Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ongoing notes: late March, 2009

[This is what Steven Heighton looks like when he’s being the writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa; don’t you think I’d be good at something like that? I’m trying to convince them I should be up soon, and have been looking in other places too; apparently Erin Mouré comes by next spring for the same position.] Don’t forget, I’m still taking registrations for the spring 2009 (June 20) edition of the ottawa small press book fair; already got a couple of readers for the pre-fair event at the Carleton Tavern the night before, including Ottawa ex-pat (now filling Station managing editor) Laurie Fuhr; will we see you there?

The new issue of Stephen Collis' poetics journal, The Poetic Front, is now out; and isn't it good to see that folk still talk about John Newlove, the late Saskatchewan poet, here and here? And Pearl wrote this note about the recent Joe Blades reading at TREE; did you know Spencer Gordon has a blog?

New York NY: I got an odd little assortment of chapbooks from Tout Court Editions, a little press in New York City, including Elisabeth Frost’s Rumor (2009), Norma Cole’s If I’m Asleep (2009), Lee Ann Brown and Tony Torn’s SOP DOLL! A Jack Tale Noh (2009), Abigail Child’s CounterClock and Laura Hinton’s Ask Any Mermaid (2008), all of which originally came out of performances from New York City venues such as the KGB Bar, St. Marks Poetry Project, the Bowery Poetry Club for the Segue Reading Series and The Center for Book Arts.

Song of Deeds

I was in the fur business in New York and got out
for political reasons. I thought I was killing animals
for a long time, now I must make up for it so I became
a therapist. What is of interest now? “But I am outside”
peeling a Clementine. (Norma Cole)

An odd little assortment, one of the highlights had to be the prose pieces that made up Elisabeth Frost’s chapbook, strange little poems written as stories written as poems.


One night they’re on the love seat while on TV are photos of kidneys. Healthy and unhealthy. Side by side. One is pink, large. The other blackened, shriveled. A doctor is telling them how to care for them. Drink lots of water, he says. Neither of them had ever thought that on the inside they would come to resemble either the image on the right or the image on the left. The information alarms them. An insidious, progressive disease can cause a 50% reduction of function without any symptoms. It is not uncommon to experience acute failure in a manner of hours. How many populate the netherworld of transplant rankings, black market deals, thrice-weekly dialysis? And these are the lucky ones. They’re holding hands. They ought to watch less TV. It seems too much to hope for, health, now that they’ve seen it up close.

Still, as lovely as these little publications are, why are there no bios inside of the authors? Have they done nothing else? I wouldn’t mind getting at least a little bit of information on each author to get a sense of context, other publications, etcetera. For further information on the press, write them c/o mermaidtenementpress@gmail.com

Toronto ON: Recently, Toronto writer/publisher Stuart Ross came through town with Chicago poet Richard Huttel to do a living room reading in the apartment of Charles and Amanda Earl, and read alongside Ottawa poet Michael Dennis. Along with a new collection of his own short stories, Ross brought with him two new chapbooks by the other readers, published by himself, including Dennis’ forgiveness, my new sideline (Proper Tales Press, 2009), which is up there as one of the better of a series of already-good titles (do you remember Wayne Gretzky in the House of the Sleeping Beauties?). Over the past decade or so, I’ve not been as enthusiastic about the straight lines of Dennis’ poetry [see his 12 or 20 question here], who was in his prime during the 1980s and early 1990s, culminating in a too-slight selected poems we produced through Broken Jaw Press, but know that when he is good, he is very good.

Hockey Night in Croatia

in the last month I’ve butchered six languages
and misunderstood six different currencies
today, in Croatia, on a small island, Cres
hidden on the Dalmation coast
a store clerk, where I bought a notebook
and another bottle of cold gassy water
refused to believe I wasn’t Russian
I practically had to sing my national anthem
and show him my hockey scars

not that Russians don’t have hockey scars
but Canadian doctors sew a straighter line

Madison WI: It’s always a pleasure to receive a copy of Andy Gricevich’s Cannot Exist, the fourth issue of which recently appeared in my little mailbox. But where are the bios?


Barack Obama is single and lets me sit on his lap. I believe in change. The end result of reading is loss. The heartburn pills are not working but the anxiety pills have worked too well. I see words everywhere and grab them by the horns. Awareness is an activity. The way my hands look and the sound of dripping water. Having burnt the quinoa, I drink wine for dinner. Waving a red flag and wondering what next. Oreos always irritated me but I ate them anyway. How many lists loom unwritten. Thinking that wall is this wall. How long will I have to listen to this? I don’t care what you don’t understand, I want to tell you other things. (Carrie Hunter)

In a time when I’m not even entirely pleased with half the pieces from most literary trade journals, Cannot Exist is one of those rare small magazines that, with almost every piece, I want to read more by the same author, with compelling works by such as Nicholas Grider, Carrie Hunter, Jennifer Karmin, Jeff Glassman and Eileen Myles. Why can’t more journals be as strong as this?

Uh Oh

Derelict, hunched over bowls
nobody offers to poke the coals.
Yet the spirals of light
on Las Vegas strip, lit
will upchuck the bones
of souls the bug bit. (Jeff Glassman)

For more information, write him c/o 3417 Stevens Street, Madison WI 53705

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