Wednesday, June 27, 2007

ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part two)

Here are some recent reviews of the Monty Reid book we published last fall, Disappointment Island; one by Ronnie R. Brown and the other by Steve McOrmond, as well as a recent nod Ron Silliman gave our Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets in a longer review of The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (Chicago IL: Cracked Slab Books, 2007) [see my review of same here]. And did you see these photos Rob Fairchild took at the ottawa small press book fair? Will people start mailing me small chapbooks and magazines again, or am I going to have to start hunting for things (again)? And did you see this recent piece on Ottawa poet David O'Meara by Canadian ex-pat Sina Queyras, or her other on Shane Rhodes? Or this new blog for Atlanta poets? And did you know that Ottawa writer Ian Roy has been posting short films once a month on YouTube, or that Amanda Earl has been posting some of her amazing songs on her Facebook page? Check out the Chaudiere Books blog for more author activity…

Ottawa ON: I've been very liking what Amanda Earl has been working on these past few months and months and months; editor/publisher of Bywords Quarterly Journal and with her husband Charles Earl, she's been working largely (it seems) in the sequence over the past year, working out small moments that fit into other moments. With three new chapbooks published in full colour through her new AngelHousePress, she gave me a package of materials including deadstreet Gallery presents (2007), 8 planets speaking in tongues (2007) and postcards from the museum of the broken (2007). Earl suffers, for lack of a better word, from synesthesia, a condition that pushes one sense over another, and for her case, causing her to see particular colours for particular words. After a suggestion she work that into her writing, she has; to me, the most interesting collection of the three is the second, 8 planets speaking in tongues, playing directly with sound (after she went through, among other things, Steve McCaffery at PENNsound).

Za Sim

Zazim oh che glidara a zazim.
here cantare il sondo de camponelli
jingle jingle aqui sono la felicidad
love making e angeli clouds
azurroblu sunshine shinkle
con la gioia di una new morning.
i popoli want to stay per eternidad.

Wilkes-Barre, PA: It was wonderful to have American poets Dan Waber and Jennifer Hill-Kaucher come to Ottawa to not only visit (Dan claims the whole visit, actually, was structured around wanting to meet Ottawa poet/publisher jwcurry) but participate in the book fair weekend, reading and exhibiting. Some of the things they left behind were Hill-Kaucher's Questioning Walls Open (Kanona NY: FootHills Publishing, 2001) and Waber's own cheer (Port Charlotte FL: Runaway Spoon Press, 2007).

As Amanda Earl said in her blog entry, there was something utterly charming about Hill Kaucher reading barefoot, to feel (as she said) more grounded (it made me think of Joss Stone). Working more in the "traditional" poem than Waber, many of the poems have interesting threads and interesting ideas; perhaps it’s the problem with looking through a collection six years old, but I want so many of these to be tighter, tighter, tighter


I wish you would write. Your letter
would arrive in good time, aloft
in days striated with routine.
I'd put on the kettle, study
the althea on the stamp,
its Latin name a whisper
in my throat. Then I'd tear
the envelope, leave
a line of teeth to read
the marrow of your life
in your hand, that fine fist
we learned - racemose loops
and slanted stems that lilted
us toward other suns. Later,
I'd see the pages folded
beneath my cup, the rim
of stain, O of surprise.

Waber, on the other hand (one of the nicest writers I think I've met), works the concrete and visual, working from his own paper kite press down there in the US where they live. As with cheer, he seems very good with the play of the visuals, much like pretty much everything I've seen so far, but why do I get the feeling that I've seen so much of it before? Waber's play seems very aware of working the same thread and repetition, which doesn’t always work, but when it does, it's completely amazing, such as with the unpublished piece he finished his reading with, at the Carleton Tavern [see John W. MacDonald's post on it here]. Still, they left copies of a collaborative handout that was pretty interesting, "Printed on the occasion of the barnstorming Can-Am tour of 2007," their poem "Riot Heart" (imagine the parts I bold actually printed in red ink…). The poem even shows some interesting structural echoes of what Hill Kaucher does in parts of her small collection, turning the one side of the merging into itself, and coming out the other.

Riot Heart

Your love
is like
how a
bloom riot
blooms in
May, the
sun's heart.

Yes, we
both have
seen that.

Love comes
in like
to riot
nests the

Should we
told that?

No love
keeps a
words in
down heart.

We still
don’t have

Love flaps
like wings,
a white
riot floats
in blue,
the sky's
heart beats.

We will
have all
that, too.

Ottawa ON: An interesting collection produced for the fair was the small chapbook Basement Tapes (Ottawa ON: The Onion Union, 2007), with poems by young Ottawa poets Andrew Faulkner, Nicholas Lea and Marcus McCann.

The car

shaped like a bike tire
sat on, Ikea-lug grey.

