Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New American Writing 29

How does this space
of violence inspire you a grip
and a manifest at best
it'd seem that at the rise
tan milestones force the fall of that
there, we should have noted
since today, everything's returned

ropes honed by the wind
admire the quakings of alloys
that lose this message
trampled behind the mount

since the envelope is not sealed
this landscape promises a word
in the rugged fold (Annie Lafleur, “from Handkerchief,” trans. François Luong)
From editor/publishers Paul Hoover and Maxine Chernoff come another volume of the annual New American Writing, including the section “Eleven Poets from Quebec,” seemingly curated (as well as translated, and introducted) by François Luong, who writes “I am not from Québec. I am not even remotely Canadian.” Thanks to connections between French-language writers such as Nicole Brossard and Gail Scott with west coast English-language writers such as George Bowering and Daphne Marlatt throughout the 1960s and 70s, with Coach House Press acting as (among other presses) a space between, it's almost as though English-language writers across North America could probably use a proper update to what is happening in writing across la belle province. Certainly, there are offerings I'm aware of from Brossard (who, when last I saw her, mentioned a forthcoming anthology of Quebec poets, but I haven't since heard a word), nathalie stephens (currently in Chicago, publishing books through Nightboat) and others, including some of the poets included in this current section: François Turcot, Renée Gagnon, Steve Savage, Annie Lafleur, Oana Avasilichioaei, Chantal Neveu, Alexis Lussier, Angela Carr, Alain Farah, Daniel Canty and Hector Ruiz, with some composed in English, and other pieces, translated from the French. As Luong writes:
Since the 1960s, Québécois poets do nothing like their countinental counterparts. They are not interested in a purity of language (see the recent Smiroubaud/Prigent polemic). There is a greater acceptance and consciousness of foreign linguistic elements. What Deleuze and Guattari would call a “minor literature.” Some do speak and write in English, others don't, but are conscious of those foreign influences and migrations (see François Turcot's Cette maison n'est pas la mienne).


This is not meant to be an authoritative gallery of poets from Québec. As a matter of fact, the poets presented here all live in Montreal.
Why does language have to be such a divide? As well as these, the issue contains a number of other noteworthy works, including fragments of a Cole Swensen work-in-progress, “Stele,” two more magnificent pieces by Edward Smallfield (we really need to see another book from Smallfield), a few more of Susan M. Schultz's “Memory Cards,” some of Anne Tardos' “Pronounce,” and this fragment of Valerie Coulton's “A Society of Rooms”:
Intertia. Beginning ideogrammatically with symbols under tongue: door, table, shutter. Invite appropriate shadow. Weight excites: wall's white idea smudged with blue. You make arch of brick's desire shoulder by spine; wrists, armpits, lift and pivot; you climb. Mouth mechanism elevates word by strand of sound to buoyancy until toppled. Build, rest, build again.


Ellipsis. Liquid stone. Leaving place for you to live, to have lived. Mind open on one side to trees and weather coming almost in against the glass. Where you might have allowed yourself to shelter unfolded beside a thick pane. Rain to book to memory of rain and book. Marked invisibly, in conversation with your other. Indicating a room left unfinished.
This is easily starting to become one of my favourite (or should I say, “favorite”) American journals; I'm wondering now which might be easier, complaining that it only appears annually, or try to get my hands on previous issues? Still, there's something wonderfully deliberate about how each volume is put together, less a journal than an annual anthology of pieces that bleed and blend, each feeding into the next, with such careful, clear attention. Reading these, it becomes apparent just how many American poets work in the longer project, somehow almost every work constructed as a fragment of an ongoing work, far less than Canadian journals might let on, which seems more a matter of journals, as opposed to what the poets are doing.

And then, a couple of small gems from American poet Noelle Kocot, including:

Boomerang, lax and swift, the dictionary
Says, “unfolded,” today.

The last notes are wilting.

Love, you forgive me everything,
As I, you. I did not have to earn it.

How the forms assemble,
How I go weak in my knees...

Significance is a candy, this feeling.

It draws you into a deeper mouth.

1 comment:

François Luong said...

Thanks for the write-up, Rob. I also wanted to mention the fantastic translation work done by Angela Carr on Chantal Neveu's Coït, a book I wanted to translate as well but found intimidating, and Daniel Canty. Also of note, Elise Turcotte, who is also in this issue, is a Québécoise as well (François Turcot pointed that fact to me at the proof stage).