at hard-working Canadians who depend on international recognition to succeed in their field. This withdrawal of support to diplomatic funding is particularly disconcerting considering that other governments are continuously increasing their Public Diplomacy funding, such as the United States, which has tripled its efforts in cultural diplomacy since 2001. We, the undersigned, would like to see the international dissemination of Canadian culture and values maintained as a priority for Canadians. We urge you to reverse your decision to cut these funds to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.


The Undersigned

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ongoing notes: early February, 2007

I've spent the past few weeks tearing apart my little apartment for two Dennis Cooley titles I couldn’t find, & even considered getting replacement copies until I realized they were on Stephen Brockwell's shelves (dammit). Once my Phil Hall essay is finished, I'm thinking of entering more fully into the works of said Mister Cooley [see my previous note, or my review of his Country Music here], from the selected poems Sunfall on… Still, I might just have to bite the bullet & get better shelving (for all the books I can't find), something Stuart Ross apparently has been doing lately… & have you seen the new issue of ottawater yet (& Amanda Earl's note on our glorious launch, or Wanda O'Connor's little note…)? The issue went missing for a little bit, but it's back now. Or the new issue of Rob Budde's stonestone? My review of the new Jay MillAr chapbook from Nomados? Apparently poet & Winnipeg resident K.I. Press is excited about her interview in the new issue of ottawater; & have you heard this interview with American poet Alice Notley? Or this new Vehicule Poets website former Montrealer and still-Vehicule poet Ken Norris recently told me about, or this new Ottawa fiction mag launching soon, or this other one looking for submissions? Apparently Ottawa writer Matthew Firth has a place where info on him can be found, in case you are in a serious need for a Firth-fix… Did you see that poet Mari-Lou Rowley has a blog now, as does b. stephen harding? & what the hell is Nath G. Moore doing on YouTube? & where the hell is former McGill rare books librarian David McKnight? I've been looking for him…

& THIS IS NOT ME. god damn.

Will we see you at the Factory Reading coming up with Jennifer Mulligan launching her above/ground press chapbook & Una McDonnell? (Jennifer was originally supposed to read with Toronto poet Sharon Harris [see my review of her book here], but Sharon hasn’t been feeling well lately…) Upcoming readings in the same series over the next few months include a Snare Books special, a Brick launch, Kate Greenstreet & a first chapbook by Tree co-ordinator Rhonda Douglas

& I'm the "old poet" making comments for the League of Canadian Poets' young poets site this month. Catch me if you can…

Vancouver BC: I finally read Vancouver writer Ryan Knighton's memoir Cockeyed (Penguin, 2006), on learning he was going blind, diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was eighteen, and the years of learning and living with such a condition. Sometimes just a bit too self aware and clever, Cockeyed is an extremely strong and moving book, and moves very personally not only through Knighton's blindness, but through his life generally, and how it has shifted, whether through being blind, or simply existing at all. Knighton is also the author of the poetry collection Swing in the Hollow (Vancouver BC: Anvil Press, 2001) and co-author of the short fiction collection (with George Bowering) Cars (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2002), as well as a former editor of The Capilano Review and contributor to side/lines: a new Canadian poetics (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 2002). A remarkably charming and funny memoir, a number of selections from the book also appeared previously in Saturday Night magazine and on Dooney's Café.

"Hi, you've reached the answering machine for Ryan and Jane. We're probably home right now, but Jane didn’t hear the phone again, and I can't find it. Please leave a message. Or just come over and help." (p 48)
Ottawa ON: The other night, making music until all hours with jwcurry, Anita Dolman and Stephen Brockwell in his brand-new basement, curry gave us copies of his 1cent #373 (January 16, 2006), a magnificent little poem by Laurie Fuhr that he found in a stack of stencils left over from 2002; basically, a poem that, for whatever reason, never made it into the ottawa international writers festival publication he made that year, Guessed Book (2002, A Oniom Primtshop, Ottawa), built out of pieces anyone wandering through the festival's hospitality suite wanted to include by altering their own stencil (worth getting a copy of, if he still has any). Ottawa has been much different since poet Laurie Fuhr wandered west and eventually found Calgary and her part in filling Station magazine; will we ever see a full-length poetry collection from her? After a chapbook from above/ground press and inclusion in evergreen: six new poets (Windsor ON: Black Moss Press, 2002), I've barely seen anything else. When do we get to see something else? She did edit an issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club that is due out soon (check here over the next few weeks), but I have seen very little; I miss her little publications. Here is but a fragment of said poem, worth getting properly to see in full, and with all the proper indentations.

