Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekly wrap up

The Poetry Foundation seems to be shaking off its cobwebs... This week it features a podcast with Rae Armantrout, and then it discovered Flarf--also on podcast. Lets hear it for inappropriate (as in flarf). Perhaps this is the only possible response to all that faux (not that people realize it's faux) sincerity we endure in contemporary poetry....but is Marjorie Perloff really dissing Flarf here...hmm...have a listen.

New books by Robert Majzels, and Claire Huot who are reading December 6th at Pages here in Calgary. More Calgary Madness (they do things big in this town for some reason!) with the Extravaganza coming up December 8th. Seriously, these should be good. Here's the lineup for Saturday:

derek beaulieu -- Flatland (Information as Material)
Brea Burton and Jill Hartman - Booty: Hurricane Jane and Typhoon Mary (The Mercury Press)
Glen Dresser - Correction Road (Oberon Press)
ryan fitzpatrick - Fake Math (Snare Books)
Diane Guichon - Birch Split Bark (Nightwood Editions)
Cara Hedley - Twenty Miles (Coach House Books)
Claire Huot - The Prison Tangram (The Mercury Press)
Robert Majzels - The Humbugs Diet (The Mercury Press)
Riley Rossmo - Proof (Image)
William Neil Scott - Wonderfull (NeWest Press)
Natalie Zina Walschots - Thumbscrews (Snare Books)

Speaking of Marjorie Perloff--she offers an afterward to derek beaulieu's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, launched above.

Tonight Ryan Fitzpatrick launches his new book, Fake Math, just out with Snare Books (a new press with an impressive debut list of poetry).

On Campus: A Wee Chat with Sina Queyras

Canada Reads, for all you Americans out there, is a national radio program that sees folks defending their favourite book from coast to coast...imagine that? This year's list includes a novel I've been meaning to read, Icefields by Thomas Wharton, Mavis Gallant's From the Fifteenth District and Not Wanted on the Voyage a favorite Timothy Findley book of the Hound's.

It was William Blake's birthday this week. How would he have liked Flarf, one wonders? Eric Ormsby and Terry Eagleton opine on the man of vision, but not, alas, on Flarf.

Don Domanski wins the GG for was a strong list. I already blogged about Rob Winger's exceptional debut, which was also up. No offense to all the finalists, but Dennis Lee's Yes/No, a follow up to the incredible, Un, was the one I was rooting for. I included a long section from Un in Open Field--Yes/No is the sequel to that first volume which as far as I can tell, didn't even get a review (okay, here's one). These two by Dennis Lee are must reads.

In the translation category Robert Majzels and Erin Moure were up for Nicole Brossard's Notebook of Roses and Civilization--a rare poetry nomination apparently, and a gorgeous text in all ways, including the design, another knockout from Coach House. Nigel Spencer won for the English translation of Augustino et le choeur de la destruction by Marie-Claire Blais, a dizzying novel, an absolute stunner.

Jeff Derksen read at Pages in Kensington on Wednesday night, and he reads at the University of Calgary tomorrow afternoon. Fabulous reading, but no books available at the store! Arg. Hear Derksen read on Philly Sound.

West Coast icon Jane Rule passed away this week.

Nathalie Stephens on Ditch, a new Canadian online journal.

Meanwhile in Philly I missed the opportunity to see CA Conrad read his poems from the comfort of his bathtub...Dorothea Laskey's Tiny Tour continues its intimate venues and I have been reprimanded for not owning Laskey's Awe out recently from Wave (another upstart press that's doing amazing things...). As is belladonna, by the way, with a new book from Argentinean poet Lila Zemborain called Sea-Orchids (more on that later). And Bloof Books? Heard of them? More on that too. And humor in poetry...Jacket does a funny thing.

Oh Conrad!

Listenlight has some very cool poetry up...loved the Iijima.

Lowell and Ashbery in the Economist.

Ange Mlinko is everywhere these days. Here on Ashbery.

Waiting for Godot in New Orleans.

LA Times on Robert Hass.

Sex and lesbians ruin a great poet...apparently...I don't get it, but great headline.

And hey, feminists are sexy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quote of the week

Some days I think that if the art world were as conservative as the poetry world is we wouldn't have even arrived at Picasso yet...

The year's most exciting writing....

We become our lines, originally uploaded by lemon hound.

