Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tim Duffy, Sarah Venart, Joshua Beckman, Joshua Corey + Leesa Dean : virtual reading series #25

a series of video recordings of contemporary poets reading from their work, prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellations, shut-downs and isolations; a reading series you can enjoy in the safety of your own protected space,

Tim Duffy : “Between the Church and the Door” and “Cart”

Tim Duffy is a poet and teacher working in Connecticut. His work has appeared recently in Bodega, Pleiades, Entropy, Rabbit Oak among others. He is the founder and EIC of 8 Poems Journal.

Sarah Venart : “Octopus Laser” and “Stun Guns”

Sarah Venart was raised in New Brunswick and lives and teaches in Montreal. She is the author of I AM THE BIG HEART and WOODSHEDDING.

Joshua Beckman : “If You Pray These Days” and “poem n form d bill bissett”


Joshua Beckman is the author of a number of books including The Inside of an Apple, The Lives of the Poems & Three Talks, and most recently Animal Days.

Joshua Corey : “Exterior Century,” “Interior Medusa,” and “Interior Birth.”

Joshua Corey is a poet, critic, translator, and novelist whose books include The Barons (Omnidawn Publishing, 2014), The Transcendental Circuit; Otherworlds of Poetry (MadHat Press, 2018), a new translation with Jean-Luc Garneau of Francis Ponge's Le parti pris des choses as Partisan of Things (Kenning Editions, 2016), and the forthcoming Hannah and the Master (MadHat Press). He lives in Evanston, Illinoi with his wife and about-to-be teenage daughter, and teaches English at Lake Forest College.

Leesa Dean : “Self-Isolation”

Leesa Dean is a graduate of the University of Guelph's MFA program and a Creative Writing Instructor at Selkirk College. Her collection of short stories, Waiting for the Cyclone, was nominated for the 2017 Trillium and Relit Awards. Her poetry chapbook, The Desert Itabira, was published by above/ground press last year. She is a settler on Sinixt territory in the Slocan Valley where she roams her small acreage, finding inspiration in the wildness surrounding her, and mostly fails at trying to grow melons. The long poem read for this series is from a manuscript in progress titled How to Survive which explores macro and micro forms of survival, ranging from the species level to the personal, including meditations on the author's summer spent at Aircrew Survival camp in Northern Alberta in 1995 and her mother's life-long repercussions from having polio as a child, a condition that ultimately killed her at the age of 60.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Kim Fahner : Q&A, by Adrienne Gruber

Q & A., Adrienne Gruber
Book*hug Press, 2019

 

 

 

Having never had a child, it is perhaps odd that I’m reviewing a book of poetry about pregnancy and birthing. I know absolutely nothing about it, except for what I’ve heard second hand from friends. Twenty years ago, I had one friend tell me that she had thought she was going to die during childbirth. It was such a traumatic experience for my friend that she only had one child. You so rarely hear about these stories of struggle. Adrienne Gruber’s Q & A is a book that documents her first pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. What comes after, too, is a reflection on postpartum life. Here, in poetic form, is a book that actually wants to tell the unpolished truth of what it is like to travel through pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

There are some brilliant poetic sequences in Q &A, one of which is Gruber’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (100 Years Ago),” wherein she speaks to some of the historical beliefs that once surrounded the mystery of pregnancy. One belief is “When long walks cannot be taken,/carriage riding may be substituted,” while another is that “A lazy woman bears a long,/painful childbirth.” Women should have “no fear that the bath will disturb/the contents of the womb,” and “A woman’s sexual nature should find expression in motherhood,/not the grosser forms of sexual activity.” Such outdated and archaic views of sex and birthing are, thankfully, now cast off with a derisive laugh and a shake of the head.

In “Gestational Fall,” Gruber writes of a hike taken along the West Coast Trail, a journey that is not for the faint of heart or body. She hiked it with her partner while she was pregnant with her first child. She writes: “We carried our bones for days. Each night I wiped between my/thighs and to my relief the paper came out clear.” Then, in “Ode to Lucy’s Pelvis,” Gruber speaks of the pain of a lengthy labour. The poet references “Lucy”—Australopithecus aferensis—our common female ancestor: “I curl fetal./Calves throb/tendons convulse./Pray for apoplexy.” Gruber’s is a poetry that tells the truth about the gruelling and graphic nature of childbirth.

This is not the airbrushed and photoshopped recollection of childbirth that we so often hear about after women have given birth. In my experience, the majority of my women friends seem to have had really wonderful birthing experiences. Have they told me the truth, or is there a secret society of women who promise they won’t tell other women the really honest stories of birthing? Do they just leave things out? Is there an erasure of what happened? I’m not sure. What Gruber does here, though, is peel back the superficial glow that is more traditionally presented and speaks instead—realistically—of how a woman’s body can be nearly broken by the birth experience, and how her mind and body will be changed forever afterwards.

