Friday, August 31, 2007

filling station, issues 37 & 38

Issue 37 includes short fiction and poetry from Sachiko Murakami, Jessica Grant, Ryan Bird, and others, as well as an intriguing interview with Sheila Heti by Melanie Little in which we learn about Ticknor, "faux naive" (a term I suspect was coined by what I call the "faux sincere")
The highlights of Issue 38 are the interviews: Robert Majzels on writing, politics, translation, and oil, Michael Holmes on wrestling, reviewing, and the woes of the slushpile, Gregory Betts on sound, language (of course!), McCaffery, and Jacqueline Turner on the west coast versus Australian poetry scene, her book Seven into Even, and the post-lyric (really, we need to talk about that.). There are also poems from the interviewees.

Why isn't this magazine online?? I could click click and you would all be introduced. As it is you will have to go here and subscribe and I continue to lament the lack of a decent online Canadian literary presence.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Natalie Walschots, Thumbscrews

toy catalogue

flogger: lammy

luscious each tongue
liquorice all warmth
shakes tail or twelve
quirt ends slap clotted
cream into muscle light

flogger: mactavish

bagpipe leather hails
hectic bellow and wheeze
spit soak astringent
tartan braided handle
uneven falls crave
gut shovelled lung power
holler diaphragm deep

flogger: mortal

spiney acrostic
etch binary
split goatskin baited
bitch ivory
skinny ballistic
bit savoury
lacerate gleeful
stitch blithely

squid whip: therapy

corset stitched doctor
fat knotted tongues
chuckle black neoprene
Jungian dervish swoops
flawless catharsis unclogs
anxiety to glutted scream


Thumbscrews Natalie Zina Walschots
The 2007 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry Winner

Natalie Zina Walschots recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Calgary. She serves as the Managing Editor for filling Station and is the co-organizer of the Flywheel reading series. She has also served as the Managing Editor for dANDelion. Her work has recently appeared in Matrix and The Capilano Review. Sections of Thumbscrews have appeared as the No Press chapbooks Passion Play and Christening. The following conversation occurred over email.

LH: Was this ms. part of your dissertation?

NW: No; this was a project I started in the poetry manuscript course I took with Christian Bok in the first year of my MA (2004-2005). My MA thesis is an entirely different project, called Tonsil Hockey, an imagined extension of bpNichol's poetry in Arts Facts/Love/Truth/Zygal and The M, in the vein of Darren Wershler-Henry's Nicholodeon (but textual rather than visual).

LH: Is this found text?

NW: This section: yes and no. A few of the titles are based on the nicknames a Canadian fetish /toy company called Leatherbeaten gave to a few of their pieces. However, most of them are odes to specific implements and the sensations they create. One of my friends asked me, when I first started working on the project, if the subject of pain in particular would get boring after a while. I remember her asking "Isn't being hit with something a lot like being hit with any other thing?" The answer is, of course, absolutely not, so in Toy catalogue I really made en effort to try and represent the very different and specific sensations the objects implied.

LH: Were you working with a constraint? Can you elaborate on that process?

NW: I worked with a general sound-based constraint in this section: to represent either how each object sounded when it was used (specifically, the percussive sounds against the body), and/or the sounds made by a person either wearing the object or having it used on them. For example, I wanted 'hobbles' to sound like the slightly off-balance gait of a shambling, restricted walk. I wanted 'ballgag' to sound like the effort of speaking and drooling around a rubber ball.

LH: Your work, like the work of Rachel Zolf, Margaret Christakos, and others--Dennis Lee for example--privileges sound over meaning. i love the word "flogger" and "lammy" and of course their sound suggests meaning to me, but what do you say to readers who are looking for more representative imagery, more meaning?

NW: While I certainly privilege sound over meaning, I would not say that 'Thumbscrews' lacks any gesture towards representation. The piece you brought up, "flogger: lammy," can certainly be read for sound alone, but it can also be read as a descriptive ode to a lambskin flogger, a description of the character and sensation of a specific implement -- and, by extension, the how it feels to both wield that implement and how it feels when inflicted on the body.

