Friday, October 22, 2021

Bronwen Tate, The Silk The Moths Ignore

  

REPRODUCTIONS OF FRESCOS          

Travel back. Because of a misstep, I saw a crevice in a home’s knee in place of brigands. Play of light and color off their helms. Reading in the original French. Reading to be elsewhere. I look past it, first conception.

I read Proust. In wide-sleeved houppelande, she incarnates. Swollen fruit of her manly form a solid allusion. Prod that membrane edged with ribbons of watercress or cuckoo flower.

For each word, a word in another language means part of the same thing. When I look up “midwife” on the university website, the only reference is to Plato. Theaetetus, he suggests, is in discomfort because he is in intellectual labour. Socratic Method, maieutics without a uterus, the skill of drawing thought from a latent mind.

I too want to be a scholar. I want a new vernacular of milk.

Echo, echo, on my perch with my library. Well-stocked dictionary sends me Latin, lygeum spartum cultivated or not present here.

I’m very pleased to see the newly-released full-length debut by Bronwen Tate, an American poet recently transplanted into Vancouver for the sake of a teaching gig at the University of British Columbia. After the publication of a handful of chapbooks over the past few years, including titles published by above/ground press, Dusie Press and Cannibal Books, comes the full-length The Silk The Moths Ignore (Riverside CA: Inlandia Books, 2021), winner of the 2019 Hillary Gravendyk Prize. Through her book-length suite, Tate speaks of children, echoes, stories; writing from the inside of a curiously-paired bubble of text and pregnancy, each of her narrative threads swirling up and around the other. “Any creature with the head of a man will face you differently. Bind the book of autumn,” she writes, to end the poem “NEWS KNOWN / SOONER ABROAD,” “ember-leafed difficulty. Pea coat in the closed, embarrassed, left diffidently. // Can a heartbeat quicken? Mismeasured, I bargained, unmeasured, immeasurable. // Any foreign city can be a mellifluous note. // The true sky was grey.” There is such an interesting and intense interiority to these poems, writing through the blended swirl surrounding pregnancy and mothering a toddler, and reading and thinking. Through Tate, the considerations of writing, thinking and pregnancy are singular, shaping lyric sentences that are attuned to the shifts within her own body. “I could not say I had a daughter. I had a syndrome,” she writes, as part of “THE BEAUTY OF BEINGS UNLIKE / THAT OF OBJECTS,” “missing chromosomes nature mostly culls. A colleague tells me she studies what for me was a sentence. // I had that, I answer. Lost it. Her.” And yet, these poems were not prompted by such shifts, but through an entirely different kind of shifting perspective, as she offers as part of her “ACKNOWLEDGMENTS”:

Many of these poems began with reading Proust in French, which I read well but not perfectly, in search of words I did not know and could not make a confident guess at. I used these words, my guesses based on context, strange collisions, their etymology, French dictionary references (sometimes only to the Proustian sentence in which I’d encountered them), and the guts of my beloved OED for drafting material. While much of what this process generated has been trimmed away in revisions, I’ve gratefully retained some plants, some syntax, some atmosphere, and many titles.

I am fascinated through the way she shapes her poems, whether prose poems or her prose-attuned lyrics, attentive to the shape of the sentence and the accumulation of phrases, and the deep music of her flows and shifts and pauses, breaks. “Now bathysphere,” she writes, as part of “SWEET TEA,” “I house a slow advance. Brain and bone.” Or, as she writes to open the prose poem “AN EMPTY MEASURE IN MUSIC”: “That the dead could linger. Measure to the first knuckle of my littlest finger. Hand-worked guipure, light wool for a shawl. My body a shroud, lost all, lost all. Flicker, spark, and softest fall. // I count the beats in stillness.” Through Tate, we experience a lyric where language and the body intersect, and meet; a confluence of words and cells, each offering their own set of simultaneous possibility. She presents both an abstract and deeply physical and straightforward narrative space, one that articulates how perspective adapts, shifts, stretches and reshapes, from the immediate of the body to what that represents, moving through and against the language of Proust, and such a generous and affirming song of being.

UMBILICAL

Blue umbilical pulse to cut, my last placenta
Stuck, the doctor scrubbed elbow-deep, that flesh
Suddenly neither of us, excess, would rot inside me.