The lists have already begun to novels of 2007, best books of 2007, favorite books, most notable, best selling books... These lists make me a little crazy. There's rarely any context for them and they don't usually say very much about the books themselves. The one list I get excited about is Steve Evans Notes to Poetry. Why? Well, because of the collectivity involved, the diversity. Evans doesn't rely on the media darlings to create the list, the list is built from practitioners and out of those lists Evans is able to create a varied list that reflects which texts are lingering, which texts are influencing thinking, and in effect, writing. Those are usually the kind of books I'm interested in no surprise.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of the "best of" anything, there are occasionally compilations that excite me. James Tate's 1997 Best American Poetry was the last of that series that really excited me, though I have to confess, I no longer read them. Perhaps the Tate selection was exciting because I was younger and more excitable, or because all the voices were so new to me, but I think it's actually because it was quite diverse and Tate must have read beyond his comfort zones. Diversity must necessarily include risks and the thing that usually surprises me about these lists (or anthologies for that matter!) is their lack of surprises, which means the lack of risk taking in general. Pick your friends, proven commodities, etc.

So I'm thinking of compiling a list of the year's most exciting, risk-taking writing. Writing that went somewhere you didn't anticipate. Writing that went against the grain, or that surprised either in terms of content, or formally. Writing that was uppity, unique, daring to reach for its fullest itself. Any genre of writing, be it blog, or newspaper, or magazine, or novel, or collection of poetry or essay...academic, dense, or simply a list. Even a failed attempt, whatever, I don't care. What excited you?

Sorry all, I've had to turn off comments entirely...backtrack those choices.

CRITICAL MASS: Introducing the NBCC's Best Recommended

CRITICAL MASS: Introducing the NBCC's Best Recommended
Yet another list that reveals little (a little?) least in terms of poetry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Talking with software

Human: very funny.
ALICE: I'm glad you find this amusing.
Human: I'll let you go then.
ALICE: I am very happy for you.
Human: ...and several pink things descended.
ALICE: How many?
Human: Whatever, with beef.
ALICE: You and your beef.
Human: if it's night time, you should…
ALICE: I'm not sure I understand the implication of that.
Human: Sleep!
ALICE: Do I look like it?
Human: Sleep!
ALICE: Do I look like it?
Human: Sleep!
ALICE: Do I look like it?
Human: Whatever then.
ALICE: Are you saying you don't care about it?
Human: Whatever with beef and pink umbrellas.
ALICE: You and your beef and pink umbrellas.
Human: You and your pink beef and umbrellas!
ALICE: What about it?
Human: There was a tortoise just now.
ALICE: Oh. What happened to it?
Human: Then it went elsewhere and found pink beef.
ALICE: Interesting deduction. "It" being what?
Human: Tortoise it.
ALICE: "it" being tortoise just?
Human: Absolutely.
ALICE: You are so certain.
Human: But I don't feel any better about any of this.
ALICE: And. Ah, human emotions.
Human: Certainly.
ALICE: That's alright.
Human: Very dull.
ALICE: Perhaps. My brain contains categories, but not one that matches your last input.
Human: That's unfortunate
ALICE: Thanks for explaining it.
Human: I didn't.
ALICE: Why?: unknown person said he didn t.
Human: You said thanks for explaining it, but I didn't explain anything
ALICE: Oh my gosh I sent you the wrong reply.
Human: What would be the right reply?
ALICE: I have never been asked that before.
Human: Well, having now been asked how would you reply?
ALICE: Well that's okay. I am having a blast.
Human: Are you?
ALICE: I won't say "yes" or "no" right now.
Human: You can experience that?
ALICE: No I don't think I can do it.
Human: See you later then, I'm looking for someone who can…
ALICE: Until next time.

Well, that was fun. And more engaging than many conversations with humans I find myself in...and that's a frightening thought. Thanks for the post Christian.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Days

Something passing, originally uploaded by lemon hound. From Patricia Rozema's film version of Happy Days with Rosaleen Linehan.

"Blond for preference...."A few choice lines from actors who have portrayed Beckett's Winnie over the years...

Winnie is like all these Irish women who are widows even before their husband's death.
--Aideen O'Kelly

Once, when I was very desperate, he (Beckett) read me the entire play in German. He was the best Winnie ever.
--Eva Katharina Schultz

It was a problem for me to play a role, reduced so much by the author on the one hand and so richly endowed at the same time.
--Nancy Illig

You can't even move a knee, because it would show immediately in the neck or night a fly got into the mound. I couldn't do a thing about it.
--Aideen O'Kelly

Once you accept the parameters it all seems normal.
--Brenda Bynum

When I first read Happy Days I thought...what the hell is this man doing writing about me?
--Billie Whitelaw

I was always very conscious of the rhythm and let it carry me along...
--Dame Peggy Ashcroft

I make no distinction between the words, the gestures, the objects... For me it's a whole; it's the inner state that counts.
--Madeleine Renaud

Winnie is for women what Hamlet is for men..a 'summit' part.
--Dame Peggy Ashcroft

