Thursday, December 08, 2022

ongoing notes: Jo Ianni, Leslie Joy Ahenda + Ryan Eckes,

[Cameron Anstee/Apt 9 Press]

We made it through another ottawa small press book fair! Can you believe it? The event was grand, by the way, and a packed house (with a few dearly missed friends/exhibitors, but we shall see them soon enough). And Pearl Pirie even posted a report on such, which was nice. Might the world be opening up again, slowly? Be aware as well that we’re returning to our holiday parties via The Peter F Yacht Club; mark your calendars for December 27th, everyone.

Toronto/Ottawa ON: From Cameron Anstee’s Apt. 9 Press comes inside inside inside (2022) by Jo Ianni, a Toronto-based performer, poet and organizer. Given Ianni’s work as a performer, I’m finding the visual elements of his poems absolutely fascinating, and would be interested to hear how a performer would perform such works that exude such visual properties, stack and staccatoed and staggered:

reappears in a
cur from
all that noise

There’s such a propulsion to these fragments, one that exists simultaneously with the fine precision of small, deliberate points, one word set carefully against another, a structure that sits closer to the aesthetic of the works of poets such as Nelson Ball, Michael e. Casteels and Anstee himself.

The sun welds me to
this here place
A shattered pair of glasses
in the gutter
Walking into sunrise ( everywhere )
big cabbage leafs
grow  make their shapes making
their shapes touch
and a bird shits good luck on my shoulder
Tries to

Toronto ON/Calgary AB: I’m intrigued by the twists and turns of Toronto/Tkaronto poet Leslie Joy Ahenda’s chapbook-length sequence The Republic of Home (2022), as published by Kyle Flemmer’s The Blasted Tree. Self-described on the title page as a poem “after / Inventory by Dionne Brand,” Ahenda’s meditative sequence, composed across November 2021, provides an increasing tally of dead across a temporal expanse. “twenty-four thousand two hundred and sixty-one,” she writes, to open the fifth section, “the children, the children, / two hundred and fifteen children, / then more, and more, and more // what else could possibly matter?” There’s a mutability to this poem, a shifting, almost a shimmering, to her structure that is intriguing, one that moves in and out of focus, allowing for a shift in states that is just enough to keep a reader slightly off-balance, including the shifts between numbering, moving from standard numbering to Roman numerals and back again. “then men here declare themselves / innocent of all events,” the fifth poem continues, “those that have happened / and those to come /// twenty-five thousand five hundred and forty-seven [.]” Ahenda incorporates Brand’s lines into her poem, weaving them into a lyric of mourning, of loss, one that can’t be fathomed but needs to be accounted, documented. “the dead, at least,” she writes, as part of “VII,” insist / on remaining countable / at least this [.]” Composed during the Covid era, she speaks of numbers but only hints at specifics, offering “when a woman mustn’t have that child,” as she writes in part eleven, “when, again, the men here say / she will and she’ll enjoy it? // when, again, a young man injures one, / murders two—let’s call it by its name, / no sense beating around these men— / without consequence?” One can only hope she is working on a full-length manuscript; I am very interested in seeing more work from her.


twenty thousand one hundred and thirty-two


let’s forget all this then

we instead pass our time
decanting each other’s bodies
as if aged, precisely, in oak, as
if precious, as if necessary

we forget every corpse along
the wind-stormed commute
to our bed where the sun casts,
for a moment, a paisley glow

on the wood-panelled floor,
the honeyed walls, the creeping ivy,
until, oh, those corpses spill in
through the window, so quiet

we didn’t, at first, take note—
at last, briefly, occupied


twenty-two thousand and one

Philadelphia PA: I’ve been taken with Philadelphia poet Ryan Eckes’ work for some time [see my review of a prior chapbook here], continuing his anti-capitalist lyric in the chapbook Old Light (Radiator Press, 2022). The poems assembled in this chapbook are each constructed through a kind of collage of direct statements that offer shapes not shown on the page, writing lines around a silence, an unspoken something, enough to provide it not only shape but voice. “most people have a name an address,” he writes, as part of the opening poem, “under the table,” “it’s true // you can buy lottery tickets for everyone in your family // you can read the sunday paper to your dog [.]” He writes of labour, economy and capitalism, articulating a working class lyric set in the shadow of language poetry and the prose poem. Isn’t Eckes due for another trade collection soon? I would certainly hope so.


i keep getting ads to be an uber driver, which reminds me of a term i learned in chile for adjunct professors—los profesores taxis—and a poem by russell edson in which a taxi driver turns into canaries as his car flies thru a wall and back out again. that’s where i’m at, jobwise. a cluster of canaries flying toward you. in chile, students started evading subway fares and it turned into a rebellion. now their government has to re-write the constitution. in the u.s., fascists are wearing t-shirts that way “pinochet did nothing wrong.” republicans and democrats have long agreed, so has the ny times: capitalism is the only way, they say, and some apples are bad. so the government keeps killing black people and jailing those who fight back. every employer encourages you to vote. your employer is running against your employer. they’ll never pay enough. how are you getting home tonight?

No comments: