Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ongoing notes: early December, 2010

Do you remember when I used to do these? I’ve almost lost track. Watch for the seventh issue of ottawater come January, with a launch to (possibly) happen around the third or fourth week of the month; and even earlier, our Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading on December 30, 7pm at the Carleton Tavern. Later in March, a reading at the Carleton Tavern with Aurian Haller (with a second (finally) poetry collection) and tba. Watch, too, for various new above/ground press publications over the next couple of months, including new chapbooks by Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Monty Reid, Ken Norris and Ross Brighton, among others. Isn't it about time you subscribed?

And terrible to realize, I've far more grey hair now than I did even four months ago; will this month be any different?

Hastings, East Sussex, England: How can anyone not read the poems of Fanny Howe and fall completely in love? A sequence of emergences, Emergence (Reality Street, 2010), exists as a scant selected of sorts, pulling a particular thread of ghazal-like wraps that come out through three more recent of her twenty-plus collections of poetry, picking pieces from The Vineyard (Lost Roads, 1988), The End (Littoral Books, 1992) and One Crossed Out (Graywolf Press, 1997). 

Part of the intrigue of Howe's work is in just how easily one piece fits into the other, even over a distance of years, and other books, connecting without any sense of uniformity. This small collection almost reads as a lovely (and even charming) Fanny Howe British sampler; is this a matter of titles not making their proper way across large bodies of water?
grow higher together. The approach

to February, this way always.
The Hancock building

contains the Hancock building,
the way the world appears complete,

and all sins hidden.
When you are gone, I go on

but when you return, I’m full of
questions, as if

I didn’t understand anything. (“Emergence”)
Toronto ON: It’s hard not to feel strange while reading Paul Quarrington’s posthumously-published memoir, Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life (Greystone, 2010). Only the third or fourth book of his I’ve read, possibly the first since I’d been able to spend time with him, including a couple of Ottawa festivals and an Eden Mills, before lung cancer finally caught up. Quarrington, whose non-fiction I’ve always favoured over his fiction, writes in such a comfortable voice it’s impossible to not get caught up inside, hearing him talk about childhood musical influences, years of songwriting and touring, and the thread through the book of his final year, starting from a weekend spent in Ottawa, when he realized something was terribly, terribly wrong. Quarrington talks about the process of his illness, his years of performing, working up into songwriting and fiction, recording and touring as part of Joe Hall and the Continental Drift, various histories of music, and being produced by a very young Daniel and Bob Lanois, two brothers who ran a studio in their mother’s Hamilton, Ontario basement.

What comes through very clearly is Quarrington's human voice, one that suits his non-fiction far better than his fiction (admittedly, I have yet to read his Whale Music). And how could I not adore a posthumous memoir that mentions me in its opening chapter?
I made it through my address—I had to clip quite a few sentences, chop them up into tiny aspirated phrases—then went to the hospitality suite of the Ottawa Writers Festival. Hey, it was in my hotel. I stayed quite late and got drunk with festival fun-guy rob mclennan and some of his colleagues, sound poets jw curry, Max Middle, and Carmel Purkis. The poets performed some of their stuff in the wee hours of the morning, emitting strange inhuman noises.

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