Some reading that is more of a stretch for me past my usual comfort zone…
196 Our Times: Canada’s Independent Labour Magazine (Fall, 2015)
I have probably read this magazine a couple times before and each time I wonder why I don’t subscribe then it slips out of mind again. The Our Times Tally is always interesting, the statistics rallied up from various sources. Number of Canadians who live in “food insecure households” according to the UN: 1.92 million. Percentage of global wealth owned by 85 individuals: 0.7% Percentage of global wealth owned by the poorest half of the world’s individuals: 0.7%. Percentage of Canadians who admitted to having never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: 75%
The article on voices of seniors informing seniors by Carole Pierson related a story about meeting a woman, 67 who was working hand-to-mouth and didn’t know she was eligible for Canada Pension and Old Age Pension. An article on Canada Post points out when small town delivery people live there they notice if a senior doesn’t pick up mail and help. An article on writing from the perspective of working as a techie to do lighting at union and non-union gigs. Non-union basically runs bare-bones maximize profit thru the flesh of the workers, like a harpoon (in my words not Hatte’s). 3x the work per person pushed to do things because every worker is a replacable widget and they have no culpability for injury. There’s an oversupply of people who need cash. Likewise in an article on working at telemarketing. Which I once did. For a day. Smoke veil in the room to my seated knees. Machines can autodial as well. Offending and selling to people who you know are vulnerable to pressure to make a living by commission. Wretched kind of business. Ads and book reviews of topics that I never even see in mainstream press. Remembering Salt is a film about a strike by Mexican-American zinc miners in New Mexico, which had been banned on release in the US and Canada in 1953.
197. All I Want is a Walk-On Part by LaMonte Palmer (DC Books, 2000)
An Ottawa writer Palmer relates from the 1940s onwards, memories of meeting his wife, travel in Kenya and Addis Ababa. Some of his poems sparked some of my poems so that’s a good sign. Part of a poem p. 48 strikes me for its image and its sound
Rusting cans clot the glade
where wild columbines
drank petalfuls of sun
What a lovely idea of petalfuls of sun. it gives the flower its cupped form and admits the trash and the the resurgence of nature past the human detritus. There’s a poem p. 64-65 of “Hospital Duty Doctor” which reads like a short story but one worthwhile wherein police regularly brought in someone gone off the rails a “into our sterile godliness”. One does one’s duty even when it never worked before and its unlikely to work this time either but it is the duty to try when one is on duty and give the respect anyway.
He hailed me two years later on the the Mall.
At first I didn’t know the man,
neat guard uniform, head high,
(miracles like this can happen.)
“Thanks, doc, for trying one more time.”
He firmly took my shaky hand,
and hope flowed from his palm to mine.
I thought Folies Rouges was rather clever and true.
I remember living in a neighbourhood where one neighbour put in a red metal roof and how tongues waggled at it being garish, oh but how it complimented trees and disappeared in the fall and was the one touch of colour under grey winter. Context changes everything in it always.
198. Katzenjammer by Catina Noble (Twig Works, 2015)
A relatively new Ottawa poet has put her collection together of what matters to hold onto, (which is the basic act of any poem, or utterance I’d hope), including processing cancer, panic, relationships, both good and bad, and the comic “Clean up in Aisle 4”, p 67
Paralyzed with numbness I lurk behind display cans
Waiting for this feeling to pass
I move a few steps and suddenly
I am attacked by glass spaghetti sauce jars crashing around me
Some are moments and momentoes of friendship. Remember that evening when you coloured my hair and it was went wrong.
There’s sometimes a layer of abstraction to not blame-names but to clarify to self-talk, that a sum’s line has been drawn. for example, p 72, “lesion” ends.
all this because I did not bow
To your requests
I cannot breathe
or p. 86
In Grandpa’s Words
Ten pieces with each in an envelope lent briefly to capture memories
Most words are spelled phonetically during his time school was a luxury
In places the penmanship may need to be read several times over
As it is hard to decipher but
despite the shaky blue loops placed on
Scrap paper the overall meaning is clear over the bumps, slices of time,
The distant miles,
my Grandpa kept me in his heart.
199. Cut Up Apologetic by Jamie Sharpe (ECW, 2015)
You can hear one poem of this in this wee’s Literary Landscape of Two Things I’m reading. It’s a heavily bookmarked book now. I suppose I have only myself to blame for not reading him before. I got a lot of delight from these poems. p. 76
On a rope/Great moments in physics #46
I don’t know about stone tablets,
instead preferring question marks
engraved on bars of soap.
The question may disappear
but something’s cleansed
with the asking.
The pressure exerted on a
shampoo bottle displaces
the liquid within, creating
a temporary vacuum that
sucks up the very shampoo
you just squeezed out
Ah, so there it is: allegory in plain language daily, the role of mystical exchanged for modern sensibility of science to allow the object to be greater than the object.
p. 48, because it ties in with the throw pillow made me laugh out loud. Egad, yes. Matchy, matchy ideas so there’s the sensation of consuming without any actual change. Every serial plot the same, each tragic battered strong women the hero except never talking to any other female. And being in a bind of well. You know what I’m seeing or else no one explaining could probably help. Why is poetry consumed in small quantities by some. Is it any less callous or sad or static than other safe consumable art? Or is it consumed constantly every time the jingle or ad plays? Isn’t the vector cereal with it’s c and o made into an infinity symbol a gorgeous piece of vispo put to commercial ends?
