Skip to content

Currently Reading: Paying Attention and Worth Re-Reading

Said like Reeds or Things (Coach House, 2004) by Mark Truscott.

It’s a wonderful head space. The text uses the book for pacing. One poem sets up the idea and turn the page and the next poem uses nearly the same phrasing but turns the meaning. It’s hard to explain. A poem all on one page that uses something of the same mental shifting is p. 26



The cover blurb says the poems cast a haiku shadows. I was skeptical and prepared to defend against the misinformation maligning haiku. They are not haiku and yet I could understand reading partway thru how. There’s a subtly. It reminds me of an Egytian lady who danced nearly without movement, the smallest shifts of wrists and skirt and yet as graceful as any long large sweeps and taking as much skill.

Determined by Aperture (Fewer & Further Press, 2008) by Shannon Tharp

This one I am also re-reading. There’s a discipline of restraint as well, not a telegraphic curtness in how brevity is used. For example,


We point
to locate,.

That is,
there is

in vision.

Some lyric poems I can’t see any logic to line breaks. Some do nothing for pacing and seem a matter of ego to call words poems and the meaning would be served as well in prose format, and be baggy prose at that. Here if lineated a single sentence, there would be meaning loss. There is little but it isn’t fragmentary. There’s a line sketch in we point and once that situation is established, there’s an expansion of the line into the motivation of why we would collectively point and already the suggestion of more than a literal pointing. It is already at 4 words in, an uncommon awareness of what’s going on.

Then the middle couple regathers thoughts in something like conversational tone and stammer and yet not going on. It becomes a call to arms to look after the members of this collective looking, creating a loop in the poem back to the initial word. It is like postage stamp art rather than mural art.

Keeping the Quiet (Bellowing Ark, 2008) by Rick Kempa

His isn’t excerpt-able the way some are. They build over hundreds of words a world. If I told you what happened it wouldn’t convey. It is how he told it. Poem for Bruce or Subway Song are experiences that unfold. I feel like I want to know Bruce or already do remember him. Whatever I may say about poetry being not about real life directly, I want to set aside for Subway Song. I want it to have literally happened like that, gleaming, compassionate, extending oneself to connect. They are about reconciling various griefs and various hope. In Bar the Door I got goosebumps at the telling of a loved one in, we gather, the ICU on machine support and declaring the entubated “Thank god you’ll never know/ what it’s like in here.”

Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (1914). From Roast Beef, p.35-36

There is no use there is not use at all in smell, in taste, in teeth, in toast, in anything, here is no use at all and the respect is mutual.

Why should that which is uneven, that which is resumes, that which is tolerable why should all this resemble a smell, a thing is there, it whistles, it is not narrower, why is there no obligation to stay away and yet courage, courage is everywhere the the best remains to stay.

If there could be that which is contained in that which is felt there would be a chair where there are chairs and there would be no more denial about a clatter. A clatter is not a smell. All this is good.

It’s been called wild and cubist and sound poetry and experimental but it doesn’t seem all that. It is musical. It makes sense but makes sense differently. It interlocks and back and forward references. It is easy to parse even if the syntax is overlapping. The commas and forward run of it with its structure melts the distinction between one object and the next, one idea and the next. Boundaries are shown as arbitrary as they are. It often seems cynical although there’s a nod there that the world has part of courage being as omnipresent as anything else.

Perhaps Stein makes sense to me because non-literal and hyperbole and torqued seems more true to me than claims of measurably slowly rounded space. A world that contains only matched sets unsettles me.

Experiment-o (AngelHouse, 2011).

It’s hard to do tender well, but Cameron Anstee struck the lines “you kissed me, no heroics, you kissed me /the parts we remember scaffold our bodies”
Held together, keeping integrity physically by memories. Past perceptions as structural, formative. Intriguing ideas.

I can’t explain Francis Raven’s visual pieces but they please me somehow. I look repeatedly and enjoy. Likewise with Márton Koppány’s. They are untitled but the vision of making the one with the leaves has a sweet elegance to it.

Poems can have a self-examination element of critical thought, a journalistic record making, a verbal movie-making and can enjoy themselves. Phil Hall’s willingness to play is a treasure. There’s quite a lot of his poems in the issue, including this Basho nod.

Gerund gerund gerund
the old frogs pettifog & the peepers
ing ing ing ing ing ing ing ing

And paying attention. An excerpt from the poem Claver. In, it just before, burning the old New Yorkers he salvaged the covers (as I did with Lee Valley Catalogues).

mornings I try to read page-shaped ash

a quote my fire preserves all night
from columns it has only one use for now

riven by passion, not profit. We contin

m-Talá (Shearsman/Buschek, 2009) by Chus Pato, translated by Erin Moure.

p. 19 is misrepresentative actually since it holds a thought longer and the text is alert and moving, but this piece I particularly like


        you select the saddest path
        a verdant landscape: glacée
        that’s how autumns come to an end

because we leap without a net, to do it we take “abyss lessons”
I’d better be nice
find things to do that make me smile
That’s how we survive:
me and you too, my favourite aliens
outside the womb

Just like the huge Polar Bears on the ice-floes of Greenland

There’s a background sadness, yes but a tender compassion, affection in here as well. The text brings in the world of the point of view to include these things that are part of our mind, melting ice caps, global warming, particular animals that we have no direct contact with and yet are embedded in our culture. It doesn’t sermonize but it doesn’t leave outside the picture the bigger picture.