LH: Yes, I guess what I meant by representation is really more conventional, or more "lyric" meaning. I'm always imagining the uninitiated reader, or the common reader as Woolf says, is a person on the threshold of the poem, looking for a way in... Will you outline your project in the text itself?

NW: Of course. Thumbscrews is, essentially, an extended comparison between constraint-based poetry and S&M. Why would you hobble a poem by employing so many restrictions upon the language? For the same reason that you'd tie someone up in the bedroom. It's exciting, it makes you have to think much harder about what you're doing, and the results can be exhilarating. Every poem refers to about what is happening to the poem itself (Thumbscrews is really a self-reflexive work), using the language of sadomasochism to do so. I chose sadomasochism both because the images were appropriate and the vocabulary was extremely exciting. Throughout Thumscrews, I am really using the language of S&M to talk about poetry, to use it as a new vocabulary to discuss what happens to langauge when you place it under constraint.

LH: Who are you influenced by?

NW: You're absolutely right to mention Rachel Zolf and particularly Margaret Christakos (I love her cheekiness, a kinf of simultaneously winsome and gruesome, use of language) . I'd also add Suszanne Zelazo
-- her use of associate leaps in logic, particularly in Parlance, affected the way I wrote Thumbscrews, as did her diction (particularly the impulse to unite words from disparate discursive regiusters). Christian Bok also greatly influenced my work, especially the way I've some to work with language under constraint. He also also imparted a sense of how tight and lean good poetry should be.

LH: Parlance is a wonderful book, and those prose poems in particular are stunning in their leaps, Steinian, but original. And yes, the leanness is there, and tightness: the syllabic rumbling. Was this text "bigger"? I mean to say was it built word up, chiseled down, or, or??

NW: I would have to say both. Most often, I started with much larger pieces and distilled them until they were as tight as I needed them to be; a few pieces, however, function as poetic additive scupture. The vast majority, I must say, were winnowed down from larger, wordier texts.

LH: Who do you most want to read your book?

NW: Everyone. =)

I am not sure that I have any one particular audience in mind, though I find myself particularly happy when young women read and enjoy my work. I want to write about things that are dangerous, things I find frightening, subjects that carry associated risks just for engaging with them. I think anyone who found my work a little less than safe should definitely read it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fall books and everything in the works

Many books slid across my desk this week, though I'm sure only a small percentage of those due to be published this fall, specifically in Canada, and some I have been carrying around for a while. As usual, I will likely give those that don't engage me a pass without noting, but I can tell you that a surprising number excited me and thus prolong my engagement with this blog project...First up we have Natalie Walschots, Jason Christie, Donato Mancini, Natalie Simpson, Evie Christie, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, KI Press, Steven Price, George Murray. But wait, who is Rob Winger? Muybridge's Horse, from Nightwood Editions was the first surprise, then Christopher Patton's Ox from Signal, Kenneth Sherman's Black River, from Porcupine's Quill, and who is David Wevill? A first pass at his book Asterisks is promising (though there may only be one note...). Other unknowns (to me at least) I'll be looking at include Micheline Maylor and Alexis Kienlen. Oh, and until my wrist is better or I get an assistant I'm only linking essentials. Sorry.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The real cost of development...

The New York Times takes on China...

I have to read Kiran Desai...what a breathe of fresh air.

Anne Sexton and Saturday thoughts

I've been reading and thinking about Anne Sexton these days--this is part of an ongoing project I'm loath to discuss, but suffice to say, she is the vein of gold in this genre of poetry. And now of course, you can see and hear her thanks to youtube. And Plath! And Bishop! Well, take a listen to Susan Howe interviewing Bishop...very interesting to hear Bishop describe things. So offhand. And dismissive. This a trait in both her letters, which I've just re-read, and in her work. She just dismisses... How odd it is that the so-called avant garde, or experimental poets (Howe, Bernstein, Silliman, Moure, Bowering, etc...) seem to have such appreciation for, and understanding of, other approaches to poetry while more formalist poets seem to slam the door on anything remotely other.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Graduating Show at The Nickle