I held him, purple still and scrawny, bawling.
Hot blankets, shivering, sweat-wracked, hormone high—

What is in the body, yours, mind, all mouth? We are
Our parts, not a self apart, grow new ancillaries, collaborate

On blood. My son nears three now, swipes and taps
Glass-faced watch-hands, asks if the umbilicus plugs

Into the wall. Charged up on Coca-Cola, wails, “hard peaches
Are my favorite.” He wants what’s unripe. I slice and macerate

With sweet and salt and mint, tired now beyond cheek’s fuzz
And bloom. New one, I made you a room inside my mind.

Still you’ll split my skin to quit me.

 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Kristen Wittman

Kristen Wittman is a lawyer and writer living most of the time in Winnipeg and sometimes in Minneapolis (because it’s hillier there).  She has previously published one volume of poetry – Stone Boat with Turnstone Press.  She was runner-up in the Air Canada En Route magazine poetry award in 1993 (though it may have been 1992 – her memory is unreliable), and her writing has appeared in literary journals.  Turnstone Press recently published her second volume of poetry, Death Becomes Us.  She enjoys cycling in the hills in Minneapolis, cross-country skiing on the flats in Winnipeg and reorganizing her spice rack on Friday evenings.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

I published Stone Boat (Turnstone Press) in 2004. When I look back to that time in my life, I don’t believe that publishing a book of poetry did anything to change my life, but of course having a book published gave me the acknowledgement, the validation, that every writer needs to keep writing. I have always written poetry, but after that book came out, I started to see in my poems something that might be of value to other readers, and stopped thinking of myself as the only reader. That has definitely influenced the way I write.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I am an impatient person. It was worse when I was young. I wrote poetry because I could get my thoughts down on one page. Fiction seemed to require far too much effort. And non-fiction, well, that’s my “other” life – I write non-fiction every day as a commercial lawyer, in the form of letters, memorandums, opinions. I need to get away from that!

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Death Becomes Us is a collection of poems that were written over the course of my adult life (so, three years 😉); I tend to write each poem in a quick spurt, an idea that turns itself into a poem over the course of a few minutes; at most an hour. Then it molders in a file folder until I return to it, sometimes a few days later, sometimes many years later. Some of the poems (particularly in the early part of the book) date back to my early twenties. The project itself, a collection of poems to act as a guide through the grieving process, came to me about a year after my husband passed away. I recall looking through a stack of papers (trying to clean up) and wondering at some of them, at the love I expressed in them, and that got me thinking about where I was, trying to grieve, learning how to deal with his absence, and the “aha” moment came at that point – I should put them all together, and see where they take me.

Some of the poems in this book are the first drafts; some are unidentifiable to the first draft – I’ll leave the reader to ponder which might be which.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I’m a bit of an attention-seeker, so I love a good audience. The problem with readings is that you don’t always get a good audience, and I hate trying to deliver a meaningful bit of entertainment in a coffee house to people who are busy chatting and visiting. Worse still is our current state of affairs – reading into the eye of my computer camera, and wondering if anyone will ever hear me. Hello? Is anyone out there?

I do think poetry is the toughest of all of the written arts – a good poem (in my humble) must be able to be read on its own, silently, in your head; but it must also be able to be read aloud. If it can’t accomplish those two activities, it’s not a good poem.  So much of poetry these days seems to lack the former, in an effort to focus on the latter – probably competing from the shadow Bob Dylan (et al) cast, or bumping up against rap and the spoken word. In my view, these are not the same as poetry and (obviously, given what I’m doing) I fins greater satisfaction from a good poem than a good song or rap.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I hope it is now trite to say that there is really only one current question for humankind, and that is whether we will survive climate change. And how brutal will the survival process be? (That’s two questions…) I think my concerns for the environment, for our seeming inability to rein in our desires in order to create sustainability, come through in Death Becomes Us. At this point, I think the worrying is over, and we have to start to prepare ourselves for the losses we’re starting now to face. I’m not trying to answer any questions with my work. If anything, I’m asking this question: can we learn to grieve, because we’ve passed the point of being able to prevent the loss, and will that help?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

Thinking is hard. We don’t particularly like doing it. It’s much easier to not think, to react, to remain blind. Something I heard once: the more you know, the worse you sleep – the writer’s role is to encourage us to think. If we read, and think, we might change. Change is even harder than thinking. I’m not here to entertain – we have TV for that. I’m here to invite you to think with me, because two minds thinking are exponentially better than one.

