Friday, March 02, 2007

Ongoing notes: early March, 2007

Knocked out by a sinus infection all week, & slow moving; brutal. Are you coming to my thirty-seventh birthday party on Saturday, March 17th at the Carleton Tavern (upstairs) in the Parkdale Market? Or the last minute reading in the same location the Saturday before (doors at 7pm, reading at 7:30pm) by Fredericton poet Hugh Thomas, with local openers Sandra Ridley and Max Middle? Our second Decalogue launch at Dusty Owl on March 18th? Or the Factory Reading on the 22nd? Have you seen Max Middle's YouTube? Are you excited for the upcoming ottawa international writers festival in April (which will include a Chaudiere Books launch or two, perhaps…), or their Michael Ondaatje reading/book launch in May? & thanks to Roland Prevost (who is our new managing editor for; watch for a new issue soon), I now have my first working printer in, what, four years? What might happen next?

jwcurry thinks we should all go to the Great Canadian Theatre Company for the opening of The Four Horsemen. It runs March 13 to April 1st.

Apparently Vancouver writer Aaron Vidiver (current editor/publisher of The Rain Review) now has a blog. In my most recent poetry workshop at Collected Works Bookstore, I made them all go through various texts up at ubu editions; here's one of the responses, from Pearl Pirie, & another from Amanda Earl. See here for info on the upcoming workshops; it's potentially my last for some time, since I've just been named writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta for the 2007-8 academic year; will anyone out there in Ottawa miss me? Look out Alberta, here I come…

Sacramento CA: Apparently the American POEMS-FOR-ALL series has been publishing a couple of Ottawa folk lately, including Jesse Ferguson (who has since moved east to learn at University of New Brunswick) and Amanda Earl, with her poems "Snow--A Psalm" (#568) and "Evidence"(#579). A neat little series, they do tiny tiny chapbooks of single poems that are "scattered around town on buses, trains, restrooms, coffee shops, left along with the tip; stuffed in a stranger's back pocket. whatever. wherever." It reminds me that I should probably get extra copies of the two they made of mine, a couple of years back. Check the website to see who else they published along the way, and what else might still be available.


tiny six-pointed grated coconut flakes
shatter the pavement
with the silence
of you

as you hover your boneless angel body
over that snow delicious flutter of

and then just ahead near the pigeon tracks and snowmen
a perfectly unbroken outline
of a snow

Vancouver BC: Another of the first series of LINEbooks produced through Vancouver's West Coast Line magazine, is accrete or crumble (Burnaby BC: LINEbooks, 2006), a first trade collection of poetry by former Calgary resident Natalie Simpson (some of us have been waiting some time for this to appear…). Currently a law student in Vancouver, Simpson produced a few smaller items here and there over the years during her time in Calgary and since through housepress, MODL press, No Press and above/ground press, and was an editor for filling Station magazine.

not an equal here to be seen
symbolic of metronomes, violence
symbolic of trash and traffic ―
even symbols have moments of.
or weakness. or not even.
more of a symbol for it. (bound out)

Working a series of fragmentary pieces into something larger, her fragments work less as individual pieces than parts of an accumulation, working toward a piece that strives for meaning and structure through the process of moving deeper through the poem.

abrupt to faithful. in conclusive amounts to dribbles, drabs.
pockets of flesh ceiling. on the screaming into overdrive, the
outrage affects each one silently or equally or even had lamps
burnt, blackened ferocious.

he said the softening begins at each point of disclosure. lay on
hands, each tempt, at thrust forces temporal delusion to a
temporary climax. (similar fingers)

Washington DC: I got a package of books from Edge recently that included Kaia Sand's first collection interval (Washington DC: Edge, 2004). There is something quite lovely about this small collection of poems, the first from the stack that really caught my eye.

Self-Portrait in a Passport Photo

Today I am the tallest
I have ever been

Now I know how it is
with a cup to the ear of thunder

Now I know how it is to crush
dainty books, do penance,
fast on chatter

From this height, I can hold the moon
close like a hat

I am the tallest I have ever been

I wish to postpone
last month's appointments, understand
the sun, apologize to all
the other countries

I frisk myself, policing
the pickpocket, delighted at all
I confiscate (p 20)

Moving through as a single unit, the second section of the book is a single poem made out of fragments, the poem "progeny," a 20+ page poem that writes:

undress me, yes, so I might
present myself in the tearoom, the
when threatened, the fold my delicate

cameo on the folio
frontispiece folded low

cut on the bias or hitched
with a belt, full-legged lamé:
my fashioned throes (p 58)