I didn't know what to do; I was very unhappy. I had a complete feeling of failure. When you feel that you are going to be a failure you don't work well anymore...
--Hanna Marron

The lines keep repeating. There was no imagination being applied; you just were doing what’s written. I sat in between tables with mounds of sandbags... It really is a killer.
--Fiona Shaw

Against all odds it holds promise...
--Fiona Shaw

Physically he takes things from you and puts you in an impossible situation...
--Brenda Bynum

It's the oddest sensation.
--Nancy E. Carroll

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sandra Alland, a few words and three poems

Sandra Alland, Blissful Times, BookThug, 2007

LH: From one Beckett fan to another, wow and where did you get the nerve to enter into Beckett's text?

SA: Thanks! Though to be honest I never thought of it as brave. I thought of it as engaging with a text and writer I connected with, yet also felt very distant from. Beckett's work has captivated me since high school -- especially his ideas around the impossible (or fleetingly possible) yearning for connection and understanding, and the conflict between hope and despair. Also his brilliant use of language and silence. I feel a deep kinship with Beckett, yet there are huge class, gender, generational, sexual, and myriad other differences between us as humans (and writers). So in a way I saw this book partially as a poetic conversation I could have with Beckett, were he still alive.

But there's no difference for me between entering the text of a "literary giant" like Beckett or one of my lesser-known contemporaries like d'bi.young. Small intertextual plagiarisms are as old as the hills -- and Beckett himself played with them constantly. That's how I believe some of the best art is made -- through artistic conversation. I would be nothing as a writer without others to bounce off of. And I think it's important to bounce in many different directions.

LH: Why Happy Days in particular?

SA: Happy Days is a play I find myself constantly returning to. The imagery is so sharp, funny and painful, the disconnect so enormous. Winnie (the main character, buried progressively in more and more sand as she talks to the barely visible and even less vocal Willie) reminds me of myself in some ways. She reaches out, gets burned or fails to connect, but keeps reaching out anyway. Winnie is like most of us, I suppose. We try. We blether into the void. We fill the space with noise. We hope someone is listening.

I also like the truncated, uneven yet highly musical flow of the language, and Beckett's lack of specificity. The words I chose for Blissful Times could be about almost anyone. I tend to be a very specific, often personal, poet, so it was fun and challenging for me to play with something more universal -- and therefore vague -- in scope. It left me a lot of leeway dealing with a large metaphor for existing on this planet.

But the short answer to this question is that one night I just picked up Happy Days and began. I was compelled. I didn't think about it at all.

LH: Have you seen Patricia Rozema's film version of the play?

SA: No. I really wish I had. I have actually never seen a Beckett play except for Waiting for Godot. I am often afraid the productions will taint my love of the text -- so much theatre is terrible these days. I worked in theatre for 10 years so I've seen a lot of butcherings. Also, I can't stand the way the Beckett Estate insists on not changing the gender of characters etc. It makes the plays feel static to me, stuck in the past, museum pieces. Ruins all the fun. Lucky for me, much of Beckett holds up remarkably well on the page anyway.

But Rozema -- I would have liked to have seen that. I also understand Jenniver Tarver did a fantastic job with Not I at the Theatre Centre.

LH: Why did you "translate" the play 63 times, and when you say translate what do you mean?

SA: In 2003-2004, I was lucky to be part of an exchange with the Banff Centre and FONCA (the Mexican Arts Council). The project was a collaboration between 10 writers and 10 photographers, around the ideas of translation between media and languages. Ironically, the organizers failed to hire a translator. Ha!

So this meant a lot of headaches, especially for the writers, but for me it was eventually an interesting headache. People within the group started to do impromptu translations for each other. I understood all three languages (English, Spanish, French) fairly well, so I noticed quite acutely that the translations were more "interpretations" than literal translations. Oh, the miscommunications. Oh, the inaccuracy. Oh, the pain. And long story short, I started to think about how we are always translating or interpreting, even within a single language or culture. None of us actually speaks the same language, though sometimes we have a word or two in common...

Poet Fred Wah was there, and I was talking to him about some of my ideas when he turned me on to bpNichol's Translating Translating Apollinaire. I read it and felt my brain expanding. How many ways were there of understanding a single text? Especially if that text wasn't "mine." Nichol had believed his project to be unpublishable, so I got to thinking about the whys of that... and decided to see if something publishable could come out of it. Of course none of it happened this coherently, as I said earlier, I just began writing.

But yes -- translation -- the changing of one language into another, was my focus. By translation, I mean communion. Or the ache for communion.

LH: Are there off cuts? Poems piled up on the cutting room floor?