This show is a must. Really, this is an impressive collection of conceptual art. Jennifer Stead's A Long Story evokes a piece I saw recently by Louise Bourgeois at the Fabric Museum in Philadelphia involving a scroll of text that wrapped around the entire gallery. Stead's is a scroll of landscape. Brilliant. In particular Martine Audet's Finding The Seam, stands out with its bold assemblages of wood, both fabricated and raw (although polished and cut...). In the past I've argued that the seam has become an obsession in contemporary art, but one that often doesn't illuminate much (David Altmejd and Jessica Stockholder for example...), but this is a different kind of seam. The fact that Audet's piece also had the best lighting and did not have to deal with carpet might have contributed to the strength of it--the work just leaps out. Beautiful. All of these works, including Reflections by Patricia Dawkins, Crystal Palace by Jane McQuitty, and Presents from the Invisible by Courtney Chetwynd, are worth seeing. At the Nickle on the U of Calgary Campus until September 15th.


Well, well. The Quebec Police admitted today that they sent undercover police officers into the recent demonstration of the Summit at Montebello, Quebec. This after Canadian citizens had to endure both George Bush and our own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, mocking their desire to know what was on the table of that summit, and to have input into the future of their country, and the relationship it develops with its neighbor. Further they were mocked when the peaceful demonstrators suggested that the miscreants were neither citizens nor protesters, but in fact officers attempting to incite violence at an otherwise peaceful event. That was denied. Until today.

At least they admitted it. And thankfully the officers themselves were...well they were pretty unconvincing...and the following quote from the SQ: "At all times, they responded within their mandate to keep order and security." The footage is there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peter Butala 1934-2007

I first glimpsed Peter Butala in the small grocery in East End. It was as if a mountain had walked into the store. He was wholly unlike any other person I have met in my life--and I have met many fabulous, startling individuals. I had no idea who he was, but I knew that if there was one person I had to meet while in Saskatchewan, it was him. A few days later I ran into him again, and a few days after that there he was at the door of Stegner House coming to escort me on a tour of the Old Man on His Back, the 11,000 acre chunk of land he had recently given to the nature conservancy of Canada.

To call Butala a naturalist is to simplify the relationship of one person to himself, and his surroundings. To call him an environmentalist is again, to assume a thinking that is limited to a contemporary, defensive position. I'm not sure how I would describe Butala outside of the inadequate terms we have to discuss such consciousness. He was an inspiration. And a quiet place of beautiful thinking.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"In this medium, in this mediation, the 'I' she produces can only be a displacement, a symptom of the original split that allows its inscription. The typewriter protects from bodily depths and keeps the dissociation in view: 'I never write by hand,' she says, it's 'so ugly--like my adolescence...'"
MB Blasing on Anne Sexton and the typewriter.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Carla Harryman

Open Box, Carla Harryman, belladonna books, 2007

I heard Carla Harryman read at the Bowery last year with Heather Fuller, and that should have given me a heads up for this text. When I think of Harryman I think prose, or at least a prose line, something closer to Lyn Hejinian (they came to me in tandem...) than say, Rae Armantrout. Open Box couldn't be further from my expectations. "The page will not inflate/ lungs do," says Harryman, and then proceeds to give a finely tuned performance, each page featuring two, four-line stanzas, not metrical but lyrical propulsion. In the world of dissonant lyric/recombinant or otherwise, there is a line at which this propulsion either hits or misses. Difficult to decipher the why and how of it, but it exists, for this reader, and when it hits their is a tidal pull that flotsams my ear over all manner of syntactic and semantic leaps. Thus my pleasure at Harryman's "improvisations,"
Known by what it isn't
Rugs piled densely
In a water house of sound
Sorted by sound

A tongue tipping a fork
Blood off your hands
Banding 'bout the premises
With switched notes


No veracity here either
The subject has been lost
In a breed of deer
Unknown in these parts otherwise

Does not sing
Did not before or even in this small escapade
A yard
Escaped here
What constitutes meaning? What pull? What plummet? Where subject? Where I? Where the logic and why some logic where appears none? Who escaped and most importantly what veracity? (You can read more on Jacket...)

