Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ongoing notes: late late September, 2009

Please remember what Susan Sontag said: be careful talking about meaning in literature. It’s always one step away from sociology, the lowest form of measurement.
-- Barry Callaghan, as quoted in Walrus (October 2009)
Why is it that I’m predominantly getting chapbooks from American publishers these days? Don’t Canadian publishers make chapbooks anymore? Will we see you at our ottawa international writers festival, happening this month, or the ottawa small press book fair, happening next, or the Toronto one, happening in December this year? And are you finally going to subscribe to above/ground press this year? And did you see this piece, the beginning of my “toronto memoir” (remember I kept posting bits of “McLennan, Alberta,” one I attempted from Edmonton, moons ago) on Open Book Toronto? I’ve been so damned insular lately; can anyone out there, perhaps, tell me anything going on that I might be missing?

Denver CO: Something that appeared recently in my mailbox is Lesley Yalen’s This Elizabeth (2007), published by Eric Baus’ minus house press.

Answering the phone is like having your
ticket torn. Having your ticket torn is a
dramatic act of entrance. Inside the
telephone is a tiny talker, a husband
who is not able to be desired and who
does not desire his wife though she is
able. The wife needs to be pressed upon
as she dies. The husband needs to stay
in Antarctica doing work that will
benefit many. Actors and actresses are
desirable because they are needless.
They are commonly up on screens that
don’t touch. (from “(three)”)

Writing ten extensions/sections, what makes this poem is how she doesn’t hold herself to spacing or structure, weaving and blending from section to section, a wandering decalogue of extravagant voices. Who is this Lesley Yalen?

This kitchen person spares some change for the street people who squat beside the health food store.

The street people dumpster-dive to supplement memory.

Pass and be passed, spare and be spared.

This kitchen person is sporadic, sometimes carrying so many shopping bags, sometimes concentrating on sidewalk cracks.

Sometimes she starts a conversation but skips out quick.

Other times she just clicks on by.

The specialist tells her he is not going to lie down when he discovers her cells are
dividing unchecked.

(It’s going to hurt.) (from “(One)”)
Athens GA: I like the small moments that come out of American poet Lily Brown’s new chapbook Old With You (Kitchen Press, 2009).


something something,

to understand. A

temporary piece.

Thought, images

repeat. I skim

for feeling, no

literal intent.

But where are all these small moments going, heading? Poems of breath and halting thought, pushing ahead by going thoughtfully slow. I am intrigued by the poems of this Lily Brown, and am intrigued as to what she might do with a full collection.

To find out more about this title, author or press check out www.kitchenpresschapbooks.blogspot.com

South Boston MA: I got some lovely little chapbooks some time ago from Rope-a-Dope Press, including Mark Yakich’s What, Friends, Is A City? [see my review of his most recent trade poetry collection here] and Kate Schapira’s Case Fbdy., each small chapbook produced in numbered editions of less than one hundred. They’re lovely little books; should I just let the poems speak for themselves?

At night
one wants
what everyone
else has. At dawn
thousands of
legs will scissor
together and apart
and a couple
will be crushed
by a harried
It will not be
sad, true or false. (Mark Yakich)

Girl aged eight years

Old enough to swallow herself
girls seem to be prone
with heads downward. Attention
transfixes across the lumen
her obligations. Chores.
Like on Little House
on the Prairie Sundays
no work as possible
as folded stillness.
Staring. Aged. Enough.
Cure. Inhale one every
year for the rest of your
life. See how you’ve grown. (Kate Schapira)


Lesley Yalen said...

hey rob, thanks for writing about "this elizabeth".
i think the lack of cross-over between canadian and US poets is weird and silly. i have *just* been discovering Nathalie Stephens and i feel like i must've been living under a rock. who are the contemporary canadian poets i should be reading (I know that's a bit of a ridiculous and big question, but....) i'm curious who you're into these days. best, Lesley

Lesley Yalen said...

ok, maybe ignore my last question, since i just noticed your list of "current reading" and lots of other stuff on your blog that will be helpful to me in finding great canadian poets. :)