Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Ongoing notes: early early January, 2013

Another year begins. As one might hope the Mayans meant, not a complete ending, but a new beginning.

Paris ON: For those who don’t know, poet and bookseller Nelson Ball is a Canadian small press legend (see Cameron Anstee’s recent post on him here; see my review of Ball’s most recent trade collection here), and those in the know are thrilled to see the quiet release of new work, however long that might take. Two Ball items were recently released into the world—the self-published ORPHANS (Rubblestone Press, 2012) and The Continuous Present (2012), produced through Stuart Ross’ Proper Tales Press. Here is a small poem from that second collection:


We’re adrift
and as free

as the earth
in space

tied to
the sun

by astro-

Nelson Ball’s poems has long been known for their appreciation of brevity, carving poems so sharp they become nebulous, and nearly invisible, yet capturing new kinds of essential moments. In some ways, Ball’s poems end before they begin. Subtitled “16 Poems,” ORPHANS includes this note at the back:

An author’s poems often appear in chapbooks prior to being gathered into longer collections.

It’s also true that a chapbook may, you might say, rescue poems left out of longer collections.

That was the case in the publication of With Held (2004) which contained poems omitted from, or not considered for, The Concrete Air (1996) and At The Edge Of The Frog Pond (2004).

I printed Nine Poems in 2011. They were recent poems eliminated during the editing of In This Thin Rain (2012).

The Continuous Present (2012) is a selection made from earlier poems not in any of my previous books or chapbooks.

Orphans completes this course by presenting all of the poems not chosen for The Continuous Present.

The poems in Orphans were written from 1971 to 2011, the majority during the period from 1998 to 2002.

Until his reappearance in the early 1990s, Ball had quietly slipped away from publishing for a number of years, and one might even suspect there are more wayward, orphan poems hidden away than he might admit to. With brevity, too, comes an eye for precision, and perfection as well, meaning that these might be all that remain. Still, the decisions made in saving, collecting and/or salvaging these wayward poems is an interesting one, and provide an interesting series of margins to his already-published books and chapbooks, some of which go back to the 1960s. Consider these chapbooks, perhaps, the short form of a selected poems from one of your favourite authors, a master of the short form, except focusing on poems you just haven’t read yet.


For and after bpNichol

            a bcd e fgh i jklmn o pqrst u vwx y z

Always a proponent of the small poem, most of the pieces in ORPHANS seem considerably smaller than the poems in The Continuous Present, almost as though he is collecting a thread of poems attempting to make themselves as tiny as possible. Just as Stuart Ross’ journal of one-line poems, Peter O’Toole, I’m fascinated by Ball’s exploration into just how small a poem can be, and remain, still, a poem. Here is a poem from ORPHANS:




Here is another poem:


dog yb deggod

Edmonton AB: On December 11, 2012, Edmonton poet Sarah Lang returned to The Olive Reading Series to launch her small chapbook from For Tamara (Olive, 2012). It has been a few years since the appearance of her first trade poetry collection, The Work of Days (Coach House Books, 2007) [see my moons-ago review of such, here], so the mention of a second collection forthcoming with Anansi in 2014 is very exciting. What I’ve seen so far of Lang’s writing favours the extended, sweeping sequence, composing fragments that weave their ways together into a larger canvas of loss. There are echoes of Lang’s epistolary that remind of Michael Holmes’ own james i wanted to ask you (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1994), another poetry collection that worked its way through sweeping, fractured lyric strands and sections, and an overwhelming letter of heartbreak. Given that a section of another longer work appeared not long ago in the fifth issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics, might this be the work forthcoming with Anansi, or is this something entirely other?

Do you like your hand? / The rest of your arm? / I am way too tired to do an amputation today. / Do you think that blood infection can wait? / My Darling Dearest, My Beautiful Idiot: know I will never, ever forget you. / T. I am very very tired. / Even if your Dad were here. / Simply too much work. / I need to sleep.

Tamara, suicides will not be uncommon / I do not want you to think of them as irrational. / Try and help / but these people have lost everything they’ve got. / N times over.

I haven’t written enough about how to protect yourself. / Don’t scream. / Take a breath. / Jam a screwdriver in his eye.

I know after 9 years I’m supposed to be over you. / Sadly no one can compete. / Plus Tamara still wants to meet you.

New York NY: After going through Mary Austin Speaker’s 20 Love Poems for 10 Months (Brooklyn NY: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012) [see my review of such here], I’m finally able to go through another chapbook released at the same time, her partner, Chris Martin’s ENOUGH (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012). As Speaker’s chapbook was dedicated to Martin, his, in turn, is dedicated back to her. Martin’s ENOUGH is a series of poems composed as dedications, collecting fourteen poems with deceptively descriptive titles such as “the weather,” “the air,” “the cloud,” “the light” and “the horizon,” and dedicated each to a series of fellow poets (I’m uncertain if all those listed are poets, but a number of them certainly are) including Dorothea Lasky, Emily Pettit, Matthew Rohrer, Elizabeth Willis and Dana Ward. The final poem in the collection, “the balloon,” is dedicated, again, to Mary Austin Speaker. Each poem exists as a single strand of thread, stretched just beyond a page as a line of abstract observances, cadences and articulations. Just how far is Martin willing to go with this particular form? Not knowing anything else about his writing; is this a singular project, or is there a book-length work working to reveal itself, somewhere soon?

the snow

Dad’s Buddha
clad in
a tank-top
of fresh snow
accepts our laughter
as later the rumble
strip lined with ice
chimes back to us
its long silver ribbon
is how weather wakes such
a drowsing head to blossom
like the Christmas tree worm
slowly creeps back to frill
the world is as full
of jokes as the snowflake is
stuffed with cold and ingenuous charm
like the flying farolito that streaks
past a lone and baffled coyote
these mysteries persist at song’s loss
and return when our eyes unfurl
so the you you were
is suddenly less and more
full like the sky is
in the ache before dawn
we’ll put on our boots
our hat and gloves
breathe a little smoke
there is no death
out of reach
as John says
there is only
this hiss
before broadcast

                        for Courtney Martin

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