Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
12 or 20 (small press) questions: Kristy Bowen on Dancing Girl Press
Started in 2004, dancing girl press was a spin-off of the online journal I was editing at the time, wicked alice, which published women-focused work and was about three years old. At the same time, I had developed an interest in book and paper arts, and was trying to combine them with the poetry-related things I was doing. The goal of both was pretty much to feature the work of women poets, particularly emerging authors who sometimes find it difficult to get a foot in. I feel in many ways that we are helping foster a proliferation of women’s voices, which as the VIDA statistics reveal are underrepresented in contemporary publishing, in the general literary conversation. On one hand, the whole endeavor was rather simple and DIY rooted to launch, but as it grows, more work than I ever would have imagined. But it’s good, fulfilling work.
What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
I feel like small publishing is freer and more willing to take risks than bigger publishers. With a small scale operation like ours, I have no problem taking on an interesting manuscript from a newish, unknown-as-yet poet that may or may not sell a single copy. Obviously, the goal is to sell books if you want to survive, but I’m willing to risk it if I feel strongly enough about the work. We’ve published some first chaps that are slow out of the gate, but as the author’s reputation grows, they start selling like hotcakes. It’s nice to have that luxury to make decisions outside the finance driven paradigm of traditional publishers.
What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
There are a lot of presses out there that overlap with our goals, publishing chapbooks by women, innovative work, new authors. We have a strong tie to the visual arts and paper crafts, since those are my other interests, so that shows up occasionally in projects that are more book arts driven and more unusual than just a saddle stapled chapbook. We also probably publish a lot more books than a lot of presses of similar scale, mainly because I feel like the more work we issue, the greater the impact and scope. I guess it’s sort of like a few drops versus a slow trickle of books making their way into the world, so I’m determined to take on as many projects as I find interesting and that we can afford.
What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world? How do your chapbooks get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
dgp has sort of grown up along with the rise of social networking, first blogs, then things like myspace, facebook, twitter, all excellent ways of connecting writers and building communities. Our primary means of distribution is internet sales, so this online sense of community is absolutely necessary. A small percentage of our sales stem from readings, book fairs, and events, which I try to do as much as I can, at least locally. With a few exceptions, most of our books have an open run, usually starting off with a large batch of about 50 and then in smaller batches as needed.
How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I’m definitely more hands off on poems or ordering, since I only really take on work that I love already. I was never really good at offering suggestions to other people about their work (I was the most frustrating person in my MFA workshop). For me, it worked or it didn’t. My suggestions are usually based around practical things like punctuation, capitalization, consistencies or inconsistencies of such, breaking lines to fit, things that come up during the layout process.
How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
I occasionally pull in some help for assembling books during crunch times, and we sometimes solicit cover artwork/designs depending on the author’s desires, but otherwise, it’s solely me. I’m a little bit of a control freak about it all, so I’m usually content to work alone to sustain that control. I sometimes feel like group endeavors suffer from “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome and it’s more counterproductive than helpful. The flipside is that I have to shoulder all the work myself, but for me, it’s worth it to not be tripping over anyone else.
How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
I feel like reading so many manuscripts and spending so much time among words and thinking about each project, has only been good for my own writing in terms of expanding my range and interests. I’m also humbled by the amazingness I see come across my desk sometimes. I think as writers in a vacuum, we don’t always see the things we come up against for publication slots or awards, and it’s almost overwhelming to know the scope and breadth of what we’re competing against in those situations.
How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
Coming from a DIY background, I feel like it’s a non-issue. I think it’s easy to be self-indulgent as a publisher, and perhaps you should probably tread carefully. But if you’re bringing your A-game and feel the need to get that book out there in the world, then I say go for it. My trial run for dgp was my own chapbook since I wanted to make sure the whole endeavor was do-able before I involved another author. I now quite regularly release my own little projects, be they visually oriented or text-oriented. I love seeing an idea through from inception to completion and of course, being all control freaky about it. I try to get some feedback on things before I put them out there to make sure I’m not just being self-indulgent and that it’s up to par (be that publishing pieces in journals, showing other friends/editors/etc.)
How do you see Dancing Girl Press evolving?
Right now, in terms of publishing schedule, we are at the point where it’s hard to get any larger or publish more titles. My dream is that I could eventually quit my day job and do all this full-time, but it will probably be awhile. For the time being, I’d like to do more book arts oriented sort of projects than we currently do.