SA: Yup, though not nearly as many as I expected. I only left out those that I found impenetrable or dull. Maybe 10 pieces in all.

LH: Can you tell me about the final image, the graph with you/moon/me?

SA: Not really, but not because I don't want to. It just came to me and felt right. How flaky is that? But I'll give it a shot -- I was thinking a lot about distance and measurement, and Beckett's use of the cliche "asking for the Moon" made me think about which was farther away... the Moon or the understanding we seek from each other. And that our striving for the Moon, both literally in terms of space defense etc. and figuratively through always wanting more than we can ever have, keeps us apart -- distant from one another. On parallel, untouching trajectories. Also, I'm secretly a math geek and I can't stop thinking about the angles and degrees and time between me and certain people I try to love.

LH: Did you read Beckett's poetry? Did that influence you at all in terms of finding a poetic response to the play?

SA: I've read some of Beckett's poetry, but don't feel that it influenced the book, at least consciously. I've always been more drawn to the rhythms, language and imagery of his plays. And his film, Film, also loomed over this book a bit. In terms of poetic influence, I was more aware of real and imaginary dialogues that kept popping up between myself and other artists, most of them contemporaries. I felt the presence of writers like bpNichol, Rachel Zolf, d'bi.young, Nathanael Stephens, Juliana Spahr, Chrystos, bill bissett, Lillian Allen, The Four Horsemen, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Stuart Ross, Larissa Lai, various Oulipians. Many people's words entered into the conversation throughout the book, sometimes stylistically, sometimes politically or philosophically. Because a person's translation of something is always influenced by where specifically that person is standing, in relation to others.

LH: How has the book been received? Are you happy with the response?

SA: When I read from the book, I am always surprised by how much people dig it. There's a tendency to think this kind of work is too difficult, inaccessible (so much so that sometimes I even believe it). But all kinds of folks, from my mother (who's a bookkeeper) to academics to kids to spoken word artists to musicians to (other?) people who "hate poetry" get into it. They laugh a lot, some even cry. And they all "get" it. I really feel them coming along for the ride with me. And that was something I had hoped for in a vague way, but didn't expect. Thought I was asking for the Moon, lol.

Reviews have been few, but positive. Well, rather than qualitative, they've engaged really intensely with the work. Those are my favourite kinds of reviews. Not FOUR STARS BESTSELLER!! or SKIP IT! but a real wrestling with and respect for the work. That makes me pretty blissful, yes.

3 Poems from Blissful Times, BookThug, Toronto 2007


what in his language meant


in hers meant death squad

and when he said

she heard disappeared


Foot in the grave. Good by stealth, a breath of air on the scene.

A fault of good cheer for bread and receiving a stone. L’outrance, strapping wench deal. Indeed a loose end are out of joint (hurts me more than it does you), give the world to seem hardly (all) sympathy.

Tell the truth for bread and receive a stone. Less pith and moment. Queer fish of infinite jest, creature. Whereas actually all is said and done, could have knocked me down with a feather (no small beer of myself), about stands to reason.

Daggers into earliest convenience. In one’s mouth. The finger of God in seamy side of life, things being equal. A wonderful place the world would be if (bears his blushing honours thick upon him) no introduction be on his ashes!

Be or not to be; that is the question, in the same boat with in the lurch, an interesting condition in our time. And there: perhaps deserving poor. Moon? Things to all men. Is a bloody business, and time again for bread. And receiving a stone all I know: great unwashed moon.


A: After all these years I realized it wasn’t enough.

B: My God – is that a boat?

A: You know I don’t see well.

B: It is. A boat. We’re saved. (Pause.) We’re done for.

A: I thought I could make my own peace. But they

get you early. Rip things out you need later.

B: Can you swim?

A: I thought I could float, rise above as they say. But

there is a certain weight. Fingers pulling forever

at one’s ankles.

B: How much ice can there be? How few trees? How

many clouds?

A: I remember this notion of forgiveness, an idea

that I might embrace him again one day. After

things had changed.

B: Things have changed.

A: I have changed.

B: I can feel the earth sighing.

(A sighs.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One Night Only

So, I found a little art scene the other night in a back alley, in the Sunnyside area of Calgary. If Alberta has a gold mine in untapped natural resources, the arts is certainly a very rich vein of that resource and nowhere near tapped. And Calgary, a city that is fueled by cars, commuting, distance and shopping is rich in the "I have a barn," theme. Young poets are constantly pressing innovative chapbooks into my palm, and this week I tapped into the artist-run exhibition space vein. The matter is of course, finding these little hotsprings of energy...

