Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ongoing notes: late April, 2011

Might I see you at my Pivot reading in Toronto (alongside Linda Besner and Jacob Mooney) this coming Wednesday, May 4th (“may the fourth be with you”)? Thanks to Cameron Anstee and Max Middle, there’s even been some activity lately on the ottawa poetry newsletter blog, which I’m quite pleased with. Might there be those out in the world interested in posting irregular reviews, essays and/or interviews there as well? And have you subscribed to above/ground press yet? There are forthcoming chapbooks from derek beaulieu, Dennis Cooley, Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Robert Kroetsch, Ben Ladouceur and a number of others.

There’s a slew of sites I’ve been poking at lately, from The Bull Calf Review to Kevin Spenst's ongoing interview series, Jacket2 to The Winnipeg Review. How can a boy even keep up? And don’t forget that Ottawa’s The Dusty Owl Reading Series celebrates fifteen whole years in May, with two different events, from May 8 (Ronnie Brown’s poetry, John Lavery’s guitar and the return of Steve Zytveld) and May 22 (with a blow-out family reunion at The Elmdale Tavern!).

San Francisco CA: I recently received a copy of San Francisco poet Beverly Dahlen’s A Reading: Birds (little red leaves, 2011), published as part of the little red leaves textile series, “lovingly sewn using recycled curtains and other textile remnants.”

The greater white-fronted goose in that fair field, geese, more than a thousand in the flock moaning, a kind of low hum, singing the blues. The spectacle of the birds, how we go out to see them now, provide for them, shelters, refugees, how we’ve beggared them and set them aside amid the low-lands of the valley, the trucks roaring night at day over l5, San Diego to Sacramento, ripping up the countryside.

Sacramento to Redding to the Oregon border:

above Keeping Still, Mountain
below The Abysmal, Water

the very place, we say, tearing at the air.

For some years now, Dahlen has been composing a sequence of “A Reading” works, beginning with the trade collection A Reading 1-7 (Momo’s Press, 1985) and continuing with A Reading 8-10 (Chax Press, 1992), A Reading 11-17 (Potes and Poets Press, 1989), A Reading 18-20 (Instance Press, 2006) and the chapbook A-reading Spicer & Eighteen Sonnets (Chax Press, 2004). Having not experienced her work until this small chapbook, I’m intrigued to see how she manages to explore the world through such an ongoing form, with this graceful collection exploring and responding to the myth of the mourning dove. Composed in short fragments, this chapbook collages a story of birds and the myth of the mourning dove, knitting variations together into a lovely, small unit. Her canvas might be quite broad and even expansive, but beautifully packed into elegant sections.

House finches now, “like a sparrow dipped in wine” with their querulous call, the question at the end, chatter, chatter, and the lesser goldfinch, tuxedo tail. The mourning doves’ hoo-hoo-hoo [how miserable is this imitation], the call of the dove. Softly, thinking of its story, why does it mourn. Listening.

Ottawa ON: For a couple of years now, Ottawa poet Cameron Anstee [see his Apt. 9 Press 12 or 20 questions here] has been building himself up as a publisher of fine looking limited edition chapbooks, and encouraging and producing some surprisingly good writing from corners known and unknown. This new season of three titles includes former Ottawa and current Toronto writer Jeremy Hanson-Finger’s The Delicious Fields (Ottawa ON: Apt. 9 Press, 2011), launched recently alongside new titles by Monty Reid and Claudia Coutu Radmore. A compelling novella in prose poems, the small seems evident in Hanson-Finger’s extended piece, compiling a narrative that bounces around but never loses the reader. What engages is watching him work the difference between what might be hidden, shown or completely lost, and what might entirely be suggested. Is this entirely self-contained, I wonder, or part of something larger-in-progress? Might there be more?

Michelle and Liam wait in silence. With the car’s headlights off, the darkness around them is almost complete. Liam’s eyes might be closed again. Michelle feels for his face. His eyelids are shut, but his chest rises and falls, maybe faster than it should, but still with strength and purpose. She imagines the ambulance has already parked in front of them, its red halogens swiveling on the roof, burning the bark of the trees and the stucco of the houses to ash except for an empty band where the two of them shield the landscape from the light.

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