What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I’m really proud that this whole thing has grown as large as it has and that people really seem to love the books we publish. But do I feel like sometimes people don’t quite get the very large scope of what we publish in terms of subject matter, style, etc. I heard someone say once that “dgp only seems to publish X sort of work” which wasn’t true at all had that person actually read more than a couple of our titles. That’s one reason I like our new little sale package, which is a mix of 5 randomly chosen books. I think people are tempted to go with the authors they are friends with, the authors they are familiar with, but there is so much more going on that they’d like if they saw it.
Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
In the early 2000’s there were so many awesome micro-presses springing up, operations like Effing Press, Big Game Books, horseless press, all of which were doing similar things to what I wanted to do. New Michigan Press was another press that spun out of an online journal that was a model (they also later published one of my own books).
How does Dancing Girl Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Dancing Girl Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations? Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
One of my secondary goals is to take on work by Chicago/Midwestern poets, which is always nice since we can have readings and signings and such (sometimes with other authors who happen to roll through town). Switchback Books, which was founded by my friends/classmates at Columbia a couple years after dgp, has a lot of overlap in authors and interests with what we publish, so we’ve done a lot of book fairs and readings with them and it’s been invaluable to have another press devoted to women’s writing coming of age at the same time.
How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
The internet has pretty much been absolutely central to the operation. If I had started a press 20 years ago, it would have felt like an uphill battle to even get work to publish, let alone readers. As I mentioned earlier re: social networking, I feel like the poetry community is much more accessible to everyone, even if you live in the middle of nowhere with no other poets for miles. Because of the internet, I was already getting to know other writers even before I started the press via listservs, discussion boards, blogs. These were the poets who started sending work, buying books, spreading the word. It’s only continued as that circle has grown larger.
Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
Our publication list is a mix of manuscripts collected during our open reading periods and other solicited projects. We are open every summer for submissions. I could rattle off a list of things we’re not looking for, but then someone could send me something that turns all of it on its head and I’d take it. The main thing I will immediately skip over though is the sort of poem that just feels like ordinary prose broken into lines without any attempt at doing, I guess, poetic things—things related to sound, rhythm, image, strangeness. On the other hand, I usually love prose poems, just not prose broken arbitrarily into lines.
Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
Sandra Faulkner’s Hello Kitty Goes to College is a strange meditation on pop culture consumerism, sexual politics, and academia.
Brenda Sieczkowski’s Wonder Girl in Monsterland, which includes images by artist Chad Woody, creates this surreal little world with talking bears and odd neighbors and strokes me as very Alice-like, which I love. One of the best things a manuscript can do for me is create some sort of alternate world.
Emiliegh Barnes’ Given is a book of poems as mathematical equations. Despite my horror of actual math, I love this little book.
12 or 20 (small press) questions;
Labels: 12 or 20 questions, Brenda Sieczkowski, dancing girls press, Emiliegh Barnes, Kristy Bowen, Sandra Faulkner, wicked alice
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Gravesend, Cole Swensen
Some Paintings of Ghosts
There are so few paintings of ghosts, which is really rather odd
since there at last they could be seen, could slightly live
in the visible, under glass
where all errance squares
and there’s an end almost to the body you forgot
there’s a body that runs on
out ahead of the one inevitably left behind
in the shock of recognition on the face of the dying
that, in a Rembrandt sketch, or I saw it once
in a painting by Ingres, though he had not
put it there.
According to the back cover copy of Gravesend (University of California Press, 2012), American poet Cole Swensen’s [see her 12 or 20 questions here] thirteenth trade poetry collection, the book “takes its name from the English town at the mouth of the Thames, revisits the genre of the ghost story and, through fragmentation, juxtaposition, and allusion, powerfully summons the uncanny, the spectral presence.”
Swensen has long worked her poetry collections as thematic projects, from hands to gardens to a book of the hours to the movement of opera, each book as much of an essay of sorts as a movement, a progression through a sustained query. Gravesend writes out the shapes and considerations of ghost stories, using the real Gravesend as a focal point from which she ripples out, composing and incorporating stories of Pocahontas, Henry James, folk and fairy tales, rumours and other fragments, wrapped up into a poem-collage. What are facts but stories that have been repeated often enough to turn to stone?