Tina Darragh's blurb suggests Joseph Cornell doing a can-can, and yes, that's it! This is physical poetry, performative and sculptural; this in fact IS a kind of lung inflating and re-inflating, or to be more oozingly lyrical, wings beating (you could see the poems on the page in that way if you need to see something so literal...). Terrific energy, terrific drive. There is a kind of linguistic fierceness (someone slipped something into the brownies...). And while I don't want to diminish the subversive aspects, I have to think that these poems must have been a lot of fun to write. Certainly they are a lot of fun to read.

On the heels of Juliana Spahr and Elizabeth Treadwell this collection reads like another windmill on the horizon...and I have Marcella Durand, Natalie Simpson, Jena Osman and Mary Burger all clamoring to get into the discussion...and they shall, slowly, as my wrist allows.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Calgary, Art Central

Saturday the Hound discovered two enclaves of art in her new city. Art Central (above), and 11th Avenue boast a number of diverse sources of sculpture and canvas (and pottery and ceramic too, but that's another story). Of all the galleries I visited, Paul Kuhn and Newzones on 11th were favorites. They both have well designed, well lit spaces, and a strong curatorial presence. Newzones had two shows, both worth seeing. G'DDY UP!, a Stampede inspired western theme show, consists of eight artists various responses to all things western. All of the offerings were good, though you won't find any radical reinterpretations. A few stood out: David Levinthal offers a handful of excellent Macro Poloroids of toys (always a Hound favorite...), Joshua Jensen-Nagle's pigment prints are wonderful (moody, dark, like paintings seen through a dirty windscreen...), and Kevin Sonmor's huge horse paintings were fun. See installation shots here. The other show I can't recall the title of, but it included several abstract paintings (including one woman who does monochromes reminiscent of Marcia Hafif) that were exciting. Apparently the strongest of these artists will be featured in an upcoming show on young abstract artists in September.

Paul Kuhn's website is not up to date so no use commenting on that...but there was a huge painting there of a horse as well as a series of paintings featuring various mountainous landscapes as well as a few cityscapes--Montreal for one. These were more of a departure than the work at Newzones. The landscapes more abstract, working the line in a variety of ways (cartography, smudge, squiggle), and the painting of the horse had ghost images under the surface, and layers that this viewer found both compelling and puzzling: not sure what the overall effect was supposed to be--and this isn't new by any means--but I loved the gestures, the colour palette, and contrast between the very literal horse and the more temporal washes of color, texture, drip and image.
You can see the beautiful sheen of the flank (I hope that is flank...) here. It's quite lovely. Worth the trip.

Other galleries--Axis Contemporary Art had some interesting work, and both Truck and TrepanierBaer look promising but alas they were closed! More on those later...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lawrence & Holloman

Lawrence & Holloman
by Morris Panych
Calgary Fringe Festival

Most American's don't know the work of Morris Panych, he who rules The Arts Club in Vancouver, and in general with good reason. As a student I was irritated by Panych, who sometimes has the feel of a song and dance man (and not in good way). Panych has gone on to produce consistently entertaining and smart plays, a kind of cross between Beckett and Sally Clark (another Canadian playwright who should be more well known), though definitely Beckett/Clark light.

If you've never seen the play, this Fringe production, directed by Wayne Hvingelby and featuring local actors Telly James as Lawrence and Aaron Ranger as Holloman, does a passable job at bringing the characters to life. With very little budget, Fringe shows tend to have a "my dad has a barn, let's do a show" feel to them, and this one is no different. In typical Panych fashion, there is little required with the set--just a few props to keep the minimal settings. The acting, well, it was spotty. Both actors had their high points, but either the actors didn't have enough time to learn their lines, or they didn't have enough stamina for the 90 minute running time, because they were slow to warm up, had great moments in the middle, and then petered out in the end. It was a good reminder that being an artist is also about stamina, and being in shape for the duration--whatever that duration may be.

For those who don't know the play, all I will say is it's an investigation into fate, faith and arrogance. It's tight, funny, and appropriately disturbing. What were the good moments? Well, James does a good job of keeping his energy up as the ever-optimistic Lawrence, the more physically demanding role. Ranger is less successful in achieving a believable shift in his character, but he gets a few good laughs with his deadpan delivery. As with any two-hander, the banter is what keeps the play moving, and so much depends on the interaction between the two. Here the actors haven't yet arrived on the same stage--but perhaps by the weekend they will have.