the stray free radical

applies its properties
(without charge) to

your next spoken intention.
stephen walks away from the stimulus,
finds a shiny metal distraction
a two-part harmony in clack
key crunches operettas
adjoining room and the handfuls
of crispy snacks. punching out words

To find out about copies, write jwcurry c/o #302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Ontario K1R 6R7. As he says, subscriptions and submissions: ask. Also, he claims he has another newsnotes publication ready for distribution, but hasn’t passed it along yet. Worth getting a copy if you can…

Toronto ON: After much waiting, Toronto poets Jay MillAr and Stephen Cain have finally released their collaborative work Double Helix (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2006), after various sections and pieces have appeared as chapbooks from housepress (Calgary), BookThug (Toronto) and above/ground press (Ottawa), among other venues. Working two strains against strains like a DNA strand, each write alphabetical poems that twist in on each other, working to create a singular third voice between the collaborations of their singular two. The authors of three trade poetry collections each [see my review of MillAr's most recent poetry chapbook here, or the review of his third trade book here], the resonance of the "singular third" works well in much of the collections, even the pieces where it appears more obvious which of the two has authored (with the Cain pieces slightly stronger, I would argue).


Now that space has been lost, it's only a matter of finding time.

Or perhaps it's only that not enough has changed to make the
trauma of transformation total.

Where is here? The first question a Canadian asks in settling down
and beginning to write, at least in the Frygian experience. And
once again I realize that Norry was right, and once again I am sur-

Here is nowhere for the time being. The time being 12:13,
Thursday night, and the experience being the first attempt to
write in my new life. To right, and to make things write.

Everything's in disarray, and there's not enough to drink in the
house — but so what? I welcome the move to sobriety with lit-
tle regret. This small stumble between "little" and "no."

Remarkable coincidences have let me to believe the right deci-
sions have been made. Either that or I have somehow slipped into
your worldview where ghosts are corporeal and magic is manifest.

Especially now that I have discovered that nowhere does not mean
no-where — but now-here.

There have been a number of interesting collaborative works over the past few years, including Edmonton poet Douglas Barbour and Phoenix, Arizona poet Sheila E. Murphy's Continuations (Edmonton AB: University of Alberta Press, 2006) and Toronto poets Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler-Henry's apostrophe (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2006) [see my review of them here], as well as a forthcoming issue of The Capilano Review on collaborations currently in the works [see the collaborations I did with American poet Lea Graham last year here]. Cain himself has also been working a series of shorter collaborative texts for a number of years, working on his usual compositional ten (check his own solo collections, specifically American Standard / Canada Dry to see what I mean) before he collects them as a trade unit (some have also already appeared in small chapbook editions). With Double Helix finally out, when will his next series of collaborations see the light of day?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kate & The Ottawa City Project

Here are two images my lovely daughter Kate [see some of her previous collage work here, and notes involving her here and here, and another poem I wrote for her once] made recently for the cover of my next poetry collection, The Ottawa City Project [see my note on such here, and another one, and excerpts here and here and here], to come out with Chaudiere Books and scheduled to be launched in April at the ottawa international writers festival. I think I prefer the one with the big eye in the middle of it; after seeing the previous collages she did, I thought it would be perfect for her to attempt something for the cover of the collection (she also did the photos that adorn the cover of side/lines: a new Canadian poetics...). I talked to Kate today on the phone, and her suggested titles so far are "eye thingie" and "tulips of doom." Sigh. She's off to Disneywhatever in Orlando, Florida with her aunt and cousin for a week, starting tomorrow. What will I do in the meantime?