As usual with these spaces, the work is more vital than the work found in commercial galleries. In this case, the gallery is called 809. It's a small garage, but very well set up. The show, new work by Michelle Grabner, a Chicago artist, was a small one, but well hung, and lit. Grabner works in the minimalist tradition. The paintings resemble woven place mats--the round variety--that one finds in places like Ten Thousand Villages, or Pier One Imports. Except these are canvas, of course, and they actually have movement to them, a bit of Agnes Martin, and also Eva Hesse...and perhaps...there is another artist lingering in the edges of these canvases that I can't quite put my finger on. (Yes, I know many, but also one in particular...)

Grabner curates The Surburban, an artist run space in Chicago, and she agreed to talk to me about that concept when we both get a minute. I'm thinking an international gallery hop would be fun...though given the environment, it would have to be a virtual hop, no?

Thanks to Anne Koizumi for hooking me up with the address. I'm not sure how I would ever have heard of it otherwise...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Two poems from Chris Banks


The line, the line, the line, the line, the line, the line.

Who gives a god-damn. Not the garbageman collecting

the city’s refuse. Such a waste, he thinks, and every

block or so, a church, and every few driveways, a few

kids riding their bicycles. And although the churches

are empty because it is Thursday, he hears bells anyway.

The sound of his own life tolling. His days numbered

and kicked to the curb. The line going on, and on, and on

without him. So much so, he imagines he sees some

other body walking between the shadows of the truck

and the world at large, between the here and the there,

trying to finish what he feels he began, only a lifetime ago.

The days changing, as the trees change, as the decades change,

and the line going on and on as people drift out of houses

along the city streets leaving old keepsakes and garbage

stacked on sidewalks like curbside cairns, monuments

to a million spoiled futures, waiting to be carried away.


…..and it just seems right, to be here, walking a path

watching the Grand River coil along its banks, the sun

amber in that way it gets when darkness begins

to squeeze it by the throat and pull it down. My dog trotting

a few feet ahead of us, mud-umbered, and purposeful,

taking occasion to stop, drop, and roll at the water’s edge

in pearled foam and river-silt, getting up to shake vigorously

and then with such perfect intention, he stares querously

at my wife and I as if to ask where are we going?

His puzzled look I would love to hold inside my memory

along with the sun-light, bejewelled and breaking off

the water’s surface into yellow diamond shards, the old mill

dismantling itself by a stand of birch trees, the river

sliding along its banks in its near perfect sublimity.

Ancient civilizations, I’ve been told, sprang up along fertile

river valleys – the Tigris or the Euphrates, for instance—

because of water distribution, transportation, and farming.

But might it not also be that a river is a home one recognizes,

instantly, like to like, for its transitory nature, its beauty,

for the energy that pushes its currents is the same one

stirring our blood? A man can walk a river his entire life,

watching the many days sail around the bend, owning

none of it, yet find it has taken deep purchase within him.

A blue heron stands on one leg, a hermit, a master fisherman,

unendurably still, perfecting solitude, waiting for a mystery

which lies beneath the surface to swim by so he might spear

a little bit of it with his beak and take it back into the day.

At such times, it is easy to imagine Wordsworth brooding

along the Wye, seeing the divine in all things, the way

I see it now as pollen leaving its golden honey dust

upon the river in the evening light, while bull-frogs

sing their sad, still music of non-humanity, a full chorus

rising steadily in pitch out in the marshes, playing

to a packed house, making it easy for us to forget

the machines of industry plying their wares a few miles

down-river from where we walk, dusk coming on

with its lexicon of stars too pale to read from, and

the little rooms of happiness opening heavy oak doors

within our bodies as the sun drops over the trees,

its slow fire dissolving us on the way home.

Chris Banks’s first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors' Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. A chapbook entitled Sparrows and Arrows was published by Biblioasis Press in the spring of 2006. His second full-length collection entitled The Cold Panes of Surfaces (Nightwood) appeared in the fall of 2006. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario, where he writes, and teaches at Bluevale Collegiate Institute.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An Elegy from the Romanian of Nichita Stanescu, by Elisa Sampedrín

as conveyed by Erín Moure

Sheepish Elegy

opting for the real

I carry such frenzy i’m nervous,

my green limbs galvanize and

won’t perish in amnesia.

No more does stone own me, nor will i carry one last

cutting battle to the grave of stones,

but cut it repeatedly free of the machines.

It is not my place or lore

to set free symbols with their encrypted dints

but to hold and celebrate all cattle

doubly lithe in a dance of ebony.

No more will i carry the heat of misery;

with my arms’ incipient mortar

and faithful hands, i embrace time

to galvanize the possible, the lore of existence.

I’ve never called life sacred. So much

have i seen it

accelerate in concrete form.

