Arc member Brecken Hancock was the host for the roomful assembled for the Factory Series on November 29th. The series, like above/ground press, is in its 20th year.
First up was JM Francheteau [audio interview at Chrysalis there]. He is a rural transplant based in Ottawa. His writing has appeared in CV2, The Steel Chisel, Bywords and his blog. He was one of the short-listed for the John Newlove Award this fall. In 2013 he released a chapbook, A pack of lies (Dog Bites Cameron Press, 2013).
He read from a character poem of the wrestler Antoine who went from wrestling fame to invisibility of homelessness, “His heart horse large exploding out from under him on the grocer’s floor.”
Here’s an excerpt from Oklahoma Tall Tales: Danny Hodge. Or, if you prefer, here it is in video at Tree.
Unfortunately for you the Tree recordings of the open mics stopped before the night he read the poem on Ohio fish advisories which was the poem that made me sit up and take notice. Cuyahoga River Fire of the 60s and all the watershed of tributaries in Ohio and which ones you are not to eat the fish. It blends found material and individual viewpoint and the big picture problem against the individual fish with eyes like coffee. It is how the whole works together like jenga. Pulling a line and it doesn’t convey the effect.
He closed out by performing a poem about training for the cold war and the kids go under the desk inspired by a bit from Lewis Black.
Sadiqa de Meijer was born in Amsterdam and moved to Canada as a child. She teaches medicine and literature at Queens U. Her poetry, short stories and essays have been published in a range of journals and anthologies, including The Malahat Review, Geist, Riddle Fence and Poetry Magazine. A selection from the manuscript won the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. Her first book of poems is Leaving Howe Island (Oolichan Books, 2013).
In her poem Dag en Nacht (Day and Night after Escher’s woodblock) is a lovely meditation on describing life to the child in the stroller. “we’re opposite shifts in the same factory.” Many of her poems had striking metaphor. The exact phrasing mattered and was laid down carefully. The ending couplet of the narrative often packed a punch (a couple of which I transcribed utterly illegibly; perhaps I can scan them as tea leaves).
The final reader but not the last element of the right was another first book poet, Danny Jacobs who was in from New Brunswick and had cousins and other family and old friends in the Ottawa audience.
Danny Jacobs’ poems have been published in a variety of journals across Canada, including ARC, Event, The Antigonish Review, Riddle Fence, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, Grain and CV2. After living in a number of cities and towns in the Maritimes, Danny is back in Riverview and works as the librarian in the village of Petitcodiac, NB. Songs That Remind Us of Factories (Harbour, 2013) is his first book.
One sample poem was about life in the call centres, the buzzwords on the wall, the corporate culture that gives you 7 minutes per shift for a washroom break. Another section was about domestic insects where each was a riddle poem. (A funny serendipity given that Bruce Taylor’s workshop this week on nonsense poems included a section on riddle poem tradition.) One was about the sommelier on the one shoeless, passed out foot.
There were tribute poems, one for his uncle (and perhaps logging? It has a lot of work-specific jargon.) and another about skeet shooting for his grandfather. “Hold the barrel like a Bible’s spine[...]there’s the recoil that will remembered in the butt of the wood for 60 years[...] shells that open like orchids”. A lot of love in those poems.
He will have come and gone already from Montreal’s Argo series last night.
The Q& A was a wonderful addition and Brecken came prepared. A reading portion can often end suddenly and the audience while still in the lull after a poem is asked for questions then the option is whipped away again with “any questions? anyone? no questions…well, thank you for coming and…” This was avoided this time by her having a few questions in hand and for the audience having a few of their own shortly. Some were even outside the box of Star Wars collectibles.
The first question was around one’s relationship to confessional and the accuracy of autobiography. Jacobs made the very good point that if you happen to write murder mysteries, you write murder mysteries. If you write a poem in the character of someone who murders people say that poet murdered someone! While confessional is something of a dirty word, you can’t help but leak some of yourself into a poem even if you make things up.
Francheteau said that in the process of writing character poems, it is like in the movie when the character looks down and sees blood and says, oh, that gunshot was totally about me.
I don’t recall the question that led to it but at some point Jacobs said that so far as narrative or not, Babstock and Dodds come out of the tradition of Gerard Manley Hopkins of leading with the sound. But for himself wherever the language goes, he prefers to keep a sense of story visible to a greater degree than them.
On the question of politics and poetry, de Meijer said she felt them separate in a similar way that part of your brain composes poetry, another edits, and an office admin part submits them out, part of your brain considers politics and rhetoric and another part sublimates everything without letting the top ideological brain drive your poetry.
If anyone has a post on de Meijer, Brecken Hancock, Sue Sinclair, Tricia McDaid and Fazeela Jiwa doing readings and on panel at Railroad Reading or want to share details of the discussion there, ping me so I can see what I missed. When I go in spirit, my spirit takes terrible notes.