Paris ON: Over the past few years, Paris, Ontario poet and bookseller Nelson Ball has had a number of publications through kemeny babineau's Laurel Reed Books. The most recent of these, co-published by Ball's own Rubblestone Press, is THREE-LETTER WORDS (2007), writing out a series through sections written for various letters; here is "Section k," that writes:

kab keb kib kob kub

kac kec kic koc kuc

kad ked kid kod kud

kaf kef kif kof kuf

kag keg kig kog kug

kah keh kih koh kuh

kaj kej kij koj kuj

kal kel kil kol kul

kam kem kim kom kum

kan ken kin kon kun

kap kep kip kop kup

kaq keq kiq koq kuq

kar ker kir kor kur

kas kes kis kos kus

kat ket kit kot kut

kav kev kiv kov kuv

kaw kew kiw kow kuw

kax kex kix kox kux

kay key kiy koy kuy

kaz kez kiz koz kuz

Waterloo ON: I've been a big fan of the Laurier Poetry Series with the books they've done lately [see my review of the Tim Lilburn collection here], with the most recent being Children of the Outer Dark: The Poetry of Christopher Dewdney, selected with an introduction by Karl E. Jirgens (2007). A fiction writer as well, Jirgens is the editor/publisher of RAMPIKE magazine, and after many years in Northern Ontario, moved a few years ago to Windsor, Ontario, where he teaches at the University of Windsor. This isn’t the first time Jirgens has dealt with the work of Toronto poet Christopher Dewdney, as he is also the author of Christopher Dewdney and His Works (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1996).

Gravid Lux
for Barbara

Tonight the Antillean sky is unnaturally clear,
the moon's faint, perennial halo is gone.
South of Orion's sword the tropic stars
spangle a trail to the equator.
By the lagoon, coconut palms
rustle and slide their leathery wings.
Beyond the beach,
a faint sussurus of waves
breaking on the crest
of the reef.

The warm trade wind is stronger
on the hill above the bay.
It moans in power lines and the screens
of houses near the road. It whistles
through the shutters of our hotel room where
ceiling fans slice the ocean air.
Their bleak, electric hum a counterpoint
to the low-grade bliss
of dreaming in the tropics.

Under the thralldom of our idyll,
in the mute cosmic witness of this night,
there is a poignance,
as if such mildness could purge the north,
climate of steel and asphalt.

By the lagoon,
in the buttress forest of the mangrove,
a large white crab delicately stilts
over the mud flats. We
are dream factories, underwater gardens
hang in our heads.

The trade wind is filled with mad lovers
while in northern darkness
pale fields sleep
under the red wings
of winter.

A prolific and important poet for years, after such collections as A Palaeozoic Geology of London, Ontario: Poems and Collages (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1973), Spring Traces in the Control Emerald Night (Berkeley CA: The Figures, 1978), Alter Sublime (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1980), The Cenozoic Asylum (Liverpool: Delires, 1983), Predators of the Adoration: Selected Poems (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 1983), The Radiant Inventory (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 1988), Demon Pond (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 1994) and The Natural History (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2002), he's focused more of his energy the past number of years on non-fiction, including Last Flesh: Life in the Transhuman Era (Toronto ON: Harper and Collins, 1988) and Acquainted with the Night (Toronto ON: HarperCollins, 2004). As Dewdney writes in his "A Note on the Poems" afterward:
Looking back over the trajectory of my published work I realize a number of things. For instance, in my early work I used a lot of scientific terms, not as a device, but because that was my natural vocabulary. I was as passionate about science and its discoveries as I was about art and poetry. What was, I realize now in retrospect, unique about my perspective, is that I saw no discontinuity between the two realms. I could slip from art to science and back again without missing a beat—both were totally natural for me. I suspect that some of my readers might have found this unnerving. Since then my vocabulary has been tempered by my coming to know my audience. I think there is a natural relationship between audience and writer, and both form and inform each other. But even stronger than the relationship is the one between author and work. There is a point at which writing changes you as much as you change the writing. Writing a big book is like building a bridge or a building: a structure emerges that you have to disciplined enough to see and be true to. And sometimes this requires changes within you. A book can make you stronger.
Be aware, too, that the press is holding a big poetry reading/launch in Waterloo for various of the series' poets and editors on April 4 and 5, with readings by Brian Bartlett, Di Brandt, Robert Budde, Alison Calder, Dennis Cooley, Lorna Crozier, Christopher Dewdney, Catherine Hunter, Karl Jirgens, Tim Lilburn, Nicole Markotic, Tanis MacDonald, and Don McKay.

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