Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ongoing notes: late December, 2011

A photo from our recent Christmas party/reading/regatta for ThePeter F. Yacht Club; hopefully we can get another issue out soon. But, of course, a new issue of ottawater is in the works, due to launch in January, and another issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics is forthcoming as well, with new works by Monty Reid, Marcus McCann and others.

Nearing the end of another year. I find it staggering the amount of changes over the past year, and the year before. How did I get here?

Phoenix AZ: It’s lovely to get this year’s card from Sheila E. Murphy, a tradition I suspect she borrowed from the late Toronto poet bpNichol, sending out some three hundred cards of original material every Christmas for years. A few years back, Grain magazine even featured Nichol’s cards in an issue [see my review of suchhere]. His widow, Ellie, and daughter still send out a stack every year. For a while, Gil McElroy did the same, changing his a few years back from printed card in the mail to a poem over email. Doesn’t this all make you a bit jealous, knowing you aren’t receiving them? Thank you, Sheila, Gil and Ellie!
Toward the Year Twenty-Twelve

I have spent my life rehearsing to become a child.

Holiday jazz dissonance throughout the room
distracts from tonal sentiment
of past tense.

A double bass plucks percussion
next to woodwinds in a minor key.

I watch the toddler riding in its stroller,
and send a blessing
valid as a citizen’s arrest.

Infants and adults, a single species,

propelled by will
amid the soft perfume of being wanted,

faced with disentangling others
from an infinity of selves.
Toronto ON: I don’t know anything about Julie Cameron Gray, but from the first poem of her chapbook Coordinating Geometry (Toronto ON: The Emergency Response Unit, 2011) I am impressed.
After a Stage Performance of Anna Karenina

Ugly, unloved month. How
partial I am to the muddy clouds,

the concrete defining your sightline.
Stone planter, cement steps—

you would be marble in the sun.
Already you’re only enduring,

the quick night curled in the sling
of your scarf. Slip a small coin

down a magic slot and hear
whatever you have to say

come rattling from your mouth.
Surfeit, these graphite branches,

these milk-grey skies of November.
Take my ears, completely,

haul them back through a Russian
Pastoral, a theatre in St. Petersburg.

Drag me through a wedding ring,
a dark velvet train.
There is a slight unevenness to the short collection of poems, but in the pieces that work, there is an ease, an attention that is compelling, such as in the poem “Viral,” that includes the last line, “Collects the small secrets and loose change of your body and builds an aerie in the hollow of your shoulder blades, where it begins to write its memoirs.” It’s as though her poems are still working to discover a balance between ease and seriousness, working still to hold back a formal sense from tripping her up. I am intrigued, certainly.

Vancouver BC: Vancouver poet and critic Stephen Collis’ Lever (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2011) continues his engagement with the social consciousness of his immediate, with the opening of the first poem, “The Felt World,” that writes: “Sit on a / Pacific beach / watching the ocean / die—acidification / hypoxia toxic / algae blooms to / thermal maximum / the giant carbon / sponge a sink / for tailings / fertilizer killer / microbes hormone / runoff all the / plastic that’s fit / to pitch.” The poisoning of the ocean comes up a couple of times in this small collection, less a theme than an accusation or a desperate realization, both of which they more often should be. The more I read work such as Collis, I wonder why poems and poets aren’t more political, and wonder just how it is that so many on the west coast are? As does Vancouver poet nikki reimer’s that stays news (Nomados, 2011) [see my review of such here], Collis deals with the recent “Occupy” movement in his seven-part “Dear Common” (the idea of the “Common” one that recurs in Collis’ work) as the third section opens:
Vancouver is not a
march or an
occupation but it
seems so in its
unfixed fixity
where we’d
unleash all this
course together
but work on
smoothing the edges
where one breaks
off and another

No comments: