Thursday, March 23, 2023

Ongoing notes: late March, 2023: Amanda Earl + Nada Gordon,

I can’t believe you’ve been missing out on our thirteenth annual VERSeFest: you know you can stream each of our events for free, yes? Whether live or archived? There’s so much going on!

Ottawa ON/Montreal QC: From James Hawes’ Turret House Press comes Ottawa poet Amanda Earl’s latest chapbook, Fear of Elevators (2023). Given how much of her past few years have featured heavily on producing visual works, most of which is part of her work-in-progress “The Vispo Bible,” it is good to see Earl still exploring ideas through text as well. Working through her anxieties around elevators, living on the nineteenth floor of a downtown Ottawa apartment building, her introduction to the collection begins: “Fear of Elevators began when the elevators in my building were being repaired and replaced.” Constructed as a collage of prose—essay, fiction, fairy tale, archive, memoir—and poetry, from the narrative lyric to the visual. Earl playfully moves back and forth with ease across fragments and directions, and even offers her own reworking of Robert Frost’s infamous poem “The Road Not Taken” (first published, as I’m sure you know full well, in the August 1915 issue of The Atlantic) through her poem, “The Elevator Not Taken.” She manages to echo the cadence and rhythms of Frost’s piece quite well, and the playfulness of this particular poem is rather delightful, as the first half reads: “Two elevators fell and rose in a highrise. / And glad I could not travel both. / And be one traveler, long I stood. / And looked up at once as high as I could. / To where it lurked on the top floor. / Then took the other, as just as dangerous. / But having perhaps the more expedient claim, / because it had arrived and I had to pee. / Though as for that elevator passing / there was a worn down as the other, / really about the same.”

There is something curious about the way Earl utilizes collage for this particular item, furthering a structure she’s been employing for a while now, simultaneously pencilling a through-line across what might be seen as a scattershot of layered sections, one on top of each other. The effect is interesting, and one she’s explored for some time, with varying degrees of success. It is interesting to see her expand the possibilities of chapbook-length structure; might this be something eventually book-length as well?

In the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, Japan there have been 32 accidents involving the revolving door since the building’s opening in April. A six year old boy was killed. Seven people became stuck in the revolving doors & three had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance for treatment after suffering serious injuries. The company also said 20 accidents have occurred involving smaller, hand-pushed revolving doors. The sensor doesn’t activate at first & the door continues to revolve for at least 25 centimetres. Mori Building is Japan’s biggest private developer. Sanwa shutter fell 14 yen, or 2.2 percent to 619, on Friday.

Evil revolving door tries to kill clueless innocent people! Looks like someone tries to enter the wrong way from the left? Is this a hit and run? Or is the wind blowing too fast? The glass shattered perfectly fine, like safety glass is supposed to: Instead of large dangerous pieces of glass which could kill, safety glass breaks into tiny pieces which won’t do as much damage.

Brooklyn NY: For a while now, Brooklyn poet Jordan Davis has been producing chapbook-length volumes of selected poems, one of the latest is by Brooklyn-based American poet Nada Gordon, her The Swing of Things (Subpress, 2022). This is the first of Gordon’s works I’ve encountered, so I’m unaware of the larger scope or scale of her work, so this “remix” is a curious introduction, and one reminiscent of how Phil Hall reworked selected scraps to assemble his own critical “selected poem,” Guthrie Clothing: The Poetry of Phil Hall, a Selected Collage (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015) [see my write-up on such here]. The chapbook-length poem “The Swing of Things” is structured through untitled sections (as well as an array of photographs, some of which suggest their own collage-works), short bursts that exist across each page; some of which group, or even cluster, allowing for its own kind of collage-work possibility. Her visuals and text both suggest the familiar but one that is twisted, turned and shaped into what is unerringly new, and some of which is just enough to unsettle, question or even simply wonder. Gordon’s poems hold a delightful heft, subtle in its play and dark corners, writing from both the shadow and the sudden light.

I believe in meerkats –
Where’re you from, you long skinny
curious dark-eyed thing?


If I fall into the hole of this poem
will you pull me out?
It’s a hairy catastrophe,


like putting HOT PINK PAINT
on an apocalyptic feeling, stinking a little
of the would-be sublime

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