Gravesend is named after Mr. Silvaneous Grave
who in 1123 opened a store here
at the end of the road
leading from London to the sea.
No, London does not go to the sea.
So Gravesend is named after Mr. Albert Graves
who established a hotel at the first point
that boats turned in from the channel to go up the Thames.
No, he is dead.
And Gravesend is named for a preacher,
Euphonius Grave by name, who fell off a cliff
one night at just this spot. There are those who say
the waves carried him off, ablaze.
They are wrong.
Once we dreamt that a grave had an end,
that a life didn’t just keep on growing and growing
until the grave stretched from here
to its clearance.
No, a grave is a grievance.
From the 17th through the 19th centuries
Gravesend was a principal harbor
from which emigrants left England
for Australia or North or South America
South Africa and India. It was a door
through which people fell into the sea.
I never returned.
Gravesend swings back and forth
like a window in the wind. It is named
for the fact that you never returned. It bears
the name of a man who disappeared in plain sight
in the town square on a sunny day.
I’m fascinated how Swensen manages to wrap fact, fable and story together into such a strong and cohesive mesh, writing out this English town at the mouth of the Thames. But how does one move from French gardens to an English port town of some fifty-six thousand inhabitants? Many of the poems stretch their way across the page in familiar Swensen poetic forms, but other sections write like prose, such as the trilogy of poems “Interview Series,” suggesting a more formal or informal series of interviews to comb through the facts and fables of the centuries-old town. The notes at the end of the collection confirm this, citing a list of interviewed for the first and third pieces, writing also that the “interviewees for the second interview were various people living in the town of Gravesend, Kent, England in the summer of 2008; I did not take their names, and I have not used their exact words.” Part of “Interview Series 2” reads:
The Three Daws is arguably the oldest pub on the Thames, and, as I’ve been reminded by at least five people in the village, it plays an important role in Great Expectations. I ask the barmaid what she thinks of the name Gravesend. Gravesend? It’s a good name. It’s in the Domesday Book. We used to have more pubs in this town than in any other town in England. Ghosts? You’re writing a book on ghosts? This place is full of them. It’s the oldest pub on the river. They say Pocahontas died here. No, I mean here, in this pub, that’s what they say—and why not believe it? No, I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve heard one. I’ve been down here in the bar, and heard someone walking directly above me when I knew that no one could be up there. And bottles fly off the shelf sometimes, or chairs get up-ended. Everyone who works here has a different story; we all feel them.
The book exists in three sections, hinging on the three question-titles posed, from “Have you ever seen a ghost?” to “How did Gravesend get its name?” to “What do you think a ghost is?” Each question suggests an opening as opposed to furthering any particular agenda, suggesting too that poems were composed out of the variety of answers, thusly answering for the variety of forms and rhythms Swensen writes. If we are as much constructed from the stories we repeat, so too, historic Gravesend, making this perhaps, through Swensen’s eye, the truest depiction of the city and its inhabitants. Or perhaps the ghosts of such.
Sometimes the Ghost
Sometimes the ghost arrives before the body is gone and the breath which will one day white, there will be walls, or illness may be the cause and cause the ghost to crawl up inside, a bright
illness, when the eyes go, and the ghost walks around looking like you, and we talk quietly, and she says things I remember your saying, but at the time they were out of context and made no sense, and now I look around the room that fits. And I walk across the room with my eyes closed
Posted by rob mclennan at 9:01 AM 1 comment:
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Ongoing notes: late June, 2012
The days go on and on and on. Where does it all go?
We have a letterpress in our basement now (see left), a 750lb Golding Improved Pearl, c. 1897, that the delivery folk left in the driveway on Monday morning, and I helped the movers slip into the basement later that afternoon. Well, more precisely, my lovely fiancé, Christine, was given “on permanent loan” a letterpress from her former employers at Gaspereau Press that I now happen to also have access to. That’s enough, right? We’ve talked abstractly about doing a collaborative publishing enterprise for some time, something entirely different than what we have both been individually doing.
Plenty of links worth repeating, including this piece Vancouver poet Stephen Collis wrote on CWILA in Jacket 2, an interview with Jorie Graham in The Guardian, and a very cool interview with Phil Hall on the Walrus blog.