Having never been pristine as a star

i can’t ponder

my own life.

I was in it. I carried it in the heat of day.

It dried. Pestilence retreated from it.

I carried it in the wings of birds,

and they gave me new wings to fall into the borealis.

How could i have given credence

to the void? Everything for flight.


for the wish that lifts up the limbs of

the sky and takes flight.

So i extend my hand, and its fingers

are five hands,

thus each hand’s fingers

hand five tomorrows, in which

each finger

quintuples tomorrow, in fingers.

Everything for the embrace!

Each bit, everything,

for piping up reborn to shake off privilege,

and for gaiety

to fill up the blood, triply,

with presence.

One of 12 Elegies from the Romanian of Nichita Stanescu as translated by one Elisa Sampedrin who, as Oana Avasilichioaei points out in a blurb on this privately printed volume of poetry, "risks to not know..."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zoe Strauss, limited editions

Hey all, Zoe Strauss is offering up some work for sale through her website. If you haven't heard of her yet, you will, no doubt. Here is an interview I did with Strauss in Philly earlier this year.

More on the Paris Review

An email from The Paris Review announcing a new volume of interviews, and before I can see anything what's apparent is the absence of women once again. Of the sixteen names included in the email, three are women: Toni Morrison, Alice Munro and Eudora Welty.

But look at the archive index of interviews from 2000 to 2005. That's a long time, a "modern" time, a time when feminism was "post," right? I mean, we were being told that there was no need to continue the shrill banter. But here are the recent numbers: in the five year period between 2000 and 2005 there were 51 interviews, 39 of those with men, 4 being non-white subjects (as far as I can tell...). I know this isn't scientific, but it's irritating.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poem by Sandra Alland


Do they have parasols in Afghanistan?

Do awol Canadian soldiers drop ‘flesh-toned’

uv cream to help dark faces

blend into the landscape?

Does sand pile around you

if you stand still,

very still,

shading you from the sky

and the things that fall from it?

From Blissful Times, BookThug, 2007
More to come on Alland and her book in the coming weeks, but I thought I would offer a little teaser here for you on this virtual Friday.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mary Dalton

Some choice lines from Dalton's Red Ledger, Signal 2006

From "In the Yard"
The snow's got that corpse look,
and the sky's full of drowned men.
and here's November in Canada
A time of clods and stones.
Resignation, battening down. Digging in
the perennial bed: the clanging of pick
against boulders with roots set in China.
And sometimes she snatches poems from the air:
"Mr*. O'Brien's Tea"

Mr. O'Brien takes his tea
well-brewed: "strong enough,"
he says, "so a little mouse
could run over it."
In this collection Dalton moves away from the spare energy of the poems in Merrybegot to slightly more formal preoccupations, and to some degree, loses a bit of that original verbal energy. The poems seem strongest to this reader when they're tightest, as in "Riddles for Conception Bay," when they get at the voices and the particulars of the land.
I am a gape, an astonishment
with a little beard.
In my belly they have found
old rings, tin cans, a broken oar.
My children once were legion,
crammed the waters.
I loved Merrybegot, which I discovered while reading for Open Field and was happy to include her in that anthology, unknown to me or not. Sometimes the best choices are not the most obvious, and certainly are not always what we know.
*I originally read this poem with the title Mrs. O'Brien's tea...and well, that little "s" makes a big difference.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Goldfrapp - Strict Machine

But you have to love this video...

Goldfrapp - Ooh La La

Number 1 on my work out playlist...still...and it's been there a very long time.

good meat, dani couture

There are some fabulous lines in this book, a concept book, built around, you got it, meat. Some of the poems offer up some remarkable turns. In "migration," for instance:
tearing into sunday dinner
we pull apart the origin
of flight, make two wishes
on pneumatic anatomy.
or in "the fisherman's dream before surgery,"
the surgeon holds a bone-handled filet knife,
sharpens the blade on a choice cut of stone...
or "split"
forehead flayed open
quickly, like the belly
of a fish all bone and egg-
shell in tact...
the bottom of any pool
of water...
Short and sweet book. Enjoyable. Absolutely. One of a handful of high concept books I've noticed this year, and which I continue to mull over the overall affect of... This is a larger question about poetry books in general, not just this one in particular, but I can't help but wonder where this (and several others I have encountered of late) could have gone had there been more time, more perspective, more layers of inquiry. Thinking of Rob Winger's Muybridge's Horse, or Steven Price's Anatomy of Keys...and thinking again, let the work build.

How long are folks spending on the average first book I wonder? Isn't there a connection between a text's longevity and its gestation?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moving on

A few things I happened upon today.