8 – Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I have now experienced two very different editing styles, one encouraging but quite hands-off, the other a bit of a task master. I appreciated both, and believe my work is stronger through the editing process. Editing is not the same as criticism, and a good editor (I’m lucky enough to have had two) will help the writer find the elbow grease required to polish the prose. It is essential. Of course it’s difficult – who said writing was easy?

9 – What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Reading non-fiction is good, as it supplies answers to our questions.  Reading fiction (poetry) is essential, as it asks the questions. That was the best advice I’ve ever heard. Keep reading. Always.

10 – What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I find this question amusing. I dream of the day when I will be able to keep a writing routine. Here’s the routine I like to imagine: rise with the sun (that’s pretty late in December!), do a bit of yoga, drink a cup of coffee and have a bite to eat, and then write for a few hours. I find writing, the active creative part of writing, exhausting – two hours tends to be my limit. Then spend the afternoon reading, researching, contemplating. Sometime in there, get some exercise, fresh air, and have a good bottle of wine with supper. I sometimes achieve this routine: when on holidays, for instance.

I think consistency is key – I try to find time to write, whenever I can, throughout the week, so that I don’t lose the practice. But it’s hard – there are so many intervening obligations.

11 – When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I’m not a big believer in inspiration, and I must confess I don’t ever feel “stalled” with my writing. Not unlike a crossword, you sometimes have to put a word in, in order to get another word. Is it Atwood who says ‘a word after a word after a word is power’? I never took that to mean what I think a lot of people do: a word after a word is powerful – writing a word lets you come up with another word, and another, and then you’re on your way, and that is powerful.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Um. If by home you mean my childhood, I’d probably say manure. I grew up around horses. If by Winnipeg, by Wildwood, by my home, it’s not a fragrance, exactly, but petrichor always makes me feel like I’m home, no matter where in the world I happen to be after a fresh rain.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I’m not familiar with that statement, but if he was intending to mean you can’t find inspiration in one art form for another, in my view that’s limited thinking. Or limiting. All art comes from ideas, and ideas in one art form are triggered, generated, encouraged, stimulated by other art forms. There’s a poem in DBU entitled Round Lake, Mud Bay – that’s a Tom Thomson painting at the McMaster Gallery – my partner took my there in 2017, a beautiful space, and that poem is a direct response to that painting. If I ever were to get stalled, or writer’s block or whatever you want to call it, I know exactly how to break it – hop on my bike, ride to the WAG, and wander. I can’t wait to get inside Quamajuq. The first thing we did in 2020 when the pandemic restrictions were relaxed was to visit the WAG – there was a terrific exhibit last spring called “Into the Light” – there were two other people there. I think it was the first Saturday after restrictions were eased. It saddened me that no one was there, but it was (selfishly) an amazing treat to wander around. (The second thing we did after the lock down was go to McNally’s –ordering books and picking them up curbside is a necessary evil. Emphasis on both words…)

14 – What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

15 – What would you like to do that you haven’t yet done?

16 – If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I assume you mean occupation other than a writer. I am a lawyer. That was a conscious decision I made in my early twenties. (“Poet” as occupation tends to put less food on the table…) I have always believed two things, and they have remained true for me during my career(s): 1) that being a lawyer will complement being a writer and 2) I can help people in both vocations. I will admit that I am sure I have helped a lot more people through my legal career than through poetry, but maybe that will change over time… I am not the sort of person who looks back and wonders, so I find this question very difficult – I am a writer and a lawyer. I always wanted to be those things, and cannot imagine a life otherwise. I guess I have a limited imagination!

