Monday, March 12, 2007

Ongoing notes: more March, 2007

Scheming to turn the University of Alberta into the University of Awesome… Will we see you at the Snare Books special at the Factory Reading Series on March 22nd? Be aware, future Factory readings include an Anne Szumigalski launch in April, and readings by Rhonda Douglas and Kate Greenstreet it May [see my review of Greenstreet's first book here]. don't forget the Chaudiere Books event at the next Dusty Owl Reading Series on Sunday, as a second launch for Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets. & even though the new issue of Peter F. Yacht Club is out, I managed to get the number wrong, forgetting the issue #5 that Max Middle edited last year, making this one issue #6! Already working on #7 for a (potential) spring writers festival release… also launching two Chaudiere Books titles at the festival this spring, but I won't tell you which ones

Anne Stone talks about the new issue of Matrix here; apparently Warren Fulton in Vancouver (formerly from Ottawa, where he started Pooka Press, continuing it out west in Kamloops during his Kamloops Poets Factory days…) has started a reading series; apparently Wanda O'Connor is part of a forthcoming American anthology of younger poets?

Toronto ON: Someone who seems to popping up all over [see my review of his previous chapbook here; his last book here] is Toronto poet and BookThug publisher Jay MillAr, with his most recent chapbook DEMTENED POEMS I-X (Mt. Pleasant ON: Laurel Reed Books, 2007), produced in a run of 100 copies.

Ah, wistfully. Theoretically.
The patience of oceans

bleeds into another
yet does not drown.

The meticulous whiteness
of the page is calm

A real surface.
No one cares about extinction.

What did you say? A surface?
No one cares about extinction.

I've gone through this work a number of times, and I'm still not sure what exactly I think of it yet; there is something about MillAr's poems that tend to grow on you after a while, with some that grab instantly, and others that instantly provide exactly the opposite. With his DEMTENED POEMS I-X (I wonder if this suggests that there might be more at some point?), I can't quite figure out if I think they're really interesting, or really not, unlike his previous chapbook, which I think I almost immediately liked, his Sporadic Growth: being a third season of 26 fungal threads (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2006). Certainly there are more subtleties going on in these poems, working understated lines in an extended array; are they growing on me already?


On hold in the stillness of the fog
With our lives. Interested stillness
And the fog's held light. Trapped by the air
Yet fulfilled by it, your breathing hails
First the geometry of objects
And second, my stupid heart. Stumbling
Toward some place just out of earshot
I'm content to be unseen with you.
Oh hold in the anger of the fog
Or the silence. You must hear the rest
When the blood functions perilously.
Who but you could hear such tiny points
Along these assumed terrorized shores?

To find out more about the book, or about kemeny babineau's Laurel Reed Books, check out

Ottawa ON: Max Middle put a few more of his Puddle Leaflets out last week, including pieces by Gregory Betts, Gary Barwin and "Somewhere On A Saskatchewan-North Dakota Highway (Two)" by Sandra Ridley. After seeing poems there and here for a while, and her recent honourable mention in the Diana Brebner Awards sponsored by Arc magazine, it's always good to see something new by Ridley; apparently there are rumours of a forthcoming chapbook, but we might never know for sure. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the entirety of this series flows.

Beneath a field of culverts and quonsets, radio antennas and candy cane tubes,
steam vents, and locked hatches ― fractals of ice over frozen seeds;

wild daisies.


Here does not resonate. Here insists.


Prince George BC: Rob Budde's wink books put out a small pamphlet recently called "responding to doubtle" by Budde and Jeremy Stewart, another wink books author. Reworking one of the texts from Budde's STANZAS issue a while back (#37, "Americausal"), the words move diagonally through a series of waves, writing "internmentor," "versuspect," "textreme" and "Canadagio." Write him through his blog, or find out through 751 Tay Crescent, Prince George BC V2M 3V3 to find out how to get copies of any of wink books' magnificent little offerings.

Fredericton NB: Fredericton poet Hugh Thomas read here the other night [see the reading reviews by Pearl Pirie here and here, or Amanda Earls', or this one by Max Middle, in case you weren’t there] reading from his BookThug collection Mutations (2004) and a more recent work, the self-published Joyce's Walking Stick (2006) to a packed house at the Carleton Tavern. It's interesting to see Thomas exist in a space that takes as its influence parts of Stuart Ross, parts of the Surrealists, and parts of Erin Mouré, mixing together to make a strange and highly entertaining work (it makes me wonder if he has a completed book manuscript floating around the world yet, or when). Filled with a number of homolinguistic translations, Thomas writes at the back of Joyce's Walking Stick that "Many of the poems in this chapbook are based on texts from languages other than English, although the authors of those texts would probably not recognize them."

My Glass Father
(from the Swedish)

I was six
my sister told me
Father is made of glass

It made perfect sense
the glass bead tears
that dropped from his eyes
Father is made of glass

Like clear ice
his glass clothes
he uses Sunlight not Tide
Father is made of glass

In our glass house
I'm careful
not to throw stones
Father is made of glass

Toronto ON: Jay MillAr (there he is again) seems to be very interested in the sonnet, from his own works in such, including his ESP: Accumulation Sonnets [see my review of such here], or this chapbook he's produced through BookThug, Alfred Noyes' Compression Sonnets (2006). I've said in a few places before, after even just the sonnets written by the late New York School poet Ted Berrigan [see my review of his Collected Books here], you can't get away with ordinary sonnets anymore. As a preface to the collection, Noyes writes:

I do not wish to participate in the maintenance of the sonnet, like some hand-wringing relative at the bedside of a long-term coma patient. And yet something in the form will not let go. Its practice, at its best, was a form of condensation; I have sought here only to see how far such condensation may be taken. Fourteen lines, if nothing else, every student recalls at least this. What might come of only fourteen words? What of the 'sonnet' remains? A turn after the eighth word? At the thirteenth (a concluding 'couplet' of words)? What of the sonnet's traditional themes? I am interested only in economy ― in what might be said with less. In reducing the poem until it turns in on itself, turns itself inside-out. Becomes something else. Becomes nothing. What becomes of a form and its tradition, through compression? This may be ― I certainly hope it is ― the last of what might be wrung from the very shape of literary fatigue. After this, the sonnet, shrinking in size since its heyday four centuries ago, becomes so small it disappears. The patient is to be unplugged. Goodnight.
I'm not sure that the sonnet is dead, but I've certainly seen it struggling; I think there is still much to get from the form, as long as one moves in different directions from what too many have already written too much of. At one point, recently, Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell figured out the math of all the versions possible of the sonnet, coming up with some unbelievably high number, suggesting that there are more sonnets possible to be written then there are stars in the universe. Certainly MillAr and Berrigan are good examples of what the sonnet is still possible. Where does Noyes go with these? Some interesting little pieces, certainly, small and compact and strange. But are they sonnets?

From somewhere in
The back row
Reason's soft voice
Yelling in your
Dreams be-aatch


Behold symbols of
Chance market's mercury
Falls the structure
We tumble into
Does sink


Around seven bombs
Drop like light
The word simulates
Pain of parting
Lacquered lip

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