Archive for the ‘poetry’ Tag

The Year in Review, or The Latest Album

gull bouyUnlike some poets, who seem able to compose and publish a new book every year, I learned long ago my creative metabolism is more like that of a pop musician, about twelve new pieces, or a new album, annually.

Here’s what I’ve produced this year, with early versions of poems shared here hyperlinked; italicized titles are sequences, while those in quotation marks are individual poems:

Cyberian Vistas (one of which can be read here)

Replies to Mayer Hillman (an early version of one of which can be read here)

Toronto Suite (two of which can be read here and here)

“Standard Eyes I Shun”

Pasqua Lake Elegies

“A Portrait of the Artist”

“A book I can’t read closed”

“I’m told you’re disappointed”

“Brief von München”

There are some miscellaneous “one-offs” here, too:  “Two [more!] for Mayer Hillman”, “Ontario Election Results in Real Time 2018”, and a little poem on the eve of the provincial elections in Quebec, here.

Happily, too, I delivered a talk on the poetry of Peter Dale Scott and the Postsecular at what used to be called the Learneds in May, while the end of summer saw my collaborator Antoine Malette and myself translating passages of Louis Riel’s Massinahican, which will hopefully appear in an anthology forthcoming from University of California Press in 2019 or 2020.

 

 

A Further Serendipity: Concerning Having Nothing to Write

DH readingI doubt there’s a writer who doesn’t experience times when there seems to be nothing to write. I’d wager, though, that that block or absence of inspiration often isn’t so much a lack of some subject as much as the result of some paralyzing judgement by that tyrannical Inner Editor every writer has that this or that matter isn’t worth writing about or that the writer, for whatever reason, just isn’t up to doing it justice.

Yesterday, the late Donald Hall‘s last poem in his notebook popped up in my newsfeed:

DH The Last Poem

Here, Hall turns the Inner Critic’s answer to the question of what’s worth writing about around, a witty if somewhat bitter solution to the problem.

Then, today, I chanced to read these remarks of Allen Ginsberg on William Carlos wcw15Williams facing the same void:

He’s almost dying, he’s got one foot in the grave (at that time, actually, he was saying, “I’ve got one foot in the grave”). And he thought he had cancer of the anus, actually, at that point. He was very sick, and he was also morbidly fantasizing, and he thought he didn’t have much to write about. (Around that time, I went to see him and he said he had nothing to write about – what can he write about? the cancer of his behind? – I think I mentioned this before). And I said, “Oh, there’s hundreds of young poets in America who would be interested in your behind! – Yes, of course, write about cancer in your behind, anything you can”.

Here, I’d argue, is a different response to the Inner Critic, one that tosses out its conventional, aesthetic criteria for some that are more radical, more ontological:  what’s there to write about? Whatever there is to write about.

 

Poeticritical Serendipity

Gloria_Graham_Lyn_HejinianDonald Wellman reviews Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing, describing it as follows:

Fourteen lines on each page, that’s sonnet length. Little rhyme [or] syllogism employed. No tidy conclusions. Each line as long as it needs to be. Most discontinuous with one another but not necessarily so. It seems there may not be a logic other than method in the construction of Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing (Omnidawn 2016). Nothing follows, no conclusions, the title says it all.

The well-read might be circumspect about a book composed in this manner, sections riming with a sonnet’s length, parataxis the lines’ principle of arrangement, by a poet long-associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry (Hejinian is included in both Silliman’s In the American Tree (1986) and Messerli’s “Language” Poetries (1987)), published in 2016.

Such readers might be prompted to further reflection over the implications of these guendercompositional characteristics of Hejinian’s book when they read in Alice A. Kuzniar’s Delayed Endings: Nonclosure in Novalis and Hölderlin about Karoline von Günderrode’s fifteen-verse “Ein apokalyptisches Fragment” (published in 1804), that “…each verse appears as a disjointed fragment in an unconnected, nonteleological series”.

I leave this juxtaposition to speak for itself, for readers with ears to hear and hearts that care to.

 

The writing life

Insights, like poems, sometimes just fall on your path, like the leaves from the trees thisIMG_3124 time of year.

A friend wrote me, and his experience so paralleled mine, and many others’, it was light work lineating his letter into the following poem. If you’re a thinker, writer, or artist, I imagine you might well agree.

 

Brief aus München

 

Yesterday I had a day

sitting for hours at my desk

playing internet-chess, thinking,

 

“this novel that’s kept me

from doing anything useful

a year now will never work”

 

and it was all my fault: I

chose this way, I

was sticking to this

 

idea, I was thinking

I could be not only a

writer but a novelist,

 

my father was right,

I left the right path

when I went to Berlin…

 

This morning, I got the idea,

I don’t know from where,

how it could work. Sun

 

shining on my balcony,

and I think: “Best choice ever,

to live and work like this.”