Ottawa small press book fair this weekend, with the pre-fair reading on Friday night. We will see you at both, yes? And our reading at Dusty Owl on July 15th? Called “the pre-wedding reading,”Christine and I both do individual sets, and then a set to introduce our ongoing collaborative project! above/ground press will even be producing a small selection of pieces from such for the event.
Toronto ON: It’s been many moons since I’ve seen an issue of BafterC (BookThug, 2012), and this issue, dated May 2012, Vol. 5 No. 1, was guest-edited by Stephen Cain, long a friend to both publisher and press. BookThug has made some incredible strides over the past couple of years, somehow picking up all the avant-garde slack that other publishers such as Coach House Books, ECW Press and Anansi (among others) have let slip away. This new issue includes an impressive array of new work by Adam Dickinson, Steve Venright, Clelia Scala, Pearl Pirie, Andy Weaver, Helen White, Marianne Apostolides, Peter Jaeger and Tim Conley.
The signs were certainly long there, but Toronto poet Andy Weaver has been making some interesting movements further into language writing over the last little bit. There are more than a few poets that seem to exist within an odd, nebulous realm that is neither lyric nor language but both, existing with one foot in either “camp,” and yet belonging to neither. I think, somehow, of Phil Hall, Judith Fitzgerald, Stan Rogal, Gil McElroy and even Stephen Cain, often, himself.
a nerd drew an awed werd,
drew a ward nervy and ravened,
revved dawn and yawned a
weary dawn away.
A year yawned and waned,
day wavered anew.
an aery raven weaned an warned
an ever wary deer.
Raw ear and eye
added a wry and rare
yarn. A darned
war, a vender wavered
and averred a dewy, wan
era. Rend a dead warren,
weave a dray, and weave
There haven’t been many places where I’ve seen the work of Canadian expat Peter Jaeger in Canadian publications over the past few years, so I’m pleased to see something new by him, here. Given his decade or so living and teaching in England, much of his work, when it does appear, does so over there. But did you know he even has a forthcoming title with above/ground? The photographer Helen White has two images in this issue, two photographs of a paper man made out of sentences, written up out of fragments, depending on your perspective. I wouldn’t mind knowing the whole of the paper man’s sentence, but sometimes it takes years to know a body long enough to see even half the writing, there.
And the back cover, much as publisher Jay MillAr stated at the recent Toronto spring 2012 BookThug launch, includes a bold statement on the loss of McClelland and Stewart as a Canadian company:
So long M&S, thanks for all the hard work you did to build a Canadian Identity.
We’ll take it from here.
Minneapolis MN: Brian Teare, publisher of Albion Books, sent me a copy of his recent Paradise Was Typeset (DoubleCross Press, 2012), produced as the first of their “Poetics of the Handmade” series. As the back cover writes:
DoubleCross Press’s Poetics of the Handmade series publishes essays by contemporary hand-bookmakers and writers who engage with the handmade book as publishers, promoters, or curators. With an eye to the book’s past, the series seeks to illuminate the forms, connotations, and communities of the handmade book in the early 21st century micropress culture.
Fascinating to see such a series exist, and I could certainly recommend some Canadians that should be considered for such – Jason Dewinetz at Greenboathouse, first and foremost. And then, of course, derek beaulieu at NO Press, Cameron Anstee at Apt. 9 Press, jwcurry at Room 302 Books and Barry McKinnon at Gorse Press, for example. There are a whole slew of others, obviously (see my recent article on Canadian small/micro publishers,here). In Paradise Was Typeset, Teare opens with a story of a pilgrimage he did around 2001 to Serendipity Books in Berkeley, California:
Peter Howard was infamous for simply being difficult, but his particular grand of playful aggression was neither simple nor difficult for the sake of difficulty. In the same way that I had entered a store whose interior gave the appearance of un-interpretable chaos, but was in fact ordered and ultimately legible, so upon entering into a business transaction with Howard I had entered a value system whose precepts I would have to learn. Each of my visits culminated in some version of a Socratic dialogue in which he played an ironic, punishing Socrates and I a naïve, dim-witted interlocutor. After I’d learned the lesson he wished to impart, he would size up the books I had found, and each book would generate an annotation or anecdote of some kind, either about the author, the press, or its original owner.
Interspersed throughout are sections of the “12or 20 questions” I did with poet, publisher and editor Teare on his Albion Books (a press I would very recommend), and the essay works like a short collage, writing fragments around the interview questions and answers, morphing into a complex explanation of what and why and even how he is involved with small publishing. A fascinating title.
