Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Olive Reading Series: season twelve

With the opening of their thirteenth season, I recently received an envelope of chapbooks from Edmonton’s Olive Reading Series, a series that runs the course of the school year, each of the monthly readings usually features a single poet, and a publication produced as give-away at the event. Oh, to have a complete collection of these; there are so many I’m still missing! Here are the three chapbooks I’ve seen so far from season twelve [see my post on season eleven here]. I look forward to seeing the rest, as well as lucky season thirteen.

September 13, 2011: Oana Avasilichioaei, Songs. Part of her since-published third trade poetry collection, We, Beasts (Wolsak & Wynn, 2012). On the back cover of the small chapbook, the poems in Songs are described as “transformations (effervescences) of the lexicon and music of poems by Galacian poet Álvaro Conqueiro in Herba aquí ou acolá, Galaxia, 1991.” Much of Avasilichioaei’s work so far has been exploring the idea of the translation, ranging from the relatively straight translation to the creative or even mis-translation, exploring what can appear through accident or even deliberate mis-reading and mis-understanding, using the translation itself as a device to open the door for new works.

The Distant Song
-- To the crow we give bread, give river

-- What longing, friend, longing for you

-- To the crow we cast the lighthouse, cast sky

-- What distance, friend, distance from you

-- To the crow we gather seed in summer

-- What longing, friend, longing for you

-- To the crow we disrobe the towers of winter

-- What distance, friend, distance from you

-- To the crow we wind the wisteria, the sob

-- What longing, friend, longing for you

Birds, their own servants, bird us the longing
of landscapes, orating distance, milled years

November 8, 2011: Nico Rogers, My Wife’s New Lover / Sean Garritty, The Lie Nearest Truth. An interesting pairing of more narrative works, I’m curious of the reasoning for the co-authored chapbook between Nico Rogers [see his 12 or 20 questions here] and Sean Garritty. I mean, why them, specifically, paired? Was it an issue of timing or the particular connections between their works?

Not Lost in Translation
the mine manager’s daughter
walked up to me while I painted
the gate, one gold leaf at a time,

and then stood next to my squatted
body and said, “bonjour monsieur
le forger. comment vas-tu aujoud’
hui. il fait beau, n’est-ce pas?” without
moving her lips. I asked her how she did it.

she showed me her phone and
said I can speak French but called
it an app. I asked her to type in
“amour et tendresse” but already
knew what the app would say. (Nico Rogers)

Not that the two have much more in common, really, than the penchant for straighter lines than usually feature in the Olive series. Both hold to poetry more as a storyteller’s art, with Rogers self-describing his poetry collection, The Fetch (London ON: Brick Books, 2010) as “a collection of short poetic fiction based in outport Newfoundland.” Sean Garritty, on the other hand, is more nuanced and abstract in the elements of his storytelling, with tales disguised as both lies and truth, whichever one might sound the best (the ending to the poem “The Lie Nearest Truth” is quite lovely). A graduate of Olga Costopoulos’ University of Alberta Write 494 class (with group publication in a previous Olive chapbook), he also (according to his bio) had a full-length poetry collection appear after this reading, Lie Nearest Truth (New York NY: Sheep Meadow Press, 2011).


This is living—but too, too convincing,
the humdrum spectacular

leaving some bar, head wombed,
floating along with the aural flotsam

with hands held in a sticky promise
not like the handjob in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

In a dream there is a naked teenager surrounded
by sketch men all for beauty and ugliness.

Morning’s enigma machinery: what’s it mean but again
silkscreen, unique yet exactly the same,

it take so much to mine the infrathin allowance—
the prescriptions of post-minor surgery

better a stiff drink, or a little courage—
weightlessly delicate in its off-putting celibacy.

There is no truth, so we must lie. Near
as the boy under your skin like a terrible infant

the loathe platitude of figuring it out,
as unconvincing as a life already lived,

an awake state at that specious hour:
when is it late, when is it early? (Sean Garritty)

January 10, 2012: Marilyn Dumont, The Pemmican Eaters. I’m fascinated by Marilyn Dumont’s explorations in Métis history, language and culture [see her 12 or 20 questions here], working a poetry entirely between two languages and cultures. Her biography in the small chapbook says that she is “working on her fourth poetry manuscript in which she explores Métis history, politics and identity through the life and times of her ancestor, Gabriel Dumont.” Given that there is so little is published of Canadian aboriginal histories, writers such as Dumont (and Ottawa’s Armand Ruffo, who wrote of the Englishman Archie Belaney, who became Grey Owl through interaction with Ruffo’s own ancestors) become essential for their perspectives. Unlike Ruffo, Dumont moves much more with the language between, nearly as Canadian poet Nathalie Stephens, otherwise known as Nathanaël, who has made a career out of in-between. And this is some damned fine writing.

*these are wintering words

Michif problem family among the nuclear language types     one parent French     the other Cree/Salteaux     wintering words: sliced thin, smoke-dried, pounded fine, folded in fat and berries     pemmican not pidgin or Creole   combining two    grammatical maps     paddle trade routes along waterways     traverse rapids: white and dangerous with Ojibway women a la facon du pays   Metis traders, speak la lawng of double genetic origin     pleasure doubled     twice the language     twice the culture     mixta, not mixed-up, nor muddled     but completely      French, Cree, Ojibway different tongues     buffalo, a delicacy source language     right from the cow’s mouth     mother of all in-group conversation     wintering camps     dispersal     neither Cree, Saulteaux nor French exactly, but something else     not less     not half  not lacking

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