Note to Calgary Fringe producers: where is Fringe Central? What good is a theatre festival without a central gathering spot to post reviews, meet friends, and grab a drink? This is a big oversight. Hope that next year the festival takes shape.


See it.
Need I say more?

Elizabeth Treadwell, Lilyfoil

I've been meaning to write about Elizabeth Treadwell's Lilyfoil (O Books 2004) for a while now, but as readers know, between the three month hiatus and my preoccupations with art, poetry has suffered my attention. At least in terms of blogging. And not only my attention. The poetry blogworld has suffered several losses in fact--Treadwell's own Secretmint vanished, as did Jordan Davis' Equanimity. Is this blog burnout? Is it symptomatic of the centralization of poetry on the web? Has that force fractured the single-author blog? Do people check blogs regularly anymore?*

But I digress.

Lilyfoil + 3 (O Books, $12) consists of four sections/poems and is a kind of girl's own that spans--as Treadwell's interests do--across at least two centuries of girldom, from Aphra Behn to Queen Elizabeth. A wartime speech from a young Queen Elizabeth (Princess Elizabeth of course...) begins the section "The New Elizabethans: Modernity and Tabloid."

What interests me most about Lilyfoil is the language, and representations of nature that occur here. Tracking the natural world, its glint, we trace the seams of narrative/myth/culture even as we watch Princess Di careen out of control. This celluloid scenarioville is impossible to stake down. As Juliana Spahr points out on the back cover, it's Lilyfoil, not the familiar is made strange with a slight shift of meaning, not only in language, but in jarring lyrical associations:
may be a well-known or a little-known
with your lovely friend, your
body of ferns, fold of
heard herself, lilyfoils distance
from ribbons of print. measure the weather
from stoop to store.
Like fellow San Fransico poet and artist Yedda Morrison (who has photographs up at Presentation House in Vancouver at the moment) Treadwell works the seams between representations of nature, exposing the poem's underwires. Regarding Morrison's photographs:
Fakery becomes a larger and more explicit element in later works in the series, such as Bioposy #4 (Underwires) and Bioposy #6 (Red Devil Green Beast), which reveal the plastic stems, coated wires, and punctured mounts usually hidden within arrangements of artificial flowers. --Georgia Strait
The impulse of blending natural and artificial is hardly news in either the poetry or art world. And yet of course it's still very much news. And more so the insistence on seeing the seams, where things meet, not just in terms of benign layers, but how human desire and its byproducts are factored in. "Conventional" poetry still clings to pristine representations of the natural world, resists the impulse to include the scruffy and toxic underbelly of the water's surface.

As Joshua Corey points out here in the procedings from an AWP Conference (the one in Vancouver to be precise), "there is barely any distance to travel between Wordsworth's 'The Daffodils' and virtually any poem of Mary Oliver's you would care to name." To be fair, I've heard Oliver say she never intended to be a nature poet, and certainly not an eco or experimental writer. Perhaps she simply wants to write a life of quiet observation--not carrying a weight of chronicling the unseen in what she is seeing, and with little reference to a wider body of reading or theory. Many poets do--and those that do seem very concerned with those who don't. But never mind, and never mind that the "nature" in a Mary Oliver poem, though never stated, comes in the form of a national park or a groomed yard. Here is Corey again:
Oliver's plain poetic speech, meant to serve as a marker of both accessibility and authenticity, represses the strangeness and vitality of language beyond its usefulness as a resource. Her language gestures at wildness, tries to terrify you like a lion at the end of a leash—but it is tame, and we never lose sight of the lion tamer's whip and chair.
Again, not news, and yet, I've been thinking about this post for weeks and there are more words in the recycling bin than here because it just isn't simple...none of this is.