The second in the series will be Country Music, by Nathan Hauke and Kirsten Jorgenson.
Cambridge UK: I somehow came into possession of Reitha Pattison’s SOME FABLES (Cambridge UK: Grasp Press, 2011), a collection of twenty numbered short poems, sent by someone across the ocean in a generous package of British small press publications.
A reflection: dog dropped meat
into dog and meat and evil were
rewarded in cold fronts on level
markers of repast left in the dish
after lights out; nights strung about
in stern cosmetic aches. Provisions
were got in and some still starved.
Providence is one solid thing, tight
far-off agrarian work ethic another.
I’m fascinated by the graceful simplicity of the design, the graceful ease of the short yet complex poems writing out a set of fables both new and achingly familiar. These are fables for the young-not-young, somehow reminding me of a less twisted and dark version of the long-late-lamented Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. If only our young weren’t so young as to appreciate these the way we do.
The nettle rests in two houses, the bind-
ing parts of travail; trust the wall not
to feel the bite. Accord. Saw mounted:
young hands choke on the hazel tears
in grasping what is painfully wanted
and needfully held fast by the neck
of form. To snap it, lattice defaults
never closing the bestiary in sight
of change, exculpates the moral.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
Two Ottawa workshops by Stuart Ross in July
A one-hour writing workshop sparked by the literary works of the late and magnificent Joe Brainard, on the occasion of the release of his Collected Writings and the re-release of the legendary Bean Spasms collaboration between Joe, Ron Padgett, and Ted Berrigan.
Tuesday, July 24, 6:45 - 7:45 pm
Arts Court, Daly Ave, 2nd floor
Presented by Tree Seed Workshops
2. STUART ROSS' POETRY BOOT CAMP
A relaxed but intensive workshop for beginning poets, experienced poets,stalled poets, and haikuists who want to get beyond three lines. Poetry Boot Camp focuses on the pleasures of poetry and the riches that spontaneity brings, through lively directed writing strategies. You will write in ways you'd never imagined. Arrive with an open mind, and leave with a heap of new poems!
Wednesday, July 25, 6:30 - 930 pm
At the Home of Pearl and Brian Pirie, Hintonburg
(a block from the 86 bus route)
Register by prepaying via PayPal or eTransfer to Stuart Ross at
Huge thanks to Pearl Pirie for organizing and hosting the Poetry Boot Camp!
P.S. Here's a bit about Stuart Ross:
Stuart Ross [photo lifted from the WordFest site; credit unknown] is the author of seven full-length poetry collections, most recently You Exist. Details Follow. (Anvil Press), but also including the acclaimed I Cut My Finger (Anvil Press) and Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected (ECW Press). His second story collection, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, earned positive reviews across the country, went into a second printing after only two months, and won the ReLit Prize for Short Fiction. His plotless novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew also won great critical acclaim. Stuart is editor for Mansfield Press, where he has his own imprint, and Fiction & Poetry Editor for This Magazine. He also writes a regular column "Hunkamooga" for the literary magazine sub-Terrain. In fall 2010 Stuart was Writer in Residence at Queen's University in Kingston. For nearly 25 years, he's led workshops in fiction, poetry, editing, and memoir across Canada.
[and don't forget Stephen Brockwell's upcoming poetry workshop, July 7!]
Labels: Pearl Pirie, Stuart Ross, The TREE Reading Series, workshop
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Two new poems and a write-up on The Offending Adam
Two poems from "Songs for little sleep," are now online at The Offending Adam, posted with a little write-up by Ryan Winet. Thanks, TOA and Ryan!
On a June 16th blog post, rob mclennan praises the recent work of Nicole Markotić as an “investigation into the sentence.” What is true of Markotić’s work is equally true of mclennan’s poems below. But TOA readers should not assume that mclennan’s investigations into the sentence begin and end with a full-stop: when I say that mclennan investigates, I use the verb with all the baggage from detective films. He turns the clause, the word, even punctuation upside down and inside out.