It is text that is self-aware, or is it self-conscious of itself being a text? We live urban lives, most of the planet anyway, even the 1/6 of the human planet who live in Shanty towns. It’s a sweet spot to acknowledge, to not dwell nor deny yet have a larger sense of meaning.

Poetry often references the physical world we are often not living directly in, being inside heated or cooled buildings. Outdoors is where we go on vacation with supplies. Farms are education centres we visit. Some garden and its a centering activity. Do we write about the majority substance of our days, of insights into human interaction, about the solitude of walking back and forth checking for mail, or metatext about typing? Poems about writing poems? Where do we place our despair and optimism? Where and how are we in relation to the disorientation? Do we position ourselves towards survive, alive or thrive? Our attitude is not a castaway optional but comes down to a matter of survival.

Gently Read Literature, December Issue

It’s at 55 pages. It’s an issue as if catered for me. There’s a piece on prose and flash fiction and another on nonsense is not gibberish. There’s a review by Marilyn Krysal on Ingrif Wendt’s 6th book. Eventide is a poetry of non-violence. It wraps into itself Szymborska and Stafford. Looping back to what I was thinking about yesterday, William Stafford says, “You create a good poem by revising your life.”

Wendt ended a poem with lines by Seeger,

Here’s how to count the the people who are ready to do right.
“One.” “One.” “One.”

You never know what will spark. In the same issue Cindy Hochman reviews Ann Cefola’s chapbook St. Agnes Pink-Slipped (Kattywompus Press, 2011) where she’s wondering what’s an unemployed saint to do when laid off. It also contains a wonderful poem about “a constellation, a myth, a woman of 43[/…] Andromeda must unloose her own chains, rub her nasty wrists”.

Cefola also writes, “In the bluest of rooms, I am awash in X-ray light./ My body’s on lease to strangers:”

And in other news, an interview with me went up today at OpenBook Ontario.

Read 200 pages and you might be in the place to write 60 words.

in the highrise a raised eyebrow

and my sins are xray white. I fall 
not as dead weight heavy but as if 
tipped from dock to water, cold slapped 
back for a moment from the shock, relit
and back into the black out, a snatch of
a vision of lower cabinets, my own angle,

then slow sinking thru the watery ceramic 
tiles as the black out continues and I slump 
as a waterlogged ceiling, the bulge of my butt 
making the neighbours look up with concern 
at their dining room ceiling then a crash and 
a whoosh and I’m thru and their concerns can’t
be mine. I’m into the next kitchen below, melting 
their floor, bowing it down to bedroom of lower floor 

and I percolate, this fainting weight thru the bed’s 
percale cover, the plastic fitted cover that’s said
to stop spills less than me, the mercury that was 
my bones running tiny courses and dripping 
around the springs and recombining a pool of 
our favourite parts in a sort of Saturnal gravity,

pressing thru the new floating laminate beneath 
and I slide wondering if even China could stop me 
or if I’ll sweep straight out the other side into 
the great beyond and the exhale of meteors.

That X-ray of Cefola was the sort of gelling word that my brain’s been waiting for and out spilled this from my hunt-and-peck, tickety tack racket this morning.

Related posts:

  1. Poetry Reading: thoughts poetry reading a succession of stories, above the nose foldings somberness, a chin tightening with smiles, cadence of chat, ambiant sounds in the room rising, bodies cotton moving with, against...
  2. Experiment-o and Reading the New The issue is now live at This first issue live with some interesting work to check out. The contributers are: Gary Barwin, Emily A. Falvey, Spencer Gordon, Camille Martin,...
  3. Leslie Scalapino’s reading Both Giscombe and the second speaker of the evening of January 31, Scalapino, have been publishing for decades and the world being the unpredictably variable size it is, they had...

Categories: Uncategorized.

Comment Feed

2 Responses

  1. mmm… S.Tharp is a fave.

    Kinda like morning calesthenics reading the last bit.
    Nice burbling thinky sound/logic riff, bits of songs
    in the wind.

  2. Hi Pearl: I’m Cindy Hochman, the reviewer of Ann Cefola’s book (Gently Read Literature). Thanks so much for the honorable mention – – Ann’s book is definitely worth reading and I enjoyed reviewing it (and I’m meeting Ann for the first time next week!) Just found your website and I will be returning to it often. Thanks so much for your keen insights and poetic sensibilities! Best, Cindy

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.