Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday Poem

Last night I caught the boy I'd been
in fishnet and gutted him
on the government wharf
by the light of an oil lamp
hung from my dead father's hand. 
Above the dyke, over the road,
the town was just the same:
weeping willows, widows,
whale-stains on the cheesecloth walls
of the first houses
and an overwhelming sense
of a last breath being taken. 
The worst of it was
the ordinary blood
on the ordinary wood
and my father saying
as he gazed out to sea
"It's no good.
The companies won't pay.
They didn't pay for mine
and they won't pay for yours." 
I watched him through my mother's eyes
as he sighed and bent
to the stiffened body of our time
together not worth one red cent
to anyone and picked it up
and took his life and mine away again.
From Circa Nineteen Hundred and Grief (Gaspereau, 2014) by Tim Bowling

(Photo by Barry Pettinger)

Saturday, 26 July 2014


Virginia Heffernan wants poets to say goodbye to "fetishy analog platforms" and welcome poetry's new iteration: Twitter
The curiously formal verse of Twitter—bound tighter than villanelles in kimonos—is in general neither good nor bad. That doesn’t hurt its status as poetry: it is language precisely and even artfully deployed. This poetry loses and gains jobs, esteem and reputations. Wars, rumors of war, the fates of men and women hang in its lyrical balance. It costs, in short; and it pays. This is what relevancy is, maybe harder to define than poetry. Tweets are news. They are history.
Jean-Yves Fréchette, who in 2011 collected 1,001 of his poetry tweets into a book, has even coined a term for the twitter poem:
A "twoosh" is, in a sense, a perfect tweet. A tweet made up of exactly 140 characters, which is the Twitter limit. Writing a "twoosh" is using Twitter’s input matrix to create a new stylistic standard, to invent a new fixed form – as the sonnet, the ballad, the ode or the rondeau were in their time.

Cultivating Disaster

Michael Lista praises Joshua Mehigan's new book, Accepting the Disaster, for the way it "tames the chaos with technique":
Mehigan represents a vital alternative to the canard that the only way to faithfully represent the messiness of contemporary life is with messy writing, the pseudo-profundity of the self-indulgently obtuse, a pathologically American idée fixe that’s dominated the last hundred years of poetic thinking and can be traced from T.S. Eliot through Gertrude Stein, John Ashbery and so many MFA theses. “Because forethought and discretion rarely appear in my personal life,” Mehigan writes, “I like to cultivate them in my poems.” It’s precisely because Mehigan is so well acquainted with disaster and disorder that he records them so painstakingly and precisely, according them the memorability they deserve.

Sad Song

In an essay nominating Gerard Manley Hopkins' “Spring and Fall” as the saddest poem ever written, Nick Ripatrazone ponders why the form is so good at making us cry.
Poetry’s brevity and tendency toward paradox through interiority of content make it the perfect artistic vehicle for melancholy. We spend our days living and speaking in prose. Poetry is manual transmission. Poetry is an old vehicle made new. In order to read a poem, we must occupy another, more monastic space. In that sense, melancholy is an excellent fit for poetry, since the feeling is an emotional rattling. Novels have hurt me. Stories have punctured my skeptical skin. Essays have made me rethink the world. But a melancholic poem shatters me, pushes me to another emotional space. It extends my self.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Knuckleball Poetics

Over at Maisonneuve, Danny Jacobs and Daniel Renton do some great bantering on new collections by Jason Guriel and Dani Couture. One of the best moments in the engaging exchange belongs to Renton:
I do wonder if Guriel’s well-made box may be a bit of a ruse—his poems might be closer to being Chinese finger traps. That is, toys that snare unsuspecting victims who misunderstand their serious mission: to encourage us to relax our grandiose poetic posture and enjoy the play of language. Take this string of lines from “Knuckleball:" “its bottleneck— / the chewed-over / or coughed-up / or otherwise / indigestible morsel / of food for lines, / wobbly ones, / of thought.” Notice the purposely wound up syntax? The poem so mimics R. A. Dickey at the plate it practically wears a Blue Jay’s jersey.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Orphic Struggle

In about six weeks, Vehicule Press will publish Michael Lista's second poetry collection, The Scarborough. The book takes place over Easter Weekend in 1992, when rapist and serial killer Paul Bernardo—who lived in the eponymous suburb of Toronto, where Lista himself grew up—committed his final crime. Bernardo's depravity dominates the poems, yet the psychopath himself is nowhere to be found. (Here's a good example of what I mean.) The reason for this is largely due to Patrick LeSage, the judge who presided over the case. When asked to rule on whether or not the videos of the crimes could be shown in open court, LeSage decided that Canadians could hear the tapes, but not see them. Lista has turned that comment into the formal principle of his disturbing and formidable new book. He explains his intentions in an interview from 2012:
The poems are trying to do two things at once, two things that I can’t disentangle. They need to look like psychopathy—classically proportioned, handsome, manipulative, well-spoken, charming, glib, and ultimately devoid of empathy, uncaring of their true subjects. Underneath them runs a psychotic river, the evil Alph, that they’re able to hide with their public faces. But they also need to look like the dignity that LeSage was trying to safeguard in his ruling on the tapes. You can hear the crimes, the perpetrators and the victims, but you can’t see them. The hell of this all is that after some years of thinking in it, dignity and psychopathy look formally identical to me. The form that lets the Devil sneak in is the same that lets the innocent sneak out. The whole thing is an Orphic struggle, leading something unspeakable out by the wrist into the light, without ever turning to look at it.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Rare Books

David McGimpsey is legendary for the great editions he comes across when secondhand bookshopping in Montreal. Here's a sample of his lucky finds. For more treasures, check out his tumblr page