Friday, June 28, 2013

Ongoing notes: late late June, 2013

[evil sleepy Lemonade, sleeping upon his new perch, across on my black jacket]

I presume you’ve been properly checking out the above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, ottawa poetry newsletter and dusie blogs for their various updates? I don’t always have space to tell you everything here (I mean, really). But watch for an upcoming reading by Jessica Smith, Amanda Earl and Marilyn Irwin on July 13 as part of The Factory Reading Series, and another collaborative reading by myself and Christine McNair (our second annual, after last year’s appearance at The Dusty Owl Reading Series) at the In/Words Reading Series on July 31st.

Philadelphia PA: Some of the most attractive chapbooks I’ve seen out of the United States have to be Brian Teare’s Albion Books, the most recent of which, the first volume of the fifth series, is a double-binding, including Rachel Moritz’ “ELEMENTARY RITUALS” alongside Juliet Patterson’s “DIRGE.” There doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason why these two texts are paired, perhaps the authors are collaborators or close friends, writing poems in tandem? Or simply the editor/publisher has joined the two. 

The first bridges were probably made by nature—something as simple as a log fallen across a stream.

The original base of the word, bruw, or ‘log-road.’

Through the window you think of these words standing in the blunt arms of morning: stage, landing, gangway.


Your father was found hanging from a concrete footbridge
a few miles from your childhood home. The bridge

twenty-seven feet high, stretched over a busy thoroughfare, linking
a golf course and a wooded park. (“DIRGE”)

Juliet Patterson’s striking sequence “DIRGE” works through a meditation on the death of her father (or, the narrator’s father; since I know nothing about Patterson, one should never presume) from suicide. Her “DIRGE” scrapes out the heart in long, languid lines. Why haven’t I heard of Juliet Patterson before this? On the other side of the same chapbook, Rachel Moritz’s “ELEMENTARY RITUALS” is another small meditative work, composed out of six longer poems that stretch the loveliest lines that take up small spaces but a large attention. Her rituals, one might say, are startlingly precise, one that is the perfect blend of lyric language and absolute clarity:

In a clearing between loss and literal day-
light, his frame stood empty.

Kudzu trailing the base foundation.
Gutters bedded in leaves.

We passed a threshold the key given
us at the funeral parlor            from his pocket, his wallet,
his coat.

Nevertheless, stirring lights how oddly they flared, as if
shy of inhabitants.

Then it was done, going through an event
so event became abstracted.

Further titles forthcoming in the fifth series include works by Frank Sherlock (5.2), Jean Valentine (5.3) and CA Conrad (5.4).

Mt Pleasant ON: From kemeny babineau’s Laurel Reed Books comes CHORTLING AMERICAN SHOW GOO: thirty three poems by Toronto poet, editor and small press publisher Daniel f. Bradley (2012). Bradley has been an active writer and small press enthusiast for years, author of numerous small press publications going back two decades, including publications by curvd h&z, BookThug, tapt, Outland, Produce Press, above/ground press and many, many others. Given his years of publication, it might be interesting to see someone attempt to wrestle with his years of output for the sake of either an essay on his ongoing work, or a selected poems, to get a sense of just what he has accomplished over the years, through dozens of small-run missives. The opening poem to the collection nearly gives a description of what follows, asking the question of what this might be, as though the author is learning through the same process as the potential reader:

i suppose i could hot wire this thing
flat bread their is no escape
perfect for your boneless
wings failed

your highness you were right
you were right about me
i love my loll pop separated
at the feet almost
empty ignition switch
light reflecting metallic

what’s this all about
everything in a bag
that feeds me a secret

The sequence of pieces that make up the untitled poems of CHORTLING AMERICAN SHOW GOO: thirty three poems feel akin to the poems of American poet Kate Greenstreet for their fragmented structure and collage-aspect that accumulate into something larger, yet difficult to articulate, as the form itself is less static than constantly shifting. As Nic Coivert writes in his review of the collection (included inside the back of the chapbook) from Canadian Poetry Previews Magazine, “These poems are like smashed dreams.” Bradley’s poems also have a dark edge of surrealism, perhaps one more abstract and less of the obvious humour than others in the informal “Toronto surrealists” group, whether Lillian Necakov, Stuart Ross or Gary Barwin. In some of the pieces, there’s something of the single line-breath, as though they’re meant to be read quickly, without break.

three thousand an hour upgrade your family
back into the vault the new death toll
in bad taste this is cronyism all the way
more comedy who grew my soup good bye

horse pills transformation my bathroom of
freedom scurrying people panic setting in
stories of survival washed away telling
the tale twisted areas scrap the idea more

more that not the bottom line two hundred
thousand homes and worth the cost who’s
ruining the economy he broke the door
good old fashion hard work all back
to back snow

Lincoln NE/Portland OR: To understand how much I enjoyed American poet Matthew Rohrer’s small chapbook A SHIP LOADED WITH SEQUINS HAS GONE DOWN (Dkembe Press, 2013), you have to experience the first poem I did in the collection:

He wrote amazing poems because he
was fucking a wizard. This perspective
mutilated all his expectations
and he was naked. The wizard threw him
a small thin towel to cover himself with.
I’m sitting in a small bar in Brooklyn
discussing his next move: surely his wife
will climb the pyramid and leap off it
because she is a butterfly. He is
everywhere down there, in the air. Inside
a tiny black bean. It’s not necessary
to live like this, we decide. We crumble
into our highballs, the city outside
consumes things like an enormous creature. (“SONNET”)

In Rohrer’s six-poem chapbook, four of which are three-sonnet pieces, each titled “SONNET,” that twist the language of the first piece into the second two section, re-working the lines of the first to create entirely different poems with the same language, as here, the second part of the three-part “SONNET” (the first part is quoted just above):

I’m sitting in a small bar in Brooklyn
because she is a butterfly. He is
into our highballs. The city outside
mutilated all his expectations
to live like this, we decide. We crumble
everywhere down there, in the air. Inside
he wrote amazing poems because he
will climb the pyramid & leap off it.
Discussing his next move: surely his wife
was fucking a wizard. This perspective
consumes things like an enormous creature.
And he was naked. The wizard threw him
A tiny black bean. It’s not necessary.
a small thin towel to cover himself with.

Bookending the collection are two longer poems, each composed with short phrases that complete a single, fragmented, seemingly-endless and confused sentence, endlessly continuing. Throughout the poems here, is Rohrer attempting to shock, startle or confound? These poems require a shift in perception and perspective, one that playfully pokes at expectation and collision.

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