Saturday, February 16, 2008

ongoing notes: mid-February, 2008

Did you see these photos I just posted by Douglas Barbour, of the last Olive Reading? Will we see you at the next Edmonton Factory (West) or the next Ottawa Factory? Have you been seeing the attention our little John Newlove selected has been getting here, here, here and here (check out the Chaudiere Books blog for further Newlove, etcetera, updates...)? Did you see that The Antigonish Review has finally posted that Patrick Friesen review I wrote?

I've got some readings happening soon, working on an Ottawa launch for Ottawa: The Unknown City in mid-March, working on an Ottawa launch for subverting the lyric: essays for April 17th as part of the ottawa international writers festival; I might just also be reading in Edmonton (with Jordan Scott), Regina (launching the John Newlove selected there as well), Saskatoon, Grand Prairie, Prince George, Lethbridge and Calgary as well, over the next month or two; watch for details...

Calgary AB: One thing I picked up recently in Calgary was Natalie Zina Walschots’ [see my review of her Thumbscrews here] magnificent little chapbook Villains (Calgary AB: No Press #50, 2008), writing little poems on various Marvel and DC super-villains, including Dr. Doom, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Magneto and Ra’s Al Ghul (remember him from Batman Begins?). I love the poems in this little chap, and wonder if she’s got more to go in this series?


the plate in my head fields fate
pluck the fillings from my teeth
pull the metal from my head
strip mine me bare


proven mettle
every file
every lodged piece of shrapnel
draws me like dowsing

manipulate my polarity
stern vector
force slams spine to ramrod
like the lodestone on my stomach

bristling static
hair wire
shearing force stop pacemakers, shreds peace
every electron cocksure on fire


it’s for protection
plastic foils you
but eyes are emeraldine
and answer

whisper with arcs
of organic polymers
panic free radicals
air stable

articulate shock
charge transfer
fully conjugated backbone
hum biocompatible
It’s not that often that “writers” will admit to being fans of the “funny books” (although you would get very different answers from, say, Andy Weaver, Thomas Wharton and various others), no matter how smart they might be written or anything like that; these are wonderful, clever and interesting poems, and I hope to see more of them.

San Francisco CA: I recently got a copy of Small Town XII that I’m in, along with Arielle Guy, Michael Slosek, Robin Demers, Carrie Hunter, kathryn l. pringle, John Sakkis, Dorothea Lasky and Brandon Brown, edited by Logan Ryan Smith [see his 12 or 20 questions here]. Subtitled “the comeback issue,” the light blue cover, strangely, goes quite nicely with the pink pages inside (or does it?). I’m still going (slowly) through this issue, but I’m quite taken by a number of the pieces here, including those of Michael Slosek, which have some very nice moments scattered through:
Advice from Station One

Everything you once knew is gone
as if the space between your shoulders were made for something else.

To pass through the desert
on the heels of the sun, whose job
was to percolate black flowers

Once death comes

Don’t speak toward the house of God
when they translate “yellow” as “young”

Only the amulets you tie
will have seven arms
And if you haven’t picked up Dorothea Lasky’s first poetry collection, Awe, you really don’t know what you’re missing; at least with some poems in this issue by her, you can get a small sense of her work, and just how good it is:

Death of (no Life of) the Human
for Juliana Spahr

We are all here together
Insecure or not
It is our party
To play in
They are our hearts to mention
The world would not exist without us, o us!
I feel connected to everyone (everything) with lungs
The green springs of the air we breathe in
Are spongy and delightful
And I am not a racist
Nor am I not a facist
I am not anything as much as I am nothing
Floating so floatily in the mid-Spring air
The white wind touching my wrists and ankles
And everything loving me, o that I exist
And breathe in this air
There would be no air to breathe
Without us to breathe it (Dorothea Lasky)
Madison WI: The first issue of Cannot Exist recently came at me from the American Midwest, edited by Andy Gricevich, with poetry by Rick Burkhardt, Arielle Guy (there’s that name again…), Rob Halpern, Roberto Harrison, Lisa Jarnot, Kent Johnson, Laura Sims and Rodrigo Toscano. With so much strong work in this chapbook-sized magazine, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but Kent Johnson has quite an interesting piece at the end of the issue:
To John Bradley

after Tu Fu’s “To Pi Su Yao”

It’s hard to know if we have talent. Here and there, a drunken
grad student expresses admiration. It’s pathetic, really: our cars
are junk, missing half their hubcaps; in the place on our vitas
where the “prizes” should go–about the same number as the hubcaps.
The wheels start to fall off: beer bellied, flatulent, we’ve become
the objects, from afar, of our children’s disdain. Twenty years beyond
the prime of life, inadequately covered, we buy Viagra with our overtime pay.
Who gives a fuck about either of us or our elected tribulations?
We’ve been reduced, here, at Sullivan’s Tavern, to our own audience.
Though the workers from the tannery stare at us with contempt,
we appreciate each others’ poetic merits. Our poems will be completely
forgotten, rot in the landfill of oblivion. With wry smiles and toasts
to the ancient ones, we console each other:

