Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Poem


FROM A LINE OF DARIO
"da al viento la cabellera"

With no dissenting votes
we gave to the wind her hair.
It brushes your cheeks,
now it brushes mine.

To the bee and to
the hummingbird:
her breasts.
We envy them the sweetness
that will be gathered there.

To the ocean belong
both her feet.
They will become
two inseparable
incredible fish
who may come out to leave
strange prints
beckoning bachelors
to walk out to sea.

We give the ocean
both her feet
and we warn you.

Many claimed her hands:
A tree wanted them
for fruit that would
be eager, for fruit
that would not wait.

A flock of birds
petitioned for her hands
claiming poetic justice
would be served were
the feet in the water
to be echoed by
the hands in the air.

We agree with this logic;
give instead to the tree
her ears
that it may hear itself
stretch and grow.
From The Invention of Honey (1990) by Ricardo Sternberg.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

"Jane, Jane, tall as a crane"

Harriet gathers up some responses to Richard Greene's new Edith Sitwell bio.

Saturday Poem

JUST IRENA

You died at the muddy end
of a rutted drive
near a mill pond—
thirsty,

and you died unkempt
as your blueberry patch
where I used to kneel,
eating my fill.

You died
perfumed with cat piss
and mouldy hay,

without a man
to hitch up a plow
or pick up a hammer.

The wind
undid your shingles
one by one
undressing you,

and the roof
came down
around you,

and you died
with crows in your hair
and rain in your mouth
and wind in the chimney.

Fires went out
windows broke
and mice even now
eat the straw in your cot.
From Rue Saint Famille (1990) by Charlotte Hussey.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The "It" Kid

Michael Lista raves over Linda Besner's The Id Kid. I'm delighted that he mentions nearly all the themes that drove our decision-making during the editorial process (life as performance, self as artifice, confession as mask-wearing). It's always nice to have a reviewer point out undetected patterns in the carpet. But it's especially satisfying when a reviewer sees exactly what you hoped he would see.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Northern Poetry Review

April was the five-year mark for the online lit mag NPR, founded and edited by Alex Boyd. They've just updated the site with new material, including an interview with Giller-winner Johanna Skibsrud and poems by Linda Besner from her first book The Id Kid. Also on offer is Jacob McArthur Mooney's review of four chapbooks by Cactus Press. I was sent these titles last year, and enjoyed them, and fully intended to blog about them. Alas, life intervened. So I'm happy that NPR is giving the books some deserved attention (you can shop for them here). My favourite poets in the group were Marc di Saverio and Sarah Teitel (photo above). In fact, Teitel's poems so impressed me that I'm happy to announce her first book will be appearing with us in the very near future.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Once a Pratt, Always a Pratt

Patrick Warner wins the E..J. Pratt Poetry Award -- for the second time.

UPDATE: Here is the jury's citation:
“Patrick Warner’s Mole noses its way into the domestic and the unobserved, needles each “numb spot,” and coaxes the strange from the mundane. Warner transforms routine into formal ingenuity and our mass obsessions and accumulations into his metaphoric bonfire. While he eschews the grand and romantic, Warner remains the authentic artisan. His language is avid and alight, his ironies wicked and pitch perfect. If it was difficult to imagine a suburban poetry that could matter, then Warner imagines it for us. Crafty, civic, human – amidst the community walls, by-laws, and sprawl – Mole sniffs out signs of life and brings back news of ourselves.”

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday Poem

from "Thirty-Eight Sonnets from Jimmie Walker Swamp"

7.

When I was young, in Britain, I lived in a stone house
five hundred years old. Water condensed on the bedroom
walls. I slept with a hot water bottle. The only

heat came from a coal fire, whose chimney was cleaned
by an old-time chimney sweep. But in the backyard
a Roman villa gradually came to light, tile floors with blue

decoration. A skeletal cat emerged from the clay too,
Roman or more recent I couldn't know. It fired my thoughts
to rest atop a midden of old lives, so that when I came

to North America, the dirt seemed clean and uninvolved.
I sensed no ghosts in the wilderness. I felt thin, and still
do, like a child in a home for waifs, stripped of all

my stories. So one day I threw a small handful of bones
and coins into a field nearby, to be some other kid's history.
from Standing Wave (2005) by Robert Allen

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Saturday Poem

“…all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusky death.”

(Macbeth)

“Fools” is a little harsh, but
he knew to avoid sentimentality—
try substituting for it
and you’ll see why it’s there.
I sit on my sofa and watch,
through the back window,
the new red leaves of the Japanese maple
stir in a breeze so slight it would be
imperceptible without them.
To be eighty is also a little harsh.
I salute the red leaves and am
glad that I continue to distinguish
their small motions, although
I understand that neither they nor I
have lasting guarantees. Other leaves
with their impromptu ripplings
are on the way and
my semblable walks spryly
nearby, casting his eye about him
for where he’ll live next:
it’s a nice neighbourhood,
the young family who just moved in
next door will have a settled look
by then, and standing in their driveway
they will explain to him
the street’s idiosyncracies.
The word "plangency" has tempted me
more than once but I’ve resisted it.
These lines may always have been
its long-term goal.

From Where We Might Have Been (2010) by Don Coles

Jason Guriel Should Get Out More


Jason Guriel's review of Seamus Heaney's Human Chain, published in the Feb/March issue of PN Review, seems to have raised some hackles. Manchester poet John McAuliffe didn't like it much, and it really rubbed blogger David Greene the wrong way. Seems a good time to point readers to this.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

CAA Literary Awards






















I'm happy to announce that Don Coles' Where We Might Have Been has been short-listed for The Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry. Winners will be announced on June 23rd. More info here.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Besner

Linda Besner has been doing a bunch of readings from The Id Kid, but photographic evidence has been scarce. I grabbed the above, snapped May 4th, as soon as it surfaced on the Pivot Readings Facebook page.