200. Consider Each Possibility: poems by Cameron Anstee (Baseline Press, 2015)
Some chapbooks zip along in a prattle so it doesn’t feel even as few pages as it is. Some stand more centred in their breath and pace and expand to feel long than a chapbook. This is one of the latter.
Just as we are to dismiss any impact of movies or novels, as just irrelevant play, we are not supposed to comment on the book structure, or the ideas, but the language which is supposed as the work of the writer since everyone has ideas but language skills are supposed to be the distinguishing trait, just like dreams, tools, language, distinguishes people from other animals. It all is part. What does it add to world? Slipshod haste or adding to beauty and modelling how to live in harmony. Each font and spacing choice is also a message. Each choosing to take care to the metal dart bookmark.
Baseline Press makes beautiful objects and that is part of the presentation and content. The inner pages and textured cover fits with the occasion of these poems. Minimalist, subtle but solid. The plain but not ordinary, the considered,
light rests in the logical, emerging leaves
our house remains cool through summer
we will something ordinary
the first tomatoes are growing
the day tapers
Each word and line rests and is necessary. Each line progresses somewhere with the world touching the outside of the line. Nature has its order. The surrounds have a pleasing safety. The third line implies all the messed up things that we don’t need to mention by name. But against this shifting chaos there’s new life. Inside that gap of growth, there’s a thinning but an extension and one becomes fully in the present by words that get you there without knowing that’s where you were going. Yet there is no disruption and papercut to get there. It all fits together with a calm sensibility. It doesn’t deny difficulty or hide but points, also this.
201. Hallelujah Anyway by Kenneth Patchen (A New Directions Book, 1960)
It feels subversive for being. Still shards of popular opinion believe in higher and lower animals instead of closed system of similars on a space-marble.
It was written over 50 years ago and still feels seditious. It’s what he says, how he presents it. Taking life seriously, as urgent and still being blunt and register shifting.
Not for artistic effect but because people naturally don’t stay in one-poet-voice-distance-for-everything. He uses his range of voice. What does one do with Hallelujah is my name? It just stops all the thoughts in their tracks.
202. Mongoose Watch: A family Observed by Anne Rasa (John Murray Publishers, 1984)
Anne Rasa is the Jane Goodall of the mongoose. She has spent decades observing them, initially in London in her home and in the wild. When she retired from teaching she set up a preserve. But that happened after the book. She tightly observes indivuduals. Seeing it practiced from clips online people marks mongooses with hair dye to tell them apart and rely on short term students stints.
Anne could distinguish the faces and markings of individuals and long term saw the alliances, fights, plagues, wars, births and deaths and cooperation with other species. Birds that hunted with them and took what they flushed out while acting as guards from their higher perspective. She studied their speech and learned from their calls what individual spoke and what they said, big ground threat, or lost baby, or where are you? Or hawk.
The language is fascinating as an infant in isolation, an orphan makes sounds all over the range, just as a human makes the sounds of every possible language than narrows it down. Once in a group or in a new group the individual makes calls in a range that is not occupied by anyone else.
203. Ashes of Light: New and Selected Poems of Lyubomir Levchev trans by Valetin Krustev (Curbstone Press, 2006)
Hm, the most popular poet in his Bulgaria, so says the cover. Drunk, alienated and sad could summarize most of society he sees. A lot of religious allegory. Some sentimental things like taking the dog for a walk, walking past an internet café and imagining the figure in the window is a hacker creating a virus and his dog shivers as a clairvoyant seeing the virus devour the global future. Which just seems silly, like a runaway fear and bringing his dog into it because it ties the poem neatly rather than wander away from the starting point of the poem entirely like his thoughts have. Likewise in “Pier” boats can’t just be rotting boats unused but boats “lie down,/deceiving,/persuading themselves/they’ve been hunted by the storm./In fact, they are out of use./ To flow inot moist sand–/now that’s/the saddest self-foundering/for both boats and dreams!/The former already look like flowerpots./Weeds make love inside them./The latter are raised up like a fence, a refuge against the wind.” and it continues for 4x that length again with boats on tiptoes, sleeping, jealous. I suppose the thing is a route to the way of thinking about other things. I have been too often chastened by the rule book of personification as sloppy thinking and allegory as Bad. We must think about things thru other other things but in new ways. Or must we?
In Irish Fantasies (p 106-109) he’s around Achill, thinking of Oscar Wilde and says “a repentant devil whets lightning” and thinks of the lack of room within himself, looking at the barbed wire fence with red blossoms and continues like this, (p. 108)
Interesting what he does with lightning, wrestles with the internalized religious tropes, sees them, taps them, rejects them but they return. Objects keep thinking about themselves. I suppose that is magical realism and we are not to project ourselves into objects. Objects can be a stage removed, stand in for abstract notions to stand in for wishes but chimneys as our humble music, as our history, as our toys, as some symbolic glory. I suppose we would in usual practice say that directly here. Or many would.