In that common, mass grave, we shall never be alone.
Another highlight is New York poet Lisa Jarnot [see an earlier note I wrote on her here], author of that perpetually-forthcoming biography (said to be out this year with the University of California Press; various excerpts published in journals over the past two years make it look spectacular) of the late poet Robert Duncan:

Someone else’s room is the tomb
of god. Plain English, Gilded Dragons,
and Japanese prints. Drop me in this
alcove out of the sky. The cruising
altitude is 37,000 feet. The room
belongs to William Dalrymple
or Audie Maurois. Titian is watching,
I, an American heretic,
to grease the break of day.
For further information, contact Andy Gricevich at 3417 Stevens Street, Madison WI 53705 or via email at

Calgary AB: The grad student journal at the University of Calgary, NōD, really wants you to pay attention [see my review of previous issues here]; with issue #7, they are getting far better at production, but play themselves as avant and even wacky by producing the issue’s pages in reverse order (how crazy is that?). It’s one of those things that manages to be fun and annoying all at the same time, and the issue features work by a whole slew of people, including derek beaulieu, Angela Carr, Louise Bak, Sean Moreland, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Helen Hajnoczky, Judy Lin, Jonathan Ball and ross priddle.

The Poets

It seems as if the poets will never shut up. Now
they have begun to scream off their balconies.

They all seem to have balconies. You used to pass them
on the street and never know. Those days are gone now.

These days, they say that nothing we do is boring.
Everything resonates with layers of meaning.

We are sick of meaning. We want to watch reality
shows and eat TV dinners in peace.

Damn these poets. For all of their talk,
they do not understand. There was a time

we looked up to them, when we sang
their songs, read their words, loved them

and built statues to honour their passing.
Those days are gone now. (Jonathan Ball)
One neat piece in the collection is Edmonton poet and University of Alberta student Judy Lin’s piece “Marble Soda Haibun” (link to what a haibun is, and to what a haibun is), especially knowing that the same piece came out of a recent class she took with Christine Stewart [see her 12 or 20 questions here; see my note here on Stewart’s class’ reading last fall that Judy Lin took part of].
Marble Soda Haibun

In Taiwan the sun sets at five, clockwork, and then suddenly the street that was dim and vacant lights up in a row of bulbs hanging off vendor stalls. This stretch, this city runway waiting for the contents of Kaohsiung’s apartments to descend, to empty themselves into: Xinjyuejiang. There are fried dumplings being flipped on the grill alongside corncobs on a stick, sweet tofu being ladled into white plastic cups. Look pig’s heart soup, fried chicken, okonmiyaki, hot grass jelly and bubble tea. Food everywhere, people everywhere, you used to rub your shoulders against those
grownups, so much taller than you.

Once, you were separated from your family in the crowd, released your mother’s hand for an instant and then she was gone. There were so many people, the smell of sweat and food intermingled, made you nauseous. The woman who stood beside a steel ice bucket handed you a bottle of marble soda, the twisted green glass with the wet, soggy label. It was so cold in your palms. You passed it from one hand to another, the curve of the bottle and the sharpness of the cold. She told you stay here and you waited, popped the marble that blocked the mouth of the bottle into the drink with the straw and sipped the soda that left a stinging sensation on your tongue. Citrus. Your mother showed up a few minutes later, hysterical, thanked the woman over and over again while you rubbed your leg with the edge of your pink sandal, a marble in your hand, and you remember how it felt between your fingers, no edges.

what was left of this
in the morning – a puddle,
a handful of marbles.
Another highlight to the issue is seeing more visual pieces by Fredericton (formerly Ottawa) poet Jesse Patrick Ferguson (when did the “Patrick” appear in there?); over the past few years, he’s been producing some really interesting visual pieces in various places, including as chapbooks with No Press and above/ground press, and in journals around Canada (including The Peter F. Yacht Club). Perhaps he has a books-worth of material in there, by now?

For further information, or submission/subscription information, contact them at

St. John’s NL: If you’ve seen his ditch: the poetry that matters, you probably already know just a little bit about east coast poet/publisher John C. Goodman, who, it seems, just appeared in the world as the mysterious creator of a poetry website that manages to not only be aware of some interesting writing, but some interesting interviews, essays and other links about North American poetry. Lately, he’s taken to producing chapbooks under the Trainwreck Press imprint, including his own hard (St. John’s NL: Trainwreck Press, 2008). He might not be “breaking new ground” in this small, elegantly-produced chapbook, but he certainly knows where that new ground might be; with the kinds of works he’s interested in on that website, I’m willing to give him the benefit of doubt for now, and keep an eye on where his poetry is going.

Stay down

Stay down gently .
inthe lip of eye .
night words .
soften hours .
more thana lullaby .
the sparrow sings .
at daybreak .

Lie inthe fold .
of darkness .
soft reassurance .
inthe hours .
until daybreak .
inthe deep sighing .
of darkness .
inthe crease .
of thigh .

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