Heart a sort of free radio
a waterlogged roadside

blast cap. Looks like
these towns
blew up once,
No Crescendo, Ontario.

A passenger
is a person carried.

Scrub blushed up,
what pricks your sandals
pissing on the shoulder.

Not that I think
carried away

it's hard to get emotional,
easy to get lost. (Marcus McCann)

With poems put authorless (a list exists at the back of the collection, as part of the author bios) in three sections—"Transisted," "(Re)Dubbed" and "Tables, Turned"—the mix of these three particular authors is an appropriate mix, as they are roughly the same age at roughly the same point in their careers. Faulker is a young University of Ottawa student and editor/publisher of the Ottawa Arts Review [see my review of their first issue here], Marcus McCann is a young poet with pieces in ottawater and a forthcoming above/ground press chapbook, and Nicholas Lea recently had his first trade collection of poetry (according to his bio, launched "to wide acclaim") appear with Chaudiere Books in April of this year.

A lovely, serious picture of something lovely, serious

White, spited moonlight
bouncing off the salt flats.
Your arms split in
two: a lotus.

My prior longing, re: visiting
the stagnant waters that
spill into my life.

Fashion like this is in-
surmountable. Why must
the defaults always impose
so cynically?—what?

Tailors are tourists; you said
so yourself…itching
to nip and needle some alien

Marine life! That's
the sort of sordid life for me.
The whishy undulations
that never cease,

the loyal comedy about
what's, in due course, a stiffened
lung—a zodiac sign, forgotten
for hours. (Nicholas Lea)

According to the notes on the text at the back, "The author of each poem only saw the individual poem he had been given and worked loosely within the confines of translation," suggesting a sequence of originals that the three of them all worked on; what were these originals (I know one piece is a phonetic translation, and another all the s-words that appear in a chapbook manuscript of McCann's)? And as much as I like the poems in this book, at least for McCann and Lea (only because I don’t know the work of Faulkner), I know I like what they're doing here, but I also know that they're stronger poets than what this collection is telling us. Still, I'm heartened by the fact that there are young poets in town willing to put themselves out there; I am interested in seeing more…

Suggestive graphing
(or, a portrait of a variable as directive)

for the scientific method

Shaped like a constraint,
a splash deteriorating when soaped.
As advertised, Sunlight's the shortest route
to getting soluble. Skid marks
a landscape similar to sleep,
streaking an unenlightened canopy likes stars.

Unsurprisingly, logic's a non sequitor,
reasoned saltless and buoyant like a day-cruise,
a sea proved dried or unscrubbed.
The art of suggestive graphing, coercion-bound.
Science as a soft-sale: sphincters and screw-topped
ice cream, both served up splitzed and sopping.

Blacked-out and out of
control - say, a parabola gone for a joyride
between gears and slipping.
In case of variable
follow directions closely: something something;
solve for s.

Ottawa ON: Here's the poem published as a little card by Bywords to promote The John Newlove Poetry Award Chapbook Series 2006 winner Roland Prevost (as judged by Erin Mouré). The full chapbook appears this fall, and will be launched at the ottawa international writers festival (the 2007 winner will be announced at the same event). Some of Prevost's poems can be found otherwise in Melissa Upfold's variations zine, or in the most recent issue of the online ottawater.


not just the crook but the crime, never apprehended
in human equivalent chrysalis years, sooner charges laid

a wasp's nest, grey paper long abandoned, on embers flashes
after the flames, a silence as empty, flecks spiral up

tomorrow, we're told, a slight drizzling rain
will ride in on an unusual south-easter

Vancouver BC: When Warren Fulton was here, he left a stack of publications by Vancouver legend Gerry Gilbert [see my note on him here], including a bunch of BC MONTHLY from 2006, a publication that Gilbert has been doing for decades, but for the past bunch of years, has been predominantly his own work, as opposed to the 1960s/70s version of same that existed alongside grOnk and blewointment and TISH as a mailout journal publishing a whole slew of those working around him. Here are the first few stanzas of "2006 POETREES XIII, DECEMBER HAIKUS" by Gilbert. At one point, Gilbert was the master of the excess, including books like From Last Spring and Moby Jane (1987; reissued by Coach House Books in 2004); unfortunately, that mastery has turned more into excess, with the gems hidden beneath line after stanza after page, and much of his work hasn’t been taken seriously in about twenty years, but by publishers such as BookThug. Will there ever be new trade editions of Gerry Gilbert?

care to stare at where
the mirror reflectively
shares dare of each hair

good to go visit
where i used to be a kid
wittily useful

sand sharpens dogs' nails
finds toes to toughen in shoes
beach defeating feet

as well as to us
people & pooches know what
to say to oceans

we'll always see waves
splashing in as inventing
reading & writing

saved my sister's life
in kitsilano pool once
we were each youngsters

wonderful to find
city fulla spots where i
became becoming

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