It’s funny how on first read a book is resisted and going back I can see more clearly.
204. Prisons We Choose to Live Inside by Doris Lessing (Harper & Row, 1987)
This I want to have young people read. How useful it would have been had I read it when it was first published. I might never have believed it, perhaps. “‘I am right, you are wrong’ is quite simply nonsense.” is my default understanding but for a long time….what alternate timeline would have erupted had I encountered it earlier when I was in the youthful bent of groupism. “Today’s treason is tomorrow’s orthodoxy”. The radical element is the fertile ground for the future. What is rejected by the whole is taken up by a few errant individuals who become more with the “seditious element” until the tipping point where the idea that was so taboo becomes the default “received opinion”. The received opinion self-preserves by supporting the status quo but the status quo by nature shifts but the nature of status quo is to suppress its own change. She says “watching this process continuously at work in society is one of the more entertaining ways of passing one’s time”, a gift more to the reflective because others “still believe more easily in permanence”. She contends that without detachment we can learn nothing only be swept by groupthink. Only with a calm skeptical curious mind can we become close to civilized instead of doing what is only immediately functional. By using freedoms, she advises, not only public acts but the more critical examination of ideas in daily life. The section on war was illuminating. Talking to people on both sides of the war of Zimbabwe people admitted war as a pleasure, the most enjoyable time of their life when they felt most alive, most useful and key. Skills and resourcefulness each suspected they had, they had reason to use. For self-preservation we cannot see the damage. As we move further from war again, ideas become formalized in words. War becomes safe, then glorious, then the act, then nostalgic. It is hard in the mania of society to see the pain because it is so painful.
You can listen to it as audio here.
205.Clean Sails by Gustave Morin (New Star Books, 2015)
Of this I said thing already at the BookThug recommended list. It strikes me as mentally alert while many books follow a trajectory. This bounces. This resists. This plays. This refuses its own lines and is a refusnik to bomb-dropping, car-driving, colouring inside the lines. What’s another way to think of something?
It’s dangerous to read what one already knows and/or agrees with it can be pleasing by time like lyrical vain
All is told slant towards tears and a mesmerizing googly eye stare, rubbernecking grief. That’s a welcome snark at it.
Some poems are how’d he do that? Some are such complex patterns that the eye sees rainbows from black and white.
Depth sounding has a yes right aha, Depth-sounding is omnidirectional at various frequencies and size of mesh, so to speak. To catch a depth you can’t look only to one point on the bottommost.
206. Snowflake: New Poems by Eileen Myles (Wave, 2012)
Initially a disorienting book. Going for drives. Looking at trees. No symbolic layer.
“Driving/wiving with the/land” is a poem in entirety.
Notes towards a poem, yes I could see. But it is a poem. Um. Oh. Do I think a poem needs a minimum of hardness to write and read? Do I think life does?
Time with the dog, What does this amount. The “interstitial poems” of being between events but the vividness of events not mentioned. This is a pet peeve of mine, poets who claim to be poets yet only do poetry about when and what they do when not doing other things. All their poems on trains, planes, between events rather than being the events or being about the events. Am I a deeply closeted action movie junkie yet to blow up?
She is interrupting and interjecting on herself. I “should” get this since I do this, but is this how I sound to others? Why am I being told any of this? What is the salience, relevance, upshot, fine considered language, density of ideas. To read it that way is to ask for frustration. It’s not the hero’s arc game. Like Ron Silliman or rob mclennan’s poetry there is significance in the act of noticing in the this-is, this-is, the refusing of tropes of the usual scale of significance, refusing default narrative of the big emotions and truth judgements and lists.
None of this was obvious to me during or after closing the 200-some pages. I kept waiting and wasn’t conscious of why, having become habituated to elevator pitch poems with an anecdote’s punchline. too many books in at that vein of point of pointing and she writes as a meander. what does it mean? what does she owe the reader for the bucks? I found an interview she says at Electric Literature,
“I mine real time. This would be a really horrible conversation if we had to start at some constant beginning and I had to give you bullet points. Of course, there’s a certain kind of reader who’s like, “I need to know where I am.””
Ah, that helps; no handholding, just dropped into stream of consciousness where nothing occurs, no production like of pressed cookies of sharp joy or pain or fear or anticipation. vague missing, pleasant state of being present. I think poetry books should have a poetics interview. Why did you do it? what motivates?
That said, I like when she played like p 10 and 11, but would I if it were all play?
the same string
from person to
that we carry
have no homes”
No punctuation, I’m fine with, but why does she line break like that? It’s not as narrow as some of the poems to suggest a concrete string. To talk by form of the jaggedness of experience. A cell phone isn’t the same as a landline. Of course, true but therefore? There is no therefore. Or is there? Let’s see, modern life as unrooted with people often changing cities. Does phone being a constant give it more significance than when life was constant and the only way to new was the phone? I suppose the poem unpacks in the head.