Friday, December 18, 2009

10 Canadian Poetry Volumes

Okay, here's a tentative list... These are the books that have most engaged me in the past decade in one way or another. Books I have carried around with me, come back to, written toward and against. They aren't necessarily favorites, or even best, those lists are less interesting to me. These texts constitute the ways in which I have been stretched. They aren't obscure texts and  I am not the only one they have moved, which is to say  they have entered into contemporary poetic discourse. The list is alphabetical. Many of them are represented in Open Field, though not always with the same book. In some cases the book I listed is one that I am currently engaging with, and so in process so to speak. What makes me sad is the lack of good lyric poetry. "Those who can still write a lyric, in some provincial corner, are perhaps lucky." Louis Dudek 10/26/92 Indeed. The lyric is hard to do well. All poetry is hard to do well. What makes it "well" is another matter. Intelligence, not only of form, but of what the poet chooses to leave out. Originality--discovering Mary Dalton for example, a pleasant find. Knew absolutely nothing about her, and didn't need to, the work spoke. Had no idea who Lisa Robertson was either when I stumbled upon The Weather one day in a bookstore in Toronto...didn't need anyone to tell me it was remarkable. Nor did I need anyone to tell me Un was a thing of beauty--though it took a very long time for any discussion of that to unfold. There is something arresting about the latter texts. Something original, absolutely compelling. The texts are impeccable too, each of them. Each of the books on the list below it seems to me do something remarkable, and they do it--not necessarily to make an argument, or fit into someone's idea of what poetry is. Blah to that.

But as for lyric--there are elements of the lyric in all of these poems of course (the more I look the more lyric it looks actually....). When I think lyric though, what I want is that intelligent, forceful, immediate speaking voice (hm Moure, Robertson, Babstock..). The way Carson brings Sappho forward with such intensity that I feel her breathing on the back of my neck. But also, say something. That is what it seems so hard for poetry to do. Lyric, narrative, conceptual, constraint-based, whatever. Say something. That's what I want. Make me have no choice but to hear.

Air Stream Land Yacht, Ken Babstock

Eunoia, Christian Bok

Inventory, Dionne Brand

If Not Winter, Anne Carson

Whylah Falls, George Elliott Clarke

Merrybegot, Mary Dalton

Un, Dennis Lee

Sheep's Vigil for a Fervent Person, Erin Moure

The Weather, Lisa Robertson

Paper City, Nathalie Stephens

All of the poets in Open Field of course, though many selections are not from this decade. There are few that also piqued my interest and impressed me in one way or another. They appear in random order

Revolver, Kevin Connolly

If Language, Greg Betts

The Vicinity, David O'Meara

Sooner, Margaret Christakos

Ox, Christopher Patton

i,robot Jason Christie

Forage, Rita Wong

Crabwise To The Hounds, Jeramy Dodds

There were a few that seemed under appreciated to me:

The Debaucher, Jason Camlot

What Stirs, Margaret Christakos

How We All Swiftly, Don Coles

The Commons, Steve Collis

Seven Pages Missing, Volume 1 &2, Steve McCaffery

Seaway: New & Selected, Todd Swift

The Invisible World is in Decline, Bruce Whiteman