207. Aethel by Donato Mancini (New Star Books, 2007)
Got and did not read right off. Tendonitis Androgenous uses a sign language (ASL?) as starting point for textual manipulation.
Some such as as the tangle called “What are you reading” or “We Come in Peace” (below) are humourous.
Aethel looked like two parallel text, titles as wit tangetially related. It felt more intellectual than some of his poems that may be more concept-rooted. Funny how I can resonate with arrangement of letters without semantics to different degrees.
I found his Buffet World was fun, barbed, playful. Blurb says it provokes being choked with rage at consumerism. I just found it sparkly tickly. Ligatures I read from a borrowed copy, borrowed again, reread, then bought my own. There’s the cluster of words and letters as if frequency of occurrence and the graphic novel that’s all a personally developed shorthand that is just off the wall. Its graphically classified alphabet amused me above all. My favourite remains Ligatures.
208. When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz (Copper Canyon, 2012)
I pecked away at this for a long time. The middle section takes the lens out to the dirt-poor reserve and Arizona’s poverty despair where all the decisions come from white foreman and the grunt-labour comes from the labour pool of native muscle.
The middle section gives a break from the main poem which is brother in freefall and impact on the family. How to do an intervention for a family member going off the rails? The pov is held helpless. The words are vivid but there’s no momentum, more a spiral on the same.
209. Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing up with a Gay Dad by Alison Wearing (Alfred A Knopf, 2013)
This was structured in 3 parts. The first was the daughter’s point of view as a child and young adult, her humourous take on anecdotes. It was all lively and amusing. A second part was archival notes of the father presented without any interjections to speak of, the father’s turmoil in trying to sort his head and life when he finally came out in his 40s. The final was the mother’s chapter, which was more the postscript of daughter living with the mother, tying a sense of coherence and follow through. I would recommend reading for its interesting points of views, its walk through a time and place, what it was like before being out was considered a viable option. It was recent that bathhouse raids happened but already being forgotten.
210. Object Permanence by David B. Goldstein (Ugly Duckling Press, 2015).
The little books they make are lovely in the hand, with page numbers, which I always appreciate in books.
Each poem is a portrait written from the perspective of a different ugly, broken doll. Perhaps people who are fascinating with Chuckie of horror films would find this fun. I didn’t get it. A lot of blinking.
Sometimes a single word
can grant me the will to live.
So you know how old I am?
Do you find my legs beautiful?
Come, touch the clustered pale grapes
of my hair.
On the day, after midnight blood
breaks the skin
the whole world will become blue.
As homeless people become frustrated at being ignored, differently frustrated at attention and sympathy given to their pets, perhaps, to write confessional is looked past but speaking allegorically thru dolls people with a step removed feel safe to feel compassion.
After so many damaged dolls, I was dreading what the animal chapter would be but it actually was my favourite. Glad I stuck it through. Porcelain Cicadas was interesting.
They go on to “rejoin-language consciousness which you call colour,/ and will report everything we have heard.// What we have heard: longing, the pretence of longing, and arguing over finances.”
211. The State in Which by Hailey Higdon (above/ground, 2013)
This was a project to write one poem per month. My copy of the chapbooks was assembled wrong somehow so continuity was mussed in June and July. It was kind of diary and self-conscious of writing as writing. It fell in and out of focus. For example, the first half of December,
so many people are ok
with not being the best
versions of themselves
it was a million domestic
situations that made me
choose from one thing to the next
rebel, this is what I did
I stopped the idle, saying
yes, so much more often, so much more, storing up, collecting yeses,
risk, but the inverse
of take it and move on, I used to
keep repeating the same mistake–
quitting days, I know better now
The first three lines sound promising. Then its structured as stream of consciousness. Why not take the time to untangle. Part of it is the chaotic surge forward of life “I am looking for jobs, trying to locate the future perfect. How poinsettias arrive in the grocery story each year, looking so consistently identical, you can’t help staring.”
212. Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell, (Crown, 2013)
This I’d recommend for the content. Did you know an ant is 1/7 brain? They have ganglia nerves, form memories and preferences, choose new conditions for a colony, train others in how to get to the new place. Franks put a colour dot pattern on each individual and by that means his lab could watch and understand as individuals rather than a mass.
In the chapter on dogs and wolves there was this:
In the book there was also a great deal of emphasis on of course we can’t use the world language, we can only say they communicate intent and content. Which really is some retiree linguist matter. It was belaboured how animals were believed to be instinct machines, which seems kind of strange. That is evidently wrong and has been. Only for a few decades in human history have some assumed that as a blip.
p. 264-265. Grey whales don’t migrate by instinct mindlessly but choose a route and if a shark kills a calf one year, she’ll migrate a new route the next year. Managing wildlife as if they were vegetables to weed has impacts. For example, older male elephants and cougars keep the young males in check. Remove them and the males in teenage year attack anything that moves. Whether that control is social or social and chemical, the group is impacted by taking out individuals. In 2008 Marc Cattet found that collaring bears spiked enzymes of muscle damage for months. They moved stiffly as if sore for up to 5 weeks then, recovered rushed to get back on track and catch up with the pace as if there is a scheduled destination and time.
p. 66-70 Braitwaite studies pain in fish. Because their face are impassive they don’t signal as we are used to reading. They think, plan, use tools, glean scent from water, have colour vision, acute hearing, learn from their peers, make a range of calls out of our hearing range to find mates, warn enemies away, warn their young. They squeal, squeal, chirp, bark, groan and hum. They have the same type of nerve cells to transmit pain. When a trout’s lip is injected with saline the trout eats normally. When stung with an irritant acetic acid or bee venom, the trout rock back and forth and rub their lip on sand or surfaces (as primates do), go off their food. A stickleback when put in their usual maze, after a sting make poor choices and are disoriented enough to not get the bait or will ignore a new danger or attack it as it doesn’t do when uninjured. Hatchery fish released to the wild has injuries and were aggressive to other fish and few survived. Fish were thought to not have amygdala but anatomist found it. It was missed because fish brains develop outward rather than inward like ours. All their special structures are in the outside not inside of their brains.
p. 18-19 The bower bird not only decorate but lays ornaments so that it creates an illusion of perspective in size of sticks and stones. Cheetah males do male bonding so much that a pair when one is killed, the other will give a distress call until he may stop eating, become weak and die.
Only caveat is that the style for chapter intros annoyed the bejeepers out of me. Every person entering room needed to have an assessment of their clothes, hairs, colouring, what stereotype they evoke and something about their style of speech. The room had copious extraneous details of material. I suppose that’s place setting.
213. Spiders: learning to love them by Lynne Kelly (Jacana Books, 2009)
I adore the book. The writer is copiously detailed and passionate. It splits across Australia, Europe and America, with some on Asia.
Some paragraphs could be split out into whole chapters. The content is fascinating but wish it jumped around less and was more combed. Part of it is just a layout issue with photos appearing a few pages off from the content.
Much of what is known about spiders was in the 1800s when people actually went outside. Still, the orb-weavers tend to be visible if you’re out and about and many spiderlings drop a line to the wind to be carried to new territory. I thought as a kid and was told that spiders grew across the grass in the night before dew. It seems obvious now they were parachuters fledging and landed all across the field. The lines disappeared because spiders use their habit is to not waste protein. You use the thread and wind to travel, then ball it back up and eat it.
It assumes no knowledge, and with the subject of spiders, that’s a safe assumption. Most spider species makes 7 kinds of silk, and most may not be scientifically described yet. Only 40,000 species are described yet. Most if they have names, are local names and one species may be as variable as a dog with different size and coloration and patterns. The most reliable way to tell is by turning a microscope on their genitals because those are keyed to a species. Almost no species are deadly. Some female primitive spider species may live for decades and never be seen because they live underground, putting out threads to persuade prey to walk in. Like skinks, a spider can lose a leg if a predator grabs it. To a certain age, the next moult will replace the limb. (p. 41).
