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95books for 2014: List 15: Coming Down to the Line

Reading from October and November…

  1. Kenneth Patchen’s Hallellujah Anyway
    Based on people’s raving of how fundamental to poetry Patchen is, I found a book.

    It wasn’t anything like I expected since the quote were put in tidy stacks of textual ideas whereas he drew and handwrote around and within his drawings, mostly legibly.

    What is a line but a convenience derived from efficient use of scarce expensive calfskin? From emulating scribes in Gutenberg’s presses. From the computer emulating the hot metal type standard? All along there has been more.

    The ideas still seem subversive even today. He thinks what he likes. Rather blows off the doors of poetry. Not one tone tome, some are hard-hitting detailed against Religion and nuclears but for a god, and beauty. Some are playful. Some absurd. Some he’s thinking things out.

    Reading it at writers fest front ticket desk before a poetry event a man slipped up quietly and asked what I was reading. Patchen!, oh, you’re a real poet then. And to think a week before I wouldn’t have qualified.

    I’ve happily reread it a few times.

  2. Brood by rob thomas
    The winner of the year’s John Newlove Award for poetry, the poems go thru a sort of family scene with a twist.

    the number fourteen bus

    that stranger we warn our kids about, it’s him.
    he boards and sits across the aisle from us.
    his body odour shouts down diesel fumes.
    doors hiss. the engine climbs an octave.

    nonnas, crow black, crowd in around my kids.
    your boys? they ask. so cute. how old are they?
    near two and three. their mother? they want to know.
    the elder tucks his chin. the young one smiles.

    the stranger smiles too. he’s missing a leg.
    hey kids, you want to see something special?
    he asks. the nonnas don’t breathe, certain he’ll expose
    himself. he twists the prosthetic and holds it up.

    the nonnas are not relieved, as I am. the boys look
    bored and sleepy. the man looks injured.

    Interesting how the ragged right edge is a Cole’s Notes. A good counter message in the world of stranger-danger which ignores that most injury comes from familiar people who look “normal”. I’ve seen a comparable scene myself a few times. Often drunken people on busses, those particularly high in body odour and alcohol, mostly our elders, the seniors with unruly luck. Parents watch for risks and kids only know they’re hungry or restless. Such a classic scene. And so often the parents shut it down and teach kids to shut down but sometimes some magical connections happens too.

  3. Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play by Jennifer DeVere Brody (Duke U Press, 2008)
    This book I’ve been pecking away at since the publishing year. The person writing immensely enjoys the academic language. It could make some interesting set of half a dozen short articles. That seems harsh. It’s not op-ed but it is baggy. It is heavily illustration, deeply thought out, playful in its way but each chapter has its challenges. Describing a one-person non-verbal experimental theatre verbally as a person acts out many roles loses something with words. The ideas of hyphenated Americans conflated with spy, alien, suspicion was an interesting read. It was more in depth than most on the subject. The deep meaning of what we do when we hyphenate and the parallels between unfamiliar using hyphens and words losing that is a sign of integration to the mainstream consciousness. Think of orang-utan and how it used to be a borrowed hyphenated word. Seems to me in my childhood it had multiple hyphens.

    Her section on period seemed more tangental to the punctuation. A great treatise on Yayoi Kusama who liked to paint herself and others with polkadots and yet was sidelined in the 60s. She was to herald a new period of feminine that didn’t distinguish between environment and self, between author and life. It didn’t take. Jacob Wren’s Polyamourous Love Song still sees that as the futuristic setting.

  4. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss
    I knew it sold well but it is surprisingly sticky and entertaining. She’s got a silly wag wit. In the chapter on commas, “no dogs please” is an indefensible generalization; dogs make a point of pleasing.

    It was a vastly entertaining book in the light reads section. Which is not to say it was airily researched. But the effect is flowing.

  5. Bird Facts by Dave currie (Apt 9, 2014)
    Seriously funny. Tying politics and human interactions and culture in with bird habit. Not like a poem-type that tires me where there’s a musing on feathers and myth but missing all the details which characterize the species or particular bird. So there’s that.

    And this is how text is a transcription of sound. All the timing, set up, pause, reveals, turns are there in the sentence structures. Unlike poets that read entirely differently than their page presentation would suggest, this is musical notation for language. Why should that be so rare?

  6. Klee Wyck by Emily Carr. She does lovely things with sentences, such as “News travels quickly over the sea top. Once submerged and it is locked in secrecy. “

    When I said to Mary, “Chahko muckamuck”, the little woman looked up and laughed at me just as one little girl laughs at another little girl.

    I used to hang round at noon on Mondays so that I could go and say, “Chahko muckamuck, Mary”. I liked to see her stroke the suds from her arms back into the tub and dry her arms on her wide skirt as she crossed to the kitchen. Then too I used to watch her lug out the big basket and tip-toe on her bare feet to hang the wash on the line, her mouth full of clothes pins—the old straight kind that had no spring, but round wooden knobs on the top that made them look like a row of little dolls dancing over the empty flapping clothes.

    Funny the portrayal difference. Pauline Johnson was a young woman with stories of different natives but saw human nature as caricatured and portrayed natives as violent and British as saviors. Whereas Emily Carr, known as a painter, had an eye for gesture, detail and human heart and could see a humanity in natives, individuality among people.

    Even with the love of canoe club which Pauline had, her descriptions feel flat because it about her, compared to

    As the canoe glided on, her human cargo was as silent as the cedar-life that once had filled her. She had done with the forest now; when they shoved her into the sea they had dug out her heart. Submissively she accepted the new element, going with the tide. When tide or wind crossed her she became fractious. Some still element of the forest clung yet to the cedar’s hollow rind which resented the restless push of waves.

  7. John Sheirer’s Another Bad Haircut
    Did you know the Haiku Foundation has an online library of scanned books? They feature a book per week. What a resource.

    first deer hunt
    after the gunshots
    noticing the wind

  8. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
    A third reread. In the hard cover set edition, here’s added a note on that end that he thought his book wasn’t a moral tale and yet there’s the lesson of what happened when orchestra’s started doing auditions blind. Only the sound coming from behind a screen. If the person auditioning coughed or crossed the floor in a female click of heel they’d be randomized back in queue. Each person had a number, no telltale name. Can someone Japanese play a German tune? Can a female play a male instrument as the lead? When judging blind females in orchestra went from 5% to 50%. Can the court systems do the same to correct itself so judges and juries can work? A jury of peers is fine but when justice is blind it might work better. He suggests typing testimony by Skype where identifying features are blotted. Would this correct overcriminization of natives and young black men?

I have a couple dozen more books on the go at the moment. Hard to say which will finish off before the year’s end. Before then I expect I’ll do a best of year, here and/or at GoodReads. And a self-audit of those read by gender. Will I break it down by books and chapbooks as well? We’ll see.

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