Thursday, April 12, 2007

ropewalk, poems by Angela Carr, and songs for the dancing chicken by Emily Schultz

One of the first publications by Montreal publisher Snare Books is ropewalk, poems by Angela Carr. Started out of Matrix magazine by the late Robert Allen and Jon Paul Fiorentino [see my review of Jason Christie's Canada Post here], their logo is "for a party without love is as a snare without delusions." A first book for Angela Carr, it exists in three sections, "Ropewalk," "Empty Cups" and "Mountance of a Dream," the first of which is taken up almost exclusively with "The Louise Labé Poems."

Many say that Oliver de Magny fell in love with Louise
in 1554; her Oeuvres was published in 1555. Oliver
was a fellow poet and a regular of her salon, the literary
centre of Lyons, where he attended her with rapture,
enamoured. A poem he published in 1559, Ode a Sire
Aymon, ridicules a rope-maker: undoubtedly
Ennemond, Louise's husband. There are two sorts of
ties: the first is made with rope, and the second with
the silvery lute string. A rope is coarse, clumsy, com-
mon, heavy; a lute string is delicate, refined, lustrous,

Carr takes the story of Louise Labé, daughter of a prosperous rope-maker and wife of another, who was born in the early 1520s and a prominent (called "unwomanly," even) woman in the literary circles of Lyon, France, and twists it, coils and uncoils it, touching faint echoes of other Montreal writers, whether Erin Mouré or Nicole Brossard. Carr has some compelling movements and beginnings, working longer sequences and poem/prose fragments in the first and third sections of her debut poetry collection, and broken lines and lines that trail off into the air.

no plates

he just walked in
off the ice they
towed his car
with no places
to do

my meal
unfinished confused
with food

there was a man
who lived with grizzlies
and was eventually
eaten by one he said
all of the hype
around bears you've
got to accept

even babies can
die de deux
choses l'une l'autre i
never talk about
the saddest

surface of
so it's brilliant
apocalyptic cold
blowing in

Unlike the first and third sections that feel as though they are working single poems, her second section is a collection of shorter pieces that move through various structural devices, working as a unit not necessarily as theme or content but almost through tone. This is obviously a poet who has learned from those around her, and can end up possibly writing some extremely enviable work, and this small, graceful collection of dark and subtle lyric is a very nice book of poems, but I think it will be in future work where she really begins to shine.

in an envelope

I have it in an envelope
sealed I tasted the glue before
kicking myself because
of course I do not want to send it.
What use is it anyhow to catalogue
my and the kids' fevers.
I might as well be writing
with a French keyboard, fucking
up all the symbols. The stamp
on the envelope is one of these
windows you can't even see through.
Sometimes a disk ejects spontaneously
and now there are blisters all over their mouths
and they hurt. I said Drink some water

They say part of the strength of bpNichol as an editor at Coach House Press wasn’t necessarily for the strength of the individual manuscripts he was accepting, but by how the publication of a first collection would free up the author to move on, and go on to their next project. Don't get me wrong, I quite like this book, but I would very much like to see what Angela Carr does next.

I am seeing a film.

I am seeing a film
and you are with me.

I am seeing a film
and you are far from me.

I am seeing a film
and the theatre is bathed
in blue light, but the insides
of my mind are crimson.

I am seeing a film
and morality is small
as popped corn.

I am seeing a film
and thinking about story,
how it has its downfall,
how narration isn’t
worth spit, because we are
able to sit in two places.

(from "I Am Seeing a Film," Emily Schultz)

For Toronto writer and editor Emily Schultz, her first poetry collection Songs for the Dancing Chicken (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2007), references the films and life of acclaimed director Werner Herzog, the man who made such films as Grizzly Man (2005), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Stroszek (1976) and the infamous Nosteratu (1979), turning biography into poem, as the back cover compares her work to Michael Ondaatje's infamous The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970). Compared to Carr's ropewalk, Emily Schultz's Songs for the Dancing Chicken is less lyric, and a bit more grounded in concrete images and straightforward sentences. Using references to Herzog as her starting point for particular poems (she includes a list of such at the back of the collection), she is able to create poems that move in strange and sometimes surreal places, writing small stories triggered by an image, or a still.

For Werner Herzog

The man
with a gun in his hand
that will bring the ending
mounts the empty
ski lift
and rises

a sign on his back
above the story

Previously editor of Broken Pencil magazine, Schultz is the author of the novel Joyland (Toronto ON: ECW Press) and the short story collection Black Coffee Night (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press), and works her poems through a kind of narrative as well, weaving the collection through the life and work of a single individual through six sections, including "songs for the dancing chicken," "better hell," "a climax of dirt," "in the factory," "letters to heartbreak" and "poems for the wrong person." Unlike Carr's use of subject to propel a poem (Louise Labé), Schultz might use more concrete images, but goes off into further tangents, and thus moves further away from her source in a series of wonderful pieces.

The Boy from the Theatre, the Excrement of Dogs

When we were together
we were always seeing ghosts.

The moon was the fullest and brightest
it had been in a hundred years.

I made love to you
but I was thinking of another.

Now you make love to another
and think of me.

We wandered the streets like two clowns, sleuthing
the stolen red circle of our one-ring show.

In our absence the little dog shat on the floor
and the crowd went home.

Out my window you saw something
that made you cry.

You lay back down next to me
under the cover of night.

I lay dreaming
that we were a thousand years old.

When I woke you were sunlight
and my heart was the cold colour of snow.

In the apartment below me
a spoon scraped the bottom of an empty bowl.

One of the pieces in the final section of the collection is "The Week John Ditsky Died," a poem for a poet, editor (former poetry editor for The Windsor Review) and University of Windsor professor (as well as former mentor to Toronto poet John Barlow), I can only presume that Schultz might have gone to the University at one point, or was from the City of Windsor?

In Detroit, fifty officers have a warrant
to seek his remains. Hoffa, that is,
on the front page; Ditsky's in the back.

A man of crime is exhumed. A man of letters
laid to rest. Delivered via e-mail and old acquaintance,
the paper's smudged weight sits upon screen, illuminated,

uncanny, popping with ads for its own Classifieds.
The Death Notices yawn with tulips.
Visitation is for an 11 a.m. already passed.

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