17 – What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

You would not ask that question if you heard me sing 😊. I actually don’t see it that way, though: I do many things that are creative – I love cooking and I love feeding people my cooking (and apparently, they love eating it!); I love gardening, I love riding my bike and cross-country skiing and getting dirt under my nails. I love dancing. I’m fascinated by photography. However, all of those activities are pleasurable; they do not drive me. I don’t want to run a restaurant or work at a garden centre, or try to turn my holiday pics into artwork. Writing drives me. Honestly, I can’t tell you why. I do know that when I was young, I read (a lot) and I believe that reading formed me, shaped me into who I am. I can recall many books, many bits of books, many experiences I derived from reading. If I could touch one person with my writing in that way, if one other little girl out there read something I wrote and believed in herself, I would be thrilled. I guess that’s what drives me to write.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Well, I just watched Casablanca. That was a pretty great film. Who knew? And I really enjoyed the gritty honesty of Hillbilly Elegy. As for books, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro leaps out as the best book I have read in a while. I read a fair bit, and try to expand my scope, but there’s a lot out there, and not all of it is great. That’s ok, you never know when you’re going to turn something up. I sometimes wonder if the timing of when you read something is as important as what you’re reading.  I also very much enjoyed David Bergen’s The Stranger when it came out.

19 - What are you currently working on?

I am working on a novel – that may come as a surprise since I mentioned earlier I’m an impatient person. I’m getting better at that... I wrote a novel a few years ago, but I haven’t done anything with it – it’s not good enough. But it was a good exercise: it taught me a lot about how to write a novel (does that sound silly? I mean it – writing a novel teaches you a lot about what’s involved with writing a novel) and it taught me a lot about how to write poetry too. I’m a better poet for writing prose, and vice versa. I have a better idea this time round, a better story, with a better “story arc” as they say, and it’s been a ton of fun. It evolved out of that first month of quarantine/lock-down in March 2020, when it occurred to me that my dreams were far more exciting than my waking hours. Here’s to getting this pandemic over with!

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

ryan fitzpatrick, Coast Mountain Foot

 

COAST MOUNTAIN FOOT

Does
the sun
come up?
 

It’s only
a property
question.
 

Selfie
any
street.
 

Develop
any
corner.
 

“Over and
Over” heard
overhead.
 

Air
space
thick.
 

By thick,
I mean
dense.
 

By dense,
I mean
tall.
 

Still cash,
even local,
sloughs.
 

Pools at
cloud
height.

As a long-standing enthusiast of the ongoing work of Vancouver poet and troublemaker George Bowering, I’d been curious to see Toronto-based poet and critic ryan fitzpatrick’s third full-length collection, Coast Mountain Foot (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2021), shaped as an interaction with and reaction to Bowering’s classic (and one of three poetry titles which won him a Governor General’s Award for Poetry, alongside The Gangs of Kosmos and Two Police Poems), Rocky Mountain Foot (Toronto ON: McClelland and Stewart, 1968). The proper response, it is said, to a poem is another poem, a mantra that writers often stretche out into the book as well, but rarely so directly; and it becomes interesting the way in which fitzpatrick chose to react to a book fifty-some years after it was first published. As fitzpatrick writes as part of his “NOTES” at the back of the collection: “Coast Mountain Foot refracts the gesture of George Bowering’s 1968 collection Rocky Mountain Foot – a book where Bowering, upon moving to Calgary for work, proceeds to write (and often complain) about the city for over a hundred pages before ending the sequence with a triumphant return to Vancouver. Rather than return the favour, Coast Mountain Foot responds to my own move from Calgary to Vancouver in 2011 by interlacing the connections and conflicts between the two cities. The work here was written in both cities over the span of a decade and a half. […] The short-lined lyrics that make up much of the book were written between 2016 and 2018, often during quick breaks from writing my doctoral dissertation on space and poetry in Canada. They came out of an attempt to write poems on my phone while writing the bus and, even though I had to stop writing on transit because of motion sickness, the poems retain a focus on quickness and movement.”

While certainly not free from complaint, Coast Mountain Foot is very much a long poem, book-length, segmented into individual and self-contained poems. Through a segmented lyric, it is as though the entire project is composed through blocks of lyrics that accumulate into narrative stretches, point by point by point. “Something / about bridges / as a metaphor.” he writes, to open “THE WORDS TO SAY IT,” “The wet feeling / of everything / outside the body. // That’s the city / you’ve been / living in.” There is something interesting in the lyric blocks he shapes to build his house, his Coast Mountain Foot, utilizing a structure that could even be assembled into different patterns and different poem-shapes, while potentially providing this collection similar kinds of conclusion.