Some spider species are built more for digging and may be feet underground. Others like soft soil. The diversity is about as much as mammal. Some spider species regurgitate food to their young and lay infertile eggs for them to eat before they fledge. Some start eating right away. Some eat the mom.
Some spiders recognize their young from plants from another spider and let them ride on her back while shaking off the others.
Some spiders disperse wide away and others make their homes within a few centimetres from where they were hatched. Some lay eggs and die. Some live for decades. Some mate and then live with the male for weeks or months. Some mate and if the male doesn’t move quickly is eaten. Some mate and then are indifferent and can store the sperm in mini packets for years, self-inseminating whenever the conditions are right.
p. 156. The pellet spider (Stanwellia nebulosa) digs a burrow and makes a clay pebble from its spit and web and dirt so that it is pear-shaped. It makes a hollow on the side and threads it. Should a predator not prey come into the burrow the way is blocked by the spider who pulls a pouch collar’s thread and the clay is pulled off the wall and onto the pouch. When enough time has passed, pushed from below, the clay pebble is pushed back up onto the shelf.
214. Sweet Devilry by Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan Books, 2011)
I have been picking up and setting down this one for about 40 books. I am irrationally irritated by the notion of doing fairy tales recast as poems but Hansel and Gretel flipped culpability to the father not the woman with the oven, suggesting he is violent “who would creep into their bedrooms/at night, eyes glinting an axe,/looking at all he could cut through”. I am irrationally bound to the idea of reading books in the order they were presented and not skipping. I am not found of mother poems but Winter House pulled back the perspective to how the whole family is relating to the world.
215. Marry & Burn by Rachel Rose (Habour Publishing, 2015)
One of the strongest books of poetry I’ve seen in a good while. It has punch, articulacy, form-skills, something to say and a way of saying that isn’t blunt and plain nor needlessly obscure. Each poem isn’t following the same formula for content and style but it doesn’t feel like a few disparate chapbooks stapled together without coherence either. I don’t know which of a dozen might be my favourite; Sublimation; Intervention; The Introduction; Confusion [which was the Dec 31 Two Things I’m Reading at Literary Landscape];Bees; Corona for Charlotte; Good Measure; Compersion; The Flight; Marry or Burn; The End of I; Anthropology.
From “The Introduction”, taking kids to a play about Nazism, “The play about evil is described by critics as universal./There are songs as we can only protect them/for so long without damaging them.”
I don’t know what would be representative. So many styles, distances, subjects and tones. Intervention,
216. Observing the Moon by Sneha Madhavan-Reece (Hagios, 2015)
From the Strike Fire, New Authors Series from Hagios come these tender poems, sometimes poignant without being sentimental, a hard balance to strike. There is anecdote telling of true life tales but there’s craft to suggest it’s poetry not lineated prose. There’s a plainness of concrete language mixed with symbolic depth, “And every morning we show reverence for the sun;/we eat breakfast turned away, facing our shadows on the wall.” (Giving In, p.80).
They run as tying down the worth keeping about parents, husband, child and one’s own childhood and present. There’s a bit of humour popping up as in “Sudden Spring” p. 62 “The only thing hatching are potholes./I’ve always wanted to live near water.”
How to Bless a New Home
Turn your head
when the milk boils. Let it
bubble over. Laugh and make tea
with what is left: it will bring
fortune far greater
than the cost
of the milk you have spilled.
I can imagine the scene, the boxes still packed but the resolve to live well with what is. Refusing to let the small stuff sour the important whole.
I love that there is a mix of language, of external and internal “Learning French (p.82) in Chinatwon “I collect /French worlds like a child’s/treasures: little rocks in my pockets.//Waiting outside/for the homeward bus,/I whisper to myself: oiseaux,/l’arc en ciel. The small boys beside me/point and shout — câi hóng!“