Saturday, December 4, 2021

Stan Rogal : Mushrooms Yearly Planner, by Jen Tynes

Mushrooms Yearly Planner, Jen Tynes
above/ground press, 2021




What a pleasant surprise to open Tynes’ poetry chapbook and not be barraged by the usual over-wrought, bitterly sensitive, deeply personal, highly emotional, deathly serious, self-righteous fare, chock full of the habitual platitudes, philosophical clichés, stock phrases, tired images and…but wait, enough about me, and my own rather pathetic poetic shortcomings, I wanted to talk about the flip side of what a poem can be; wherein an innocent reader might meander gently (somewhat freely) through a landscape that is both recognizable and remarkable, as well as be allowed to engage (or not) with the process, even be confounded, at times, lost, without the constant pressure of the all-knowing poet yammering in their ear so as not to miss the intended destination.

          Now, I’m the type who tends to zip through a first reading of a collection of poems and let whatever happens happen. If I’m positively disposed and/or entertained in some fashion, I read to the end, if not, I chuck the fetish object unfinished into the recycle bin or put it into a box destined for the local used book store. Flaubert said: Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough. Sorry, Gustave, I tend to disagree. Life is way too short.

          What struck me fairly quickly? The general avoidance of similes — “a bird that comes down all too easily” sd Charles Olson — and the reliance on common objects and situations placed in odd juxtaposition in order to create an almost surreal narrative landscape: “Sex takes a little while // to get interesting, polishing its fenders and leaving pets to howl / in the brown grass.” To carry this notion of “common” or “commonality” even further, Tynes essentially blurs the distinction between flora and fauna, animate and inanimate, human and object (“I have lost / my sharp markings, their articulation”). In fact, these classifications are in constant flux and transformation: “… the man at the visitor’s / information kiosk flowers just once // a century,” and: “A mattress that crystallized. / Birds bursting into pea gravel.” In this way, Tynes manufactures a universe where each entity is given equal weight and importance: fully alive, implicated and impactful, one thing acting continuously/contiguously wham! upon another.

          Having reached the end of the chapbook, it (by some unknown means) occurred to me that I wasn’t sure if I’d experienced one long poem or several shorter poems. It appeared that the texts were limited to one per page (there was one page filled top-to-bottom by a text and it seemed to bleed over easily into the following text, which could have been coincidence, or)…so possibly individual poems, yet there were no titles to further indicate that this was the case. I referred to the back credits’ page where it said that some of these “poems” had originally been published in magazines, ergo, a collection of poems, not one long poem, yes? I wondered: did it matter to me one way or the other? Did it alter my reading of the book? My interpretation? But, what interpretation? I had simply enjoyed the poems for their formal intrinsic value and — while I had picked up on certain thematic elements — I wasn’t at all positive that I’d walked away with anything definitive in terms of a specific subject matter. It was then that I recalled the title: “Mushrooms Yearly Planner.” What goddamn mushrooms? I asked myself. I don’t remember reading anything about mushrooms in the book, never mind a Mushrooms Yearly Planner, for that matter. Nothing. Nada. I went back to the beginning to see if I could discover any clues.

          In the second line of the opening poem, Tynes writes: “This is a forensic poem.” The word “forensic” having to do with scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime. Hm, intriguing. And, sure enough (reading further), the text contains many examples surrounding these