We don’t
want to
erase history,
 

but do
want to
fill in
 

the gaps we
made draining
the inlet.
 

What do
the internet
comments say?
 

Something about
not paving
over the past
 

like rail yards
packed into
East Van. (“FALSE CREEK, / RECONCILIATION BRIDGE”)

fitzpatrick has long been attuned to elements of class, colonialism and a clipped, accumulative language, and his work reveals a unique blend of Calgary and Kootenay School of Writing experimentation, as evidenced through the cavalcade of small publications around his original Calgary-shaped long poem “The Ogden Shops,” to his full-length debut, Fake Math (Montreal QC: Snare Books, 2007) and later, Fortified Castles (Talonbooks, 2014) [see my review of such here]. His work has evolved from the fragmented lyric of the prairie long poem to something more socially and politically engaged, and simultaneously further lyrically-fragmented and all-encompassing, piecing together what can more easily be seen as a deeper and larger engagement. “Can I live in / Vancouver without / writing about it?” he writes, to open the poem “YET ANOTHER LONG POEM / ABOUT VANCOUVER,” “All that work / done better in / the last century // even if the / freeway traffic / is still moving.” Throughout the collection, fitzpatrick references geographically-specific literary titles such as Roy Kiyooka’s Pear Tree Pomes (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1977), Helen Potrebenko’s Taxi (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 1989) and Daphne Marlatt and Robert Minden’s Steveston (Talonbooks, 1974), although I’m curious about other examples that could have been woven into his Vancouver discourse, but aren’t, at least overtly (Michael Turner’s 1995 poetry title Kingsway, for example, might have been an intriguing echo to examine). I’m still working to figure out if fitzpatrick’s focus was on a particular era of writing, or simply what was on his radar. For fitzpatrick, Coast Mountain Foot is an articulation of and commentary on social, architectural, urbanized and political space, and on how space is utilized, simultaneously writing Vancouver and writing Calgary, and offering counterpoints between them. “No wall / left unmuralled.” he writes, to close the three-page “IT LIVES UP A DEAD SPACE,” Love in the / time of parking. // More New / Urbanist horseshit // about the form / of the city.” Or, the poem “URBANIZATION AS METHOD,” that includes:

Don’t get
too attached
to models
 

like the heart
or lungs
or bodily whatever.
 

I mean,
my everyday
is pretty small.
 

Tied to the utopia
of not needing
to drive everywhere.

There is, as I said, an interesting interplay of influence between Calgary and Vancouver; shades of Jeff Derksen and Colin Smith against his own Calgary-influenced origins, working through his Bowering-inspired lyric study around the “social intimacy” of two particular western Canadian geographies. His sequence “BAD MAPS” might be the best example of this, crafting five short bursts of untitled stanzas to close the collection, one to a page:

Padlock heart.

Neighbourhood expert, expat, etc.

Some body, huh?

Security gates, simulations, etc.

A crowbar busting relation.

He might lift the framing from Bowering (who relocated from Vancouver not directly for the sake of “work,” but to attend the University of Calgary), but there are cadences and line-breaks that feel more akin to that of Vancouver poet Fred Wah, a poet who held a teaching position at the University of Calgary for quite a long period (including during fitzpatrick’s own University of Calgary student-tenure), before retiring in 2005 and returning, himself, back to the coast. Even the suggestion that much of this collection was first composed in-transit, offering a way to interrupt and trouble his thinking, is comparable to Wah’s “drunken tai chi”: distracting the conscious mind so that the unconscious might better take the wheel. One could also point to Wah’s own long engagement with similar strands of “social intimacy,” something far more overt and radical in Wah’s work than, say, the work of George Bowering. fitzpatrick speaks of articulating a social engagement of space, attuned to the responsibilities of community, and the class distinctions that offer different opportunies and alternate perspectives, including critiquing the way both prairie poetry and coastal poetics have engaged with some of those same spaces, such as the poem “THERE’S A LIMIT TO YOUR LOVE,” that includes:

Only weather’s
much different

when Christina
Sharpe writes it.