Like any great investigator, mclennan notices the uncanny in every detail. His poem for Pearl Pirie begins as a kind of exercise. Phrases shift, reverse, stand on their heads. But to call this poem an exercise would take away from its lyrical power, manifested in the evocative and haunting power of the first section’s final sentence: “We are watching the moon we were.” A poetic “happening” or “scene” would perhaps better describe this sort of investigation. For we readers are in the same position as mclennan’s “we,” witnessing the subtle shifts and reversals of a world slowly revealing itself—not for any final clue, not for a final revelation, but for a moment that reveals the profundity of the unexpected.
Labels: Lea Graham, Nicole Markotic, Pearl Pirie, poem, Ryan Winet, Songs for little sleep, The Offending Adam
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Medallions of Belief, Fred Wah
Spectrum total mix
Less dit interest
Three rivers why
Why & Me
Cell off please
This Great Hall
Yellow from 2800
In his new chapbook Medallions of Belief (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2012), Vancouver poet and current Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah turns the response thread of his writing to the occasional, and collecting a small handful of occasional poems. As well as composing poems for a series of occasions, the chapbook was produced for one, a workshop Wah ran in Toronto this past March, as part of the Toronto New School of Writing, as the brief “Note” at the back of the publication reports:
Medallions of Belief is a chapbook configured on the occasion of a workshop for the Toronto New School Writing titled “How to Write a Poem for the Queen.” The poems are selected from past publications as well as unpublished and newer poems. The poem “The Snowflake Age” was written at the request of the House of Commons and the Senate for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. […] This is a workshop on the Occasional Poem. Much maligned and frequently scorned by poet laureates, the poetics of the occasional poem invite an intriguing spectrum of considerations. Can a “poem in honour of” engage a similar discourse to the poem simply written “For”? And what sorts of intention function to generate the immense range of occasional poetry (W.H. Auden’s“Under Which Lyre: A Reactionary Tract for the Times,” Robert Creeley’s “So There,” bpNichol’s “Sketch For A Botanical Drawing For Thomas A. Clark,” Roy Miki’s “Nagasaki Day for Baco O,” or current British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Rings” for the royal wedding last spring).
The question is an interesting one. George Bowering, as Canada’s first Parliamentary Poet Laureate, famously deflected all requests for poems but one, from a Little League baseball team, and a showcase of poems written upon request by laureates might not necessarily produce a showcase of worthy writing. In Medallions of Belief, Wah writes his occasions such as “IN THE MAIL WITH YOUR LETTER IS A / PACKAGE OF COUPONS” for Tom Wayman, and “PARAPOTIC SINK” for George Bowering (riffing off Bowering’s “Do Sink” and it’s own influence). One of the strengths in this collection of two dozen poems comes from the variety of movement, the variety of rhythms and forms throughout, in poems on the occasions of his daughters, a birthday, Queen Elizabeth II, travel, and even a couple of pieces from the ongoing “Music at the Heart of Thinking” series.
This whole collection seems to be built not only of occasions, but responses, prompting the question: is an occasion simply a trigger, and the poem of the occasion simply a response? One could argue that every poem is a response to something else, every piece of art a response, translating the world in whatever large or small way. One word responds to another word, one colour responds to the one that came before. Is this too simple, too easy? Is a poem for/from the Queen any different than one that responds to another poem? I am wishing I could have been at that workshop, or perhaps, Wah might write an essay of sorts to discuss the idea further. As Wah writes to begin his poem “The Snowflake Age”: “She said looking through the monarchy of pronouns / Her halftone face profiles the moment[.]”
WAITING FOR SASKATCHEWAN
and the origins grandparents countries placed converged
europe asia railroads carpenters nailed grain elevators
Swift Current my grandmother her house
he built on the street
and him his cafes namely the “Elite” on Center
looked straight ahead Saskatchewan points to it
Erickson Wah Trimble houses train station tracks
arrowed into downtown fine clay dirt prairies wind waiting
for Saskatchewan to appear for me again over the edge
horses led to the huge sky the weight and colour of it
over the mountains as if the mass owed me such appearance
against the hard edge of it sits on my forehead
as the most political place I know these places these strips
laid beyond horizon for eyesight the city so I won’t have to go
near it as origin town flatness appears later in my stomach why
why on earth would they land in such a place
mass of Pleistocene
sediment plate wedge
arrow sky beak horizon still waiting for that
I want it back, wait in this snowblown winter night
for that latitude of itself its own largeness
my body to get complete
it still owes me, it does
Posted by rob mclennan at 8:01 AM No comments:
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