Wednesday, September 03, 2008

another old poem embedded in thoughts on old poets

Books come from books; isn’t that what David W. McFadden used to repeat? In Ireland, I watched Stephen Brockwell at Thoor Ballyle, Yeats' infamous tower near Galway, taking photographs and generally being neurotic, in that way only Brockwell can. Did he end up writing a poem about the visit? I don’t recall. I remember he spent ten minutes obsessing over the fact that he couldn’t find the lens cap to his camera, when it was in his jacket pocket the whole time. Or was it still in the car? We were doing a little reading tour around Ireland in 2002, spending a few days in Dublin, and doing three daily readings in Dingle, Galway and Cobh, able to stop our little rental car by Yeats' tower along the way. Unfortunately for his plans, since we were there in February, we were two months early, unable to get inside and tour around. Given that the country had relatively few tourists wandering around but for us, I don’t think either of us minded the trade-off. What has this to do with Keats? Absolutely nothing.

keats, at 206, is very old
(after bromige

out into that,
wingless view

over annex, &
janets store

of books

true, this only comes
w/ that

or is it time

& then to keep time,
w/ any age

an appreciation
of fact

& this autumn part
of bloor

one loves life
for all the living
For years, I've made the joke that Brockwell only reads the dead, and I only read the living. Keats and Yeats. What was that line from John Thompson's Stilt Jack (Anansi, 1976), the first two lines of "Ghazal IX," writing:

Yeats. Yeats. Yeats. Yeats. Yeats. Yeats. Yeats.
Why wouldn’t the man shut up?
But that's beside the point. I'd read a few David Bromige books here and there, including books by Brick Books and Black Sparrow, but it was the one that I picked up from Janet Inksetter's former store location for Annex Books, Birds of the West (Coach House Press, 1974), that really struck me. Struck enough to fall into this little piece, left in the middle of the book that became name , an errant (Stride, 2006). Bromige is one of those Canadian west coast 1960s poets, one of the University of British Columbia student-poets, that participated in the infamous 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, despite heading south a year earlier to Berkeley for further studies. Part of a group of Vancouver writers that included George Bowering, Frank Davey, Fred Wah, David Dawson and Jamie Reid, he kept in touch through correspondence with his Canadian friends, as well as publishing books with Talonbooks and Coach House throughout the years, as well as over a dozen by American publisher Black Sparrow. Wasn’t there a story of he and George Bowering sending inappropriate emails back and forth on the SUNY-Buffalo Poetics list-serve a few years ago, and being asked to either leave or tone down?

It was the short lines Bromige used in this particular collection that triggered, working his own kind of references to Keats in one of the pieces. Are all poems simply responses to other poems? Writing from writing, McFadden said, books from books.

Whenever I travel, I like to have a familiar place I return to daily write, whether a particular coffeeshop in Vancouver just by MacLeod's Books, a Second Cup on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton or the Grad Lounge at the University of Alberta, or the Future Bakery on Bloor Street in Toronto's Annex. This particular poem was written at the Future Bakery, close enough to the University of Toronto to be a student hangout, and where, over the years, I've seen, deliberately and accidentally, writers such as Nathaniel G. Moore, Adeena Karasick, Stan Rogal, Steve Venright, Colin Christie, Beth Easton, Rebecca Rosenbaum, Leon Rooke, Catherine Kidd, Dana Bath, Corey Frost, Cary Fagan, Jim Munroe, Andy Brown and various others. Years ago, I would regularly drop in at the Book City location nearby to visit with writers that worked there, including Derek McCormack, Patrick Rawley, Paul Vermeersch, Alana Wilcox, Chris Chambers and John Degen, and to even be near St. George Street and not visit Coach House is simply a crime. The years of Victor Coleman and Darren Wershler-Henry before the advent of Alana Wilcox, with the numerous threads that might never leave: Nicky Drumbolis, Rick/Simon and Stan Bevington.

Toronto writer and editor Michael Holmes even wrote a small book in the same Future Bakery a few years before I started writing there, published by Coach House Printing, predating the new Coach House Books by a couple of years, produced in a cd case as Satellite Dishes from the Future Bakery (Coach House Printing, 1994). I don’t think I've been nearly so overt. Still, I've done enough travel that I like my routine, my comfort, returning daily to a particular locale for the sake of grounding, to be able to sit and to write, take notes. How else to feel like a person during such a displacement?

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