I also found this fun video -- courtesy of the reliably entertaining blog How Pedestrian -- featuring Linda reading her poem "Moonlight on Komatsu Extractor."

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sunday Poem

MOTHER

By the time you were thirty
we had all slipped from you,
the three of us wet and fringed with hair:
unruly locks your shell-comb smoothed.
We clung like possums and
cried after you morning and night
despite your rocking arms,
your jar of songs.
We were the daily discomforts:
bottles bobbing in pots,
our baby breath sticky as postage stamps
against your skin.
Our furious sucking on rubber
now that we couldn't have you.
And how it must have been when the dark
had finally threaded our mouths shut
and sleep was a precarious rock on a cliff's edge.
For fifteen, twenty minutes you'd slip
into that warm bath,
let the water jewel your flesh
until the first cry, then
rise up in your sequins of bubbles.
And stand in the doorway,
familiar mermaid, listening.
From Hometown (1992) by Laura Lush.

E.J. Pratt Poetry Award

Three of my favourite poets (Patrick Warner, Tom Dawe and George Murray) are up for the same prize. CBC interviewed them a couple of weeks ago. Winners are announced May 18, 2011.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Saturday Poem


UTOPIA
Need a hero? Dozens on the street
are underemployed and easily pass
for men unwilling to live without freedom.
We usually pick the one with the best ass.

Faces are becoming less important,
reminding us as they shouldn’t of souls
we can’t reproduce, therefore don’t brand.
Capitalism’s last stage is to lower

subjects into a template, a sandbox.
Recreation is the great equalizer.
Those who won’t play are played with—progress
has made even martyrdom banal,

and I am forced to look on in triumph
as folks who believe something, anything,
are experimented on, not for science,
but to exhaust our curiosity.
From The Empire's Missing Links (2008) by Walid Bitar.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Tomfoolery

Over at Maisonneuve, Natalie Thompson speaks to Linda Besner (self-portrait above) about her "attraction to accidental slippages of tongue":
"When I find those unintentional language slips I enjoy creating something intentional around them. Like putting something that is broken back together with the half it didn’t know it had."

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Et Tu, Philip?

There are few critics I would trust more to give me the goods on a subject than Philip Marchand. But after reading his recent piece on A Gentleman of Pleasure, I’m struck, once again, by the sight of intelligent reviewer writing off a career he clearly knows nothing about outside of the biography he’s reviewing (the last person guilty of this was Stephen Henighan).

Marchand seems to have enjoyed Busby’s biography (as he should have: it's exemplary), but expresses some ambivalence about the man under the microscope. “Critical evaluation of this literary career,” he says of Glassco, “is difficult.” And it’s true: it is difficult to do justice to such multi-genre career. As a writer, Glassco was a quick study, adept at many forms and many voices. Part of Busby’s challenge is to reintroduce Glassco to a generation who likely remember him only from the memoir or, as Marchard hinself can’t help dwelling on, his sometime-louche lifestyle (threesomes!) and creative interests (pornography!). But Marchand’s attempt to tie Glassco to Robert McAlmon—as an example of another writer who “failed to develop” and ended up “a footnote to literary history”—is ludicrous. It proves that Marchand is taking his cues entirely from conventional wisdom and not the work itself.

Like McAlmon, Glassco was member of the expatriate circle in Paris, and like him he wrote in a variety of genres. But that’s where the similarities end. McAlmon broke no new ground with any of his literary ventures. His short stories and poetry are all period pieces, pungently florid documents of their time—and forgettable even then. Glassco was a paradigm-shifter. His anthology The Poetry of French Canada in Translation was the first of its kind, introducing readers to a vast swath of a then-unread body of work. It is still unmatched. His searing versions of Saint-Denys-Garneau's poetry and prose are mind-blowingly good: there is probably no better, or more definitive, translation of a Francophone poet anywhere in English-speaking world. Memoirs of Montparnasse can also be said to have sparked the first fake-memoir controversy (as such, he is a direct ancestor to James Frey). McAlmon also wrote a book about his time in Paris, but in terms of style, vividness and memorability it barely holds a candle to Glassco’s.

In short, Glassco is neglected today because he is at the mercy of a deteriorating taste for elegance and subtlety. McAlmon is neglected because he wrote boring books.

And I haven’t even mentioned the poetry. If all we had from Glassco was his memoir, translations and erotica, Marchand would have a case for applying the “petit-maître” moniker to his career. But someone responsible for writing obsessed, haunting poems like “Gentleman’s Farm” and “The Entailed Farm” (among others) deserves a lot more respect. Glassco’s best poetry is as good as anything by Scott, Gustafson or Smith. But this is precisely the dilemma of the literary dandy. Play the role too well, and it threatens to become the whole show. It might be hard to believe that Glassco was one of our finest poets—but believe it.

Sunday Poem

LIVING ALONE

Not such a hard thing to do
if you have the right appliances.
A radio is essential: that voice in the background
eases you into the day
like a breakfast egg into water.
For that, of course, you need a stove,
a poet, a spoon or two--
one of those beautifully turned pepper-mills. preferably teak.

If you stay in the kitchen it's amazing how much space
you can fill:
a coffee-grinder, blender, garlic press,
all manner of intricate knife.
Emergency rations: instead of baked beans
smoked oysters, a bottle of brandy.

These things taste best at 2 a.m.
when the rest of the house is cold.
You wake up dreaming you're asleep in the fridge,
there's so much white space beside you.