But back to Treadwell's troubling. Treadwell glimpsing the lily through the foil of what? Theory? Architecture? The shroud of romanticism? What? (I'm skimming the questions off the top here...there are whole structures under these lines if you care to take a flash light in hand.)
There are lovely things in this book which ends in a play with Aphra Behn, Jean Rhys, Gertrude Stein. (The problem with reading this kind of poetry is that it expands rather than simple five paragraph essay structure responses seem in order, or possible...)

Treadwell, like Spahr (and every belladonna poet, and....) seeks to reinvigorate language with new meaning. How in a world where everyone is expecting everyone else to be lying, can we see language as anything more than the glint of surface, a way to facilitate given financial transactions? (Yes, they've just hit the miners trapped underground in Utah. Someone is tunneling under Gaza. The US is busy privatizing Iraq as CA Conrad points out...) My mind just flipped over into Juliana Spahr's This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, which impacts with similar associative leaps:
Here is today.

Over eight million people marched on five continents against
the mobilization.
and later
We talked on the phone about this glimmer.

We read each other's reports.

We said optimistic things.
Language attempting to grapple with the sheer quantity of modernity. The number of bodies that can pile up to try and say no, and yet are unheard, even as we tally, they are unheard... What do words mean in the face of this? "As I thought about this, life went on," Spahr says.

And Treadwell too with her disassociate junctures:
a fair measure of helicopter trees, when mothers
skirt is blinded in the photosun, and never linger.
Where Treadwell dismantles, Spahr begins to both detonate and reconstruct. Perhaps these impulses, not the new sincerity, nor the new/neo/retro formalism, is where poetry can be useful.

This post is far from complete...

One wonders why readers of a forum such as a blog meant to disperse ideas, thinking and influence, continually privilege one voice/blogger over another? And one wonders too where or what the future of poetry blogs might be if this is the case. Will they be subsumed under one banner or another as has been the case with the
Poetry Foundation (which seems bent on reaching out to a slightly wider audience, at least in terms of its online presence), or those mega-bloggers who seem bent on having every item of poetry pass through their fingers? Or the linksters, those who scour google and provide us with poetry links, no digesting or commentary, just the links. Or perhaps it will all move to facebook?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New running route

Missing that skyline I can tell you, and missing Chelsea a whole lot more...but this is a beautiful town and the air is incredible! Slow to post here due to an extremely sore wrist...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan, originally uploaded by lemon hound.

Shot from my old jogging be followed by a shot from new jogging route...maybe a whole series of jogging photos?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

from Erin Moure's postface to O Cadoiro

The thinking on lyric and nature and form and poetry and poetics continues--largely off the page yes, but there will be signposts. And here is one, a snippet from Moure's've all had a look at O Cadoiro?
"Such was the place where I fell. It became “place” in the act of falling. A place where I could fall and keep falling. Where I wrote poems that were palimpsests, markings and echoes bearing the shiver of the archive. For origin is always already lost here, lost again and again, and its very losing makes origin possible. And if this fallen trajectory of origin stabilizes at all, it is somewhere far ahead of it. At the time of reading. No wonder we fall.

As Derrida urges: “. . . The question of the archive is the question of the future, of the future itself, a question of a response, of a promise and a responsibility for tomorrow. If we wish to know what the archive is trying to tell us, we cannot know but in the time to come. Perhaps.”


Is this the reason why I find myself, again, and ever, in the falling-down-place? The place poetry is made. The “not-yet.” The very falling poses the question of the future. The Peninsular is not an island, but part of the Maine. Here, in its turning from the certainties of God to a human insufficiency, it is a promise and a responsibility for tomorrow. Maine...
For the full postface go here--buy the book of course, but it isn't there, you have to download the postface yourself. And here's a review of said book. Poor Lily! Please y'all, write some poems she can understand will you?! (perhaps she'll provide notes on what would bring her clarity?).

By the way, Geist is actually one of the best magazines in Canada and it looks like they've recently decided to give the online site some attention. Bravo! It seems we're poised to get some actual thinking content on a Canadian site! Anyone can google poetry and literary news can't they? Content! We want content! Go Geist.

Guess who?

Found this was new to me and pretty much how I felt yesterday under all this sky in a city that come August, empties out more extremely than any other city I've lived in, including New York...unless, it occurs to me, the city is just this empty? How would I know after all of a week here?