Friday, June 03, 2022

Ongoing notes: early June, 2022 : Douglas Piccinnini + Sarah Burgoyne,

Did you notice when we posted a new poem-a-day throughout April over at the Chaudiere Books blog, as part of our ninth annual acknowledgement of National Poetry Month (I mean, you did notice that, right?). And of course, the new issue of periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics, where I’ve also been interviewing the shortlist for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize?

New England: I’ve been going through American poet Douglas Piccinnini’s [see my 2016 “12 or 20 questions” interview here] latest title, the chapbook A WESTERN SKY (Greying Ghost, 2022), a lovely title produced in a numbered edition of seventy-five copies. Piccinnini’s A WESTERN SKY is a twenty-nine poem sequence of fragments composed as a lyric meditation on change and space. He writes an abstract sequence on breaks and blocks, attempting to reach beyond the boundaries of this sequence of sketch-out notes into something larger. “Money, no money – // say where to speak and break,” he writes, early on in the collection, “the clockhands as my own. // The hands of a prisoner speaking up. // Don’t let them hit you. / Don’t let them take you apart.”

The future approaches as if it were fixed—no
days but days multiply. Rooms of a house
you know and have entered—remember

change—this custom like a place you feel

studded in a sky, swept away, in a substance
like a signal departing as it arrives, to keep time

to see a tree top touched breeze
to say that, for example, you lose
the keys everywhere to find them.

Montreal QC: You’ve probably heard that Montreal poet James Hawes started a chapbook press, yes? Over at his Turret House, one of the most recent titles is Sarah Burgoyne’s Double House (2022) [see my review of her latest book here], a handful of poems composed during, as she writes in a brief note to introduce the poems, “domestic exile,” thanks in no small part to Covid-19 lockdowns. As she writes: “Something had begun to come up in the poems I was writing and the poems my friends were writing: domesticity (b)loomed. Our interior spaces puffed up their lungs and insisted on their presence in our work. I started to see my home more and more like a living body—with currents, with moods, with breath (sometimes poisonous), with infection, also. I came to know much more intimately the rhythms of my hitherto unknown housemates (a pigeon and a mouse) and they inevitably made their way into my poems. In a way, through domestic exile and through these poems, I discovered the porousness of my home’s conceptual borders (and its physical borders every time the mouse emerged).” I’m fascinated by the shifts in Burgoyne’s work through this small collection, an assemblage of experiments, one might say, as much as anything else, flexing her muscles and seeing what other possibilities the lyric might offer, or allow. Also, there’s something really interesting in the way she notes at the back of the collection, how the poem “Double House Poem” was composed “by adapting one of C.A. Conrad’s (Soma)tic exercises. I studied the light in every room of my house. I listened to my refrigerator. I made myself steamed broccoli with olive oil and salt. I lay on the floor listening to Philip Glass’s ‘Music in Contrary Motion’ and reflected on violence.’” Honestly, in many ways, the writing she offers to speak of her writing, and her process, is equally interesting to the writing itself, and this small collection offers tidbits of both. And the poem itself, “Double House Poem,” that includes:

The sink is my palm, upturned on the floor
for you. Think of your house. Descend.

The fig tree’s shadow is a ladder
for you to climb.

Press your ear to the fridge
inside is a cautious poet echoing your poem.


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