Wednesday, September 20, 2023

filling Station #81 : Some Kind of Dopamine Hit

It has been a while since I’ve done a write-up on Calgary’s filling Station magazine, not having writ anything since filling Station issue #57 : showcase of experimental writing by women (2014) [see my review of such here]—an issue worth picking up, if they have any left—so perhaps we’re due (although why does the issue itself offer no more than a number and year? is this a spring issue, winter issue, autumn issue, what?). As usual, there’s some striking work in this issue, following a fine history and trajectory of experimental writing centred in those Canadian prairies. filling Station has, since I first took notice of it somewhere back in the mid-1990s, one of the few journals I regularly attend, alongside The Capilano Review, FENCE magazine, headlight anthology, p-queue and a handful of others, for always managing to publish fresh work, and often by writers I hadn’t previously been aware of. For example, there’s the poem “Milk River” by self-described emerging Calgary poet Lee Thomas, a piece unselfconsciously lyric, and offering both a languid quality and a sharpness that is quite lovely, rolling down the length of the page akin to a prairie breeze across landscape: “and I think I might love // the way the badlands kiss the sky / how the sandstone yields / a trembling sigh, and the prairie grass / yields to the wind,/ and we to the sagebrush night-hush, / and I think I might love // the way you transmute water into laughter / an alchemical recollection of the seas / that surged across these plains.” And who is this Bertrand Bickersteth, providing some stunning poems shaped as visuals through the paired poem “A Black Hand Revisits”?

There are some fascinating visual rhythms in the poem “Words Whispered 4, 5” by Nova Scotia Acadian poet and playwright Thibault Jacquot-Paratte, staggering a staccato down the page through halting hesitations and visual strokes. As well, Calgary writer Kevin Stebner offers a short sequence of really interesting visual pieces, each of which were produced via the manual typewriter. The poems are included in this issue with accompanying write-up, that includes: “Throughout the process, I’ve become quite preoccupied with the idea of stereopsis, the ways in which our brains perceive 3 dimensions on a 2D page. Much of what I’ve attempted with these pieces is to make your brain juggle and flip an image, trying to find that moment where a cube will fold through itself. There is a joy in being able to do so especially within the confines of the handful of keystrokes.” And one can never go wrong with a poem by Stan Rogal, offering a narrative saunter across line breaks and playful sounds and rhythm. “now Ou Li Po / is firm,” he writes, as part of his sly poem-critique “Ou Li Po Re-writes Catallus N+7,” “hearse doesn’t search for yo-yo : / won’t ask unwillingly / but yo-yo will grieve when noggin asks / womb to yo-yo, wicked glacier, what ligature’s left for yo-yo?” Did you know the issue also has a poem by Stan Rogal?

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