The relational sway
of antiblackness

catching in
the chinook

differently than
Kroetsch’s walk

through those
Beltline streets

where getting lost
can break

the city’s
oppressive grid

because he’s
not being policed.

And perhaps that is the distraction that fitzpatrick speaks of, during his 2015 Touch the Donkey interview (fitpatrick has also worked on the Fred Wah Digital Archive, for example, which would suggest a deeper awareness of Wah’s ongoing work), faking left but veering right, or even straight on ahead. The outer shape of Bowering’s framing might have offered him the prompt, but what resides within is entirely different, structured around and through an alternate set of concerns, cadences and complications. As fitzpatrick spoke of his evolving shifts in writing and attention in that earlier interview:

I’ve gotten relationally messier and formally cleaner. I’ve moved to longer forms with more iteration that attempt to retain an unpredictability. I’ve ached to find ways to cut to the chase politically while also smuggling that politics into a seemingly tame package. I’ve moved to uglier content. I’ve gotten more laughs by being more sincere. I’ve tried to undercut expectations through long form set-ups and disruptions. And mostly, I’ve increasingly tried to give myself the time and space to work out increasingly complex sets of ideas that emerge from simple problems and hunches.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Evan Nicholls, Holy Smokes: Poems + Collages

 

Cowpokes

Help! We have been lassoed into a J.J. Cale song & cannot find our way out. No matter how many cattle we push, creeks we cross. Every morning, we wake up like the snow on the mountain. Which is to say, under a bright trance. Somehow steady. Like your hand or the moon. Our hearts go moo. This part of the trail—you can call it fate or a preposition. The cruel square dance, a corner a season. Rope. It’s where we’re always at.

Virginia poet and artist Evan Nicholls’ debut is Holy Smokes: Poems + Collages (Syracuse NY/Exeter NH: Ghost City Press, 2021), a collection of prose poems and full-colour collage. Given this title is softbound (not stapled) and some sixty pages, I’m uncertain how this is referred to as a “chapbook”; I would certainly call this a full-length collection. The poems sit in two sections on either side of a middle section, comprised entirely of full-colour collage works, and the counterpoint of collage prose poem to collage visual adds a curious element to the reading of both, suggesting the echoed nature of composition for both his visual and written forms. The bulk of the poems collected here are set as single-stanza prose poems, although he does also include the occasional poem with more traditional line-breaks, including points where he uses the line breaks as a way to almost disrupt the line, disrupting the cadence and the meaning. “Contrary to what the newsreels say I feel,” he writes, to open the first poem of the collection, “Wildfire,” “cold on the inside I came West to plunge / my body into the Pacific They call me Death / Tell Rising This is not my first name My real / name was whispered to me by a paper-dry / leaf hopping & dragging like a flightless bird [.]” Otherwise, this is a collection of odd little narratives and short bursts, composed via an accumulation of sentences and phrases into folksy and surreal lyric narratives comparable to the prose bursts of writers such as Benjamin Niespodziany, Stuart Ross or Gary Barwin; set in that space between what might be considered flash fiction and prose poem, existing somewhere purely between.

There is a particular self-amused joyousness to these pieces, a confident curiosity that runs through his collection of short narratives. His poems offer a curious humour, such as “Hell Rejects Hannibal Barca (& Rules It a Suicide),” composed as a rejection memo from Hell to Hannibal (b. 247 BC), the Carthaginian general and statesman who famously took elephants over the Alps during his war with Italy during the Second Punic War of 218 BC. “We were pleased to consider your application,” the poem begins, “& to speak with you about our opening on The Board, the most exclusive circle of Hell. However, we are unable to offer you a spot at this time.” I am very much looking forward to seeing what Evan Nicholls does next.

The Dot

Our son was born with a dot above the bridge of his nose. So, naturally, he was a leopard. Our son was a firefighting dog. An i or an ! or the blue planet seen from space. As planned, all this lying worked wonders for his confidence. He grew up knowing he could be anything. He became a good husband and a good father. Our son bought his family a house. Took his kids to the grocery store. We were so proud. Till one day, at the grocery store, the dot became a sniper dot and blew his grey matter across a pallet of tangerines. We knew we had failed him when the president and the check-out girl knocked on our front door, said, You failed that boy.