“The poetry wars never ended.”

DftPWChicago Review has just posted a lively, provocative conversation with Kent Johnson and Michael Boughn about the motivations driving that equally lively web-journal Dispatches from the Poetry Wars.

At a time when Instapoets are lionized as The Big New Thing (because of their sales numbers) and the art is otherwise domesticated (in the MFA program and English class), I know of few more vital, critical, and necessary sites of resistance than Dispatches.

Gratitude by the syllable

IMG_2590Tomorrow, here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving. Regardless of the nature and origins of the holiday in the U.S. and Canada, there is mounting evidence of how gratitude can shore up happiness. It was this insight that inspired my composing the following poems, each noting some experience for which I felt spontaneously grateful. You can read the sequence, here.

Thanks!

RE: Itō Jetnil-Kijiner Niviana Pato

A lot of poetry stories get conveyed down my newsfeed. Here’re three of special http _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_thumb_1_12_Plato-4.png_200px-Plato-4significance from this week.

First is a short film of Hiromi Itō reading her poem “The Moon”. Itō is (in)famous in Japan, often credited with opening the space for a frank, fresh, new women’s writing. I discovered her in Rothenberg’s and Joris’ Poems for the Millenium, then her Killing Kanoko, a selection of poems translated by Jeffrey Angles, whose title poem recounts the common but no less hair-raising homicidal resentment mothers feel for their newborns. I still owe Action Books a review of her Wild Grass of the Riverbank—watch for it here….

Next is a short article by Bill McKibben concerning the poets Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana, two young women, one from the Marshall Islands, the other from Greenland, who grapple with the realities of climate change poetically, a topic often ventured here. I already knew of Jetnil-Kijiner:  I teach her poem “Dear Matafele Peinam” every year to my introductory English students.

Finally is an interview with a poet not too well known in Anglophone poetry circles (or so it seems to me), Chus Pato, arguably one of the most important poets writing in Galician.

 

A Minor Festschrift for Michael Heller

michael hellerIn Montreal, Concordia University’s Liberal Arts College sponsors an annual lecture. One year, it was Helen Vendler; another, a reading by Allen Ginsberg; and, once, poet Michael Heller, who riffed off Walter Benjamin’s reading of Paul Klee’s painting “Angelus Novus” (see the ninth of Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History), to develop what he termed a “phantomology.” The details of his argument are immaterial here, but, what’s to the point, of all the lectures I’d heard at this yearly event, his was the only one I hung on every word.

It’s been my luck to remain acquainted with the man and his poetry and criticism since, work that connects the present to the Objectivist tradition in poetry and poetics, especially Heller’s friend and mentor, George Oppen, and that develops an independent vision and practice of its own.

It’s therefore a great pleasure to see Heller’s work appreciated in a manner of micro-Festschrift at Jacket2, that features new poetic and critical work by Heller and himself along with a collection of appreciations. Read it all, here.

Ontario Election Results 2018 in real time

As the results of yesterday’s Ontario election came in and it became clear Doug Ford’s https _www.insauga.com_sites_default_files_imagecache_lead-image-full_article_2017_12_header_photo_0Progressive Conservative party had won a majority, I recorded the reactions of my friends and collated them as they appeared, in the poem (or text) below. Readers can draw their own inferences about the politics of my social circle!

 

Ontario Election Results 2018

 

This is the worst possible timeline

…This will be much worse then (sic) we even know.

Go fuck yourself, Ontario.

Well, I’ve been voting for governments in provincial and federal elections since 1993, and my 100% failure rate is still going strong. Grotesque, Ontario

Maybe compulsory voting and proportional representation?

Based on the predictions that are coming in, all I can say is FUUUUCCCKKKK!!

Wow… Feeling a lot of stunned for my pals in Ontario.

Nice work Ontario, you ding dongs.

That was dumb.

Congratulations Ontario!

… Best case scenario: NDP gets a 15 year mandate to fix things after Ford enacts another Mike Harris-style sack of the province. Some of us may even live to see it.

…Damn… just damn…

(a) Work on Myth

Dispatches from the Poetry Wars has shared a lively back and forth between, mainly, 800px-thumbnailBarrett Watten and Nathaniel Mackey, which, in turn, inspired some lively on-line discussion that turned, in part, around ‘myth’. Interested parties are encouraged to investigate the Dispatches site further for much related matter.

Before I sit down to work through Hans Blumenberg’s Work on Myth, I append the short poem below from Ladonian Magnitudes as a humble contribution to the communal deliberation!

 

Decay Pattern

 

When on earth

was myth a mouth

every head muttered

 

or is noys or

babble first what

 

articulate tongues

propagated on air

 

to ear empty

of echo of

familiar sound