Archive for the ‘The Brouillon’ Category

“Apology for Absence”

A Prairie Horizon - Saskatchewan, Canada

At a reading I attended at the end of last year, a poet friend (very supportive of my work) asked if I’d retired.

I understood her to be referring to my not having worked the past three years. I was in chemotherapy the last half of 2016, and I’ve been recovering ever since. My vitality and acuity are presently too volatile for me to commit to teaching fifteen weeks at a go. I tried in the fall of 2018, but had to surrender the single class I was teaching mid-November…

I was more than a little disturbed when through my mental fog it appeared to me she hadn’t been asking about my job status but my writing and publication record. (That it took me so long to pick up on her meaning is an index of my state). My last trade publication was March End Prill (Book*Hug, 2011), a long poem that, itself, had been composed almost a decade before it appeared in print.

Lately, I’ve taken to joking I have the creative metabolism of a pop star:  about twelve poems a year, which, were I pop singer, would be enough for a new album. Given that many poetry presses prefer manuscripts of over eighty pages or so, that pace of production would ideally result in a new book every seven years or so. Were it only so simple.

Even for someone with three trade editions under his belt, every new manuscript is a new challenge to get published. Indeed, the last two collections I’ve collated have failed to find a publisher. On the one hand, I’m no networker. On another, the work has always been against the grain. Tellingly, the last editor to turn down my latest manuscript did so on the basis of an understanding of its poetics the opposite of my own.

Moreover, I eschew a practice increasingly common, to compose “a book”. Often a poet will pick up and follow the thread of a theme or as often crank a generative device. Sometimes such efforts are successful, and I can appreciate the urge and sentiment that goes into this approach, when it’s not the result of the pressures of reigning expectations. However, as my earliest mentor once quipped concerning the composition of a collection:  “A book is a box.”

Which brings me to the title of this post. Apology for Absence is the title of John Newlove’s a for aselected poems (Porcupine’s Quill, 1993), a famously laconic poet, known, among other things, for his diminishing productivity over the years. But Newlove holds a more profound importance for me, personally. As I write in a poem from Ladonian Magnitudes:

Because John Newlove the Regina Public Library’s writer-in-residence gave me his Fatman and reading it in the shade on the white picnic table on the patio in our backyard thought “I can do that!” and wrote my first three poems

I like to think that happened when I was fourteen, but a little research proves I must have been a year or two older. At any rate, however much I admire and envy the productivity of a  D. H. Lawrence or Thomas Bernhard, I seem to have followed Newlove’s example in this regard. (It’s a long story). Poetically, there are worse models.

No, I haven’t retired. Nor am I absent, MIA. I’m hard at work, at my own work, going my own direction at my own pace, trusting some will be intrigued if not charmed enough to tarry along.

 

Action Books action

As an English-language Canadian poet, I’ve always starved and thirsted for almost anything foreign to most of what officially passes for my native poetic tradition. Action Books has been introducing some of the wildest, weirdest, far-outest poetry into English for years, and now their list is half price (with the checkout code ‘TRANSLATE’).

Do yourself and them and North American English-language poetry and line your shelves and blow your poetic mind now!

action-books-home-splash

Manifesto

 

Action Books is transnational.

Action Books is interlingual.

Action Books is Futurist.

Action Books is No Future.

Action Books is feminist.

Action Books is political.

Action Books is for noisies.

Action Books believes in historical avant-gardes.

& unknowable dys-contemporary discontinuous occultly continuous anachronistic avant-gardes.

Art, Genre, Voice, Prophecy, Theatricality, Materials, the Bodies, Foreign Tongues, and Other Foreign Objects and Substances, if taken internally, may break apart societal forms.

“In an Emergency, Break Forms.”

Action Books: Art and Other Fluids

Synchronicitious Critique

Bookninja‘s back, and worth keeping an eye on.

Yesterday, George Murray posted an article on Instagram poetry, with the commentary, “I work hard to be progressive. I work hard to be forward-thinking. I work hard to find joy and worth in as much of life’s silliness as possible.” As much as I share Murray’s estimation of the literary-media (media-literary?) phenomenon, the article, by scholar Seth Perlow, teaches an important lesson by example.

In the article’s introduction, Perlow sets out his purpose:

In what follows, I’ll nonetheless try to learn something from the Insta-poets, something about the technological scene of contemporary poetry, without advancing a judgment about their work. The complex intersections of Insta-poetry’s political, commercial, and literary significance have frustrated literary critics’ efforts to evaluate it. So for now, I want to suspend questions of value in order to ask how Instagram structures poetic forms and participatory reading practices.

By suspending “questions of value” what comes into view are not only otherwise overlooked aspects of the verbal art of poetry in general, but no less pressing questions concerning media, composition, reception, and various blindnesses that inevitably accompany whatever insights poets and critics might otherwise have. Canonical figures, such as Emily Dickinson and Charles Olson, come into play; the no less urgent and perspicacious studies of Byung-Chul Han on digital media and society might as well have been included. The point is that the critical (judgemental) sensibility all-too-often obscures the reality of what it judges. And however much I agree with Murray’s and Perlow’s low estimation of Insta-poetry, Perlow’s example is instructive as to what resolute, clear-eyed, and informed study can reveal, revelations of no little pertinence or consequence to “serious” poetry.

blakes newton

By lucky happenstance, just this morning, a review of the William Blake show at the Tate Gallery came up in the newsfeed. What struck me about this chance juxtaposition is what Blake, weirdly, shares with the Insta-poetry Perlow investigates. Both are, in a sense, cottage industries; in both, text and image are inseparable (regardless of Blake’s stripping the text from some paintings and engravings to sell them independently), and both present themselves via the handwritten as opposed to schematized typography. And who, reading the Songs of Innocence for the first time, has not been initially perplexed by the high critical regard they now receive?

The theme, as Whitman (that other great self-published self-promoter) wrote, has vista, even when what is scrutinized is silly.

 

Why the title, “Bread & Pearls”?

It has some pleasant affinities with the title of Roland Barthes’ magisterial study S/Z.

The conjoined substantives are, first, singular and plural. The initial phonemes of each are in opposition:  /b/ voiced, /p/ unvoiced. Orthographically, the consonant-vowel pattern ‘r-ea’ in ‘bread’ is reversed in ‘pearls’, ‘ea-r’. Like the initial consonants, the more-or-less terminal consonants of the pair seem to me again in phonological opposition: both /d/ and /l/ are formed by placing the tongue-tip to the palate, but the former releases the flow of breath, removing the tongue from the palate, while the latter does not.

Semantically, in one regard, the first substantive denotes something edible, while the latter does not; bread is artificial, while pearls are natural (if susceptible to being cultured); however, one sense of ‘bread’ (money) makes both terms media of exchange. The substantives allude, too, to two bible verses not without a certain rhetorical significance.

Much more, of course, could be said….

New on the Video Page: Accent Poetry series 29 July 2019

New on the Video Page!

Thanks to Devon Gallant for the invite; and a pleasure to have read with that evening’s other featured reader, Derek Webster.

As I have the creative metabolism of a pop star (i.e., roughly a dozen new poems a year), new volumes of work are slow to appear. Four of the seven poems I perform here are therefore “new”.

Play list:
1. Budapest Suites I (from Grand Gnostic Central)
2.”European Decadence in medias res” (from Ladonian Magnitudes)
3. Hamburg & Kassel sections from “Made in Germany”
4. Toronto Suite
5. “By Mullet River”
6. “Flying Saucers” (from Grand Gnostic Central)
7. “A sonnet is a moment’s &c.”