After poems that speak to the ‘in between’ space of waiting for a baby to arrive, in pieces like “Time Is Still (Linear)” and “Last Straw,” Gruber shifts into poems like “Finale,” “Push,” and “The Cat Has the Stunned Look of a Murder Witness,” where the birth of the poet’s first daughter, Quintana, is documented. In “Haikus for Baby Blues,” Gruber gets at the crux of post-partum depression when she writes of how it has traditionally been written off as ‘just a passing thing,’ something to be lived through and managed: “Don’t worry, experts/coddle. You should be able/to just shake it off.” She writes of a placenta that “left a hole.” Hormonal surges are to be expected, but this doesn’t make them easy to fathom or navigate. “My therapist says/fear is a bird that searches/for a place to land.” Would that it would be so simple, to find a place for that bird to land, to calm the surging.

Gruber isn’t afraid to honestly document the stories that are not as frequently shared. In “Cephalopelvic,” the poet writes of how a rough birth process can “crush and kill/the soft tissues of pelvis.” There are those babies who don’t live through the journey, “a fetus asphyxiates,” or a woman is “left/with the decaying seraph/inside” until it is born afterwards, a child who still has a name that ought not to be forgotten.

Adrienne Gruber’s Q & A is a fascinating collection of poems because it pulls back the veil on things that haven’t often been spoken about when it comes to the bodily journeys that women undertake during their lifetimes. For those of us who haven’t carried a child, it’s a doorway into a world that seems almost secret and hidden. For those of us who have had children, well, I would imagine it would be a relief to read more of the reality of childbirth. These are poems that don’t shirk from the gruesome physicality of birthing, but there is beauty here, too, in the poet’s love for her daughter, and in the recognition that there are many sides to the prism of a woman’s life.

 

 

 

 

Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was poet laureate in Sudbury from 2016-18, and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She's a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario representative of The Writers' Union of Canada (2020-22), and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com


ryan fitzpatrick : Well, Okay

 

 

 

One day,
we’ll be left to dig 

in the record crates

of this recent history,

looking for someone

with their finger pointed

in our new direction.
 

Released today,
Phoebe Bridgers sings:

And when your skinhead neighbour

goes missing, I’ll plant a garden
.

Instead of Clint Black singing:
I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout tomorrow,

I’ve been lost in yesterday.

Somewhere between those
is a definition of whiteness.

Overheard:
so you want to do 

something on your land,

you can’t, 

but if the city does it

they think they should get into heaven?

Vulgar Marxism 

seems pretty tasty now.

One thing I love
about Twitter is the way

my liking of your post 

dunking on some random racist

through a quote tweet

inadvertently platforms

some racist invective

because that’s the way

the algorithm works.
 

I wanted to add a deep worry
to the discourse

over whether we’ll learn

to manage the future

the way an algorithm
does. 

Watching streams of
The Last of Us Part II
,
it turns out that humans

are the real problem.

The white fantasy
of murder-spree-as-method

just one form of practice

for the end times.

Scissors plus tape
equals a shiv.

Alcohol plus rag
equals both a med kit

and a molotov.
 

Twenty some hours
mastering sightline geometry

followed by the moral

that all the murder you did

is bad.
 

The game innovates
by replacing the white man

using his assault rifle

to protect the family unit

with two white women

beating each other 

at the edge of the ocean

of their grief over 

men holding rifles.
 

The virgin Abby vs.
the chad Ellie.

Really, we’re left
with a triad of possibilities:

the collectivized militia,

the queered couple form,

and the lone wolf murder agent.
 

In the problem of disentangling 
our current carceral relation

while negotiating another relation,

it’s either chaos 

or the stability of the monument.

The difference between
abolish the police

and defund the police?
 

The difference between
defund the police

and reform the police?
 

The difference between
reform the police

and better educate the police?

What if I’m really just afraid 
that my murder skills

won’t be enough 

to survive The Purge?

Or what if I’m too much in love
with social reproduction?

Something about the way soft
power compliments hard power.

Actual email from Instacart:
Taking Steps Toward

Actionable Change
.

What’s the shortest distance
between this and 

Kendal Jenner solving

police brutality by

giving a cop a Pepsi

with the ad copy:

The Revolution Will Not

Go Well With Coke!

But no true revolutionary
will admit that the complexity

of the situation

can feel intimidating.

The tunnel vision of memory
collapsing action

under its own weight.
 

I remember the corny joys
of listening to free-floating signifiers

of country music

over the shitty boom box

in my parents’ kitchen.

The reedy overproduction
of Alabama’s 1983 hit

“Dixieland Delight”:

A little turtle-dovin’ on 

a Mason-Dixon night
 

Bugs Bunny attempting
to cross into the lush

fertile South from 

the desertified North

only to meet the belated rifle 

of Yosemite Sam.

The romanticized antebellum
of my mom’s favourite movie.

If I admit that I care about
these things and the ways 

they drifted up to Alberta,

how much does that

reinforce white supremacy?
 

And does mentioning them
constitute a kind of harm?

 

 

 

 

 

ryan fitzpatrick is the author of three books and fifteen chapbooks of poetry, including Coast Mountain Foot (Talon, 2021), Fortified Castles (Talon, 2014), and Fake Math (Snare/Invisible, 2007).

Photo by Danielle LaFrance

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