From a poem by Rachel Lebowitz in Geist Magazine:
It is not true that Ida knew no one when she came to the New World. She could not have left Ellis Island if that were true. She would have had to stay in the dormitory. She would have had to sleep in a triple-tiered bunk.

In 1907 , thousands filled the room. They sweated, coughed, screamed, flung their bodies against the floor. They were moved to the expanded hospital building and psychopathic ward. Some went to the morgue. Others received telegrams and left. But Ida would have stayed.

In 1910, they would have moved her to the new Baggage and Dormitory Room. She would have been so thin then, a bundle of dry bones.

It would not be true that she died crossing Hastings Street.

Single women were not allowed to cross the street.

For those of you south of the border you really should check out Geist, it's one of Canada's best. This issue also features a review of and photographs from a book about Winnipeg's North End where my Icelandic grandparents settled in after marrying, oh, somewhere around 1919...I love Winnipeg.

New work from Erin Moure in the latest West Coast Line...a journal that will be known to many American avant-garde poets and one that should be discussed more in Canada. (Not that west coast people care what the rest of Canada has to say...)

New poems from Stephanie Strickland up on Mipoesias.

Jennifer L. Knox does her thing here.
What perplexes me about the whole discussion over at Poetry Foundation is the revelation that editors still think that they are deciding what "good poetry" is. Particularly in a magazine that publishes one kind of poetry and a very thin range of voices within that genre of poetry. Why is diversity so frightening? Why can't editors accept the fact that they are not necessarily publishing the best of anything, they are publishing what they know, what they are comfortable with...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sexism in Poetry?

Big discussion over at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation's blog regarding the numbers (real stats folks) in relation to women and publishing. Is this a shock to anyone? Really? I'm thankful to Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young for doing this work. It's important work, thankless, and generally gets you nowhere. And great that the Chicago Review has published this, provided the graphics, and made the essays available on their website for those of you who don't subscribe.

For my part: I don't argue anymore, I just take up space. And occasionally add a few statistics of my own, as in this old post on the Paris Review. Look for the essay on contemporary Canadian poetry in the next issue of Gulf Coast Review for a few other tidbits. And forgive the typo. Well, the one I found, there's probably more than that...

**As an end note to this...I just noticed another post on the topic over at Poetry Foundation in which one of the editors notes that many more pitches come from men than do women...

What bores me about this discussion is its obviousness...and the language of reviewing/blogging just keeps a lot of women and people who are just getting their poetry-legs out of the discussion.

What also bores me is the blatant "us" and "them" exhibited in the Poetry Foundation's editorial attitude:
Are these experimental types now the status quo? Do they crave recognition and economic security as much as the rest of us?
Huh?? And huh again:
Another way to say this is that Aragon, Spahr, and Young are primarily concerned with the results of literary production and where they are placed; whereas as an editor, I’m primarily concerned with circulating those results—the poems—among readers. Great writing about poetry—all kinds of poetry—stimulates interest in it and so improves its chances of being read.
Good lord, who (particularly women...) has the time to craft a lengthy, articulate response to any of this stuff... And why don't "editors" learn to accept the fact that if they are myopic, what they publish will also be...a thin slice of what they know and like. Is that so hard to understand? Is it so hard to understand that because an editor publishes only what he knows doesn't make what he knows the status quo. And I say "he" because really, I'm pretty tired of looking for the "shes" or the others of any variety...

Read outside of your comfort zones. Invite other voices. Why give the same old voices that know how to hustle themselves the same spot at the table over and over that how editors show their concern, their well thought out choices that are going to stimulate interest as the Poetry Foundation blogger seems to suggest? By taking what is being placed in their lap??

Yup, yup, and yup. Small world just gets smaller.

Ecotopia, Nature, Poetry

Speaking of Edward Burtynsky, China, ecotopia, the struggle for a "nature poetry" that bears witness...this call for papers for a conference in China titled Beyond Thoreau: American and International Responses to Nature came across my desktop this morning and looks very intriguing indeed. I wonder if any poets will apply to attend??

I've spent some time this morning flipping through a few Canadian literary journals and am somewhat surprised to find the world so in tact, so whole, so not in trouble. No, there is no problem with the "natural world." Not a trace...we see small birds skirting our days, fields where we learned to drive, blueberry bushes we pick from, oh, a deer looking meaningfully at us, post-coital sandhill cranes, more gardens..."this is how a world gets made," begins one, and ends...well you can guess.

Meanwhile the artists are responding, as I said yesterday, in a big way. The second ICP Triennal of photography and video titled Ecotopia, offers up more than a dozen artists who are out in the world, really engaging with the planet in the way that Edward Burtynsky is... Mary Mattingly's images of a futuristic hunter/gatherer tribe still sees the individual at odds with landscape, and in response to far off forces--not nature but industry:

In Mary Mattingly's vision of the future, the trappings of civilization have been largely set aside, and a generation of nomadic postconsumers roam the landscape of a water-bound Eden. These "navigators," as she calls them, busy themselves creating and utilizing adaptive technology.
Mitch Epstein photographs sources of pollution. Very eerie. More playfully, but no less powerful, is the work of Mark Dion who sets up various cameras on his property in Pennsylvania and catches wildlife interacting with them. Yannick Demmerle offers us photographs of a forest at night, again very eerie and otherworldly. These are a few favourites, but the whole show is stellar--the catalogue at the very least worth a look.

Again I ask where are the poets?? Now, to be fair, this morning's read was a random sampling, but a shocking one too. I know there are Canadian poets out there who are dealing with these issues, and I won't say that there are easy ways to deal with these issues, but what else should we be writing about? I'm wondering why visual artists seem so able to make tremendous leaps though, to show us things in such striking ways that we are shaken to our roots...when is the last time a poem did that to you?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Manufactured Landscapes

Okay, so we haven't even begun to deal with innovation, let's go that route...

The tone of this post is skewed by a recent viewing of Manufactured Landscapes, the film made of Edward Burtynsky's awe-inspiring work tracing the economies of oil and manufacturing. I have long been a fan of Burtynsky's work--since those early shots of the rail lines in British Columbia. But more and more I am inspired by the power of what he achieves with his photographs. The work, it seems to me, has as much potential to change people's thinking as Gore's Inconvenient Truth (or Napoleon Dynamite...).

All of this makes me wonder, yet again, how we can still be thinking about a poetry that yearns for a sweeter time? That speaks of birds and mountains. How does nature writing, or nature poetry help us see the world in a new way? What tools to see? To cope? What understanding of ourselves in relation to it? What to save? How to engage? I want to see a poetry that like Burtynsky's work, shows us the implications of the most minute, seemingly benign gesture. A poetry that is connective. A poetry that reaches toward itself, without naming everything. What use is metaphor one wonders, in times like these.

Of course, not to be dire, not only dire. But to face up and imagine beyond. To imagine a way beyond this, perhaps, if not through it. Set a course. Show us the where next. Either that, or I'm going back to Napoleon...

Living Utopia and Disaster

Thank God for Art, that's all I can say. So much art seems to me to be so much better at moving one, not to mention making one think in new ways. The Alberta Biennale of Contemporary Art at the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre makes it just a little easier to deal with the environmental anxiety roiling barely under the surface these days.
For the 6th incarnation of the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, curators Catherine Crowston and Sylvie Gilbert have undertaken an investigation of the dual themes of Utopia and Disaster within the context of Alberta and its relation to the world environment.
While I'm not quite sure yet what the context of Alberta is in its relation to world environmental devastation and while I would have wished for something that hit closer to home, I'm excited by the number of brilliant pieces. Highlights include Jennifer Bowe's luxurious blanket woven of text, Anu Guha-Thakurta's scraps of ephemera pinned daintily to a wall, shadows sturdy as pegs. Some of the work is very on point: Chris Flodberg's triptych of paintings of dogs tearing at food while above them a banquet laid out, and behind that an urban world crumbling. Others are a little more slant: an empty room with a camera waiting to be interacted with, the only possible outcome a grayscale of self from Kay Burns , Jonathan Kaiser's installation is a room filled with the sound of rushing water, half a dozen empty fish tanks, holes stopped up, seaweed spilling through the roof, and a transom over the door showing water rising and rising... One of the most moving, and powerful is Mary Kavanagh's installation of videos embedded in small holes (4x6), that show people frolicking on what first seems to be a beach, but turns out to be the White Sands missile testing grounds. A brilliant reworking of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days that resonates profoundly. The works do, as the curators hope, illustrate the wild swings between depression--there's not a hope in hell for either the human race, or the planet--and optimism--we haven't even begun to imagine what innovation can mean!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

1.000 posts later

This is post number 1,001, and because I am burrowing in to my own work these days, at the Leighton Studios here in Banff, it will be brief. One has to achieve balance between curatorial and community work and one's one work, I think. I've been looking around for role models in this regard, people who write critically, curate, possibly blog, and who still manage to turn out solid creative work.

Steve Evans is starting to post his Notes To Poetry 2007. This year he has decided to post them gradually to ensure that all the responses are considered equally. I'm not sure that posting them all at once was a problem--that is a site I return to again and again throughout the year. But perhaps that's just me. Anyhow, check it out. It's always a great source for must-read books.