R&Ra

“Mile End est mort…”

For the more than three decades I’ve lived in Montreal, I’ve lived in the quarter known generally as The Plateau and more specifically and recently (to my ears, anyway) Mile End, most notably at “Grand Gnostic Central” on the corner of Rachel and St. Urbain (scenes from the cinematic version of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz were filmed just up the block), a couple of locations on Hutchison and Parc Avenue south of Bernard, and, since 1996 (for the time being) on the corner of St Joseph and Parc in what our landlady calls her Chateau du Parc.

mile end est mort

Credit: Mary Shelley

Montreal, like any number of cities on earth, is suffering a process of gentrification. In  my area, it’s been underway for years, but it’s picked up since a number of software companies (Ubisoft and Softimage) have moved in. When it all began, I reflected that more affordable if less “desirable” neighborhoods attract those who can afford to live in them, which will often include creatives, writers, painters, artists, and so forth. Their creative energies, by a cruel dialectic, make the neighborhood more beautiful, pleasant and lively, attracting more residents and businesses, beginning a process of, well, gentrification. The creatives and others who made the place attractive in the first place are forced to move out, to some other quarter, sometimes in some other city, where the process can begin all over again.

A poem in Ladonian Magnitudes, “The Intersection” remarks this process. I share it below as a manner of memorial.

 

The Intersection

 

where l’Esplanade

meets Villeneuve

 

that spring dusk

the air’s first

 

breathable classic

sunlit redbrick

 

the unique quaint

three-storey walkups

 

characteristic of

the quarter’s charm

 

are almost all

so made up

 

like new the one

run down white tshirt

 

underarm stain yellow

building with muddy

 

white frames peeling

around cracked panes

 

stands out like

never among

 

those other fronts

kept up for years

 

without a thought

of what they’d go for

 

 

 

 

Set List: Accent Reading Series: Monday 29 July 2019

20190715_140503Having settled on poems that have to do with travel for my upcoming reading, I post here the set list and link poems on-line that are among those I’ll perform, for interested parties.

“European Decadence in medias res” (from Ladonian Magnitudes)

Budapest Suites I (from Grand Gnostic Central)

Two poems from Made in Germany, (“In Berlin, at the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station…” and “Cabbie on Documenta13”)

Toronto Suite (early versions of two of three poems in the suite can be read here and here)

“À Québec” (from Grand Gnostic Central)

“The Intersection” (from Ladonian Magnitudes)

“By Mullet River”

“A Sonnet is a moments, &tc.”

 

 

 

At the Accent Weekly bilingual poetry series & Open Mic

It’s rare and special when I get to share my work in public, and I’m grateful for this latest opportunity.

credit Brian Campbell

credit Brian Campbell

I’ll be one of two featured readers (with Derek Webster) at the next Accent reading series event:

Monday 29 July
at ‘La Marche a Cote’ 5043 St. Denis, Montreal, Quebec.

Officially things get underway at 19h00, but the real fit hits the shan around 20H00!

I’m working on my fifteen-minute set, now:  at present, I’ll either be reading poems pertinent to the moment from my first two books, or, since we’ll all be stuck in town, maybe a selection of poems about anywhere other than Montreal!

You can read more about the series, here.

 

Bradford & Rad on House House Press

Back when David Bradford published his chapbook Call Out back in 2017, he was kind enough to answer a few questions concerning the book and his art and life.

Now, you can read, here, he and collaborator Anahita Jamali Rad answer some more queries concerning their House House Press, a publisher of

poetry chapbooks, pamphlets and ephemera  that seeks out rigorous politics of peripherality, scaffoldings for debris, studies of mess, and everything in between, with a primary focus on radical BIPOC writing practices.

house house

Jason Kenney rides UCP wave to majority government in Alberta

 

When I read this headline this morning, I was immediately reminded of my friends’ reactions to the election of Rob Ford last summer, whose social media postings I collaged into a kind of poem as they threaded their way to me then.

You can read “Ontario Election Results 2018 in real time“, changing the names and places as needed to make it about this most recent electoral development.

I’ve poetically expressed my own political leanings here, in a long poem from Ladonian Magnitudes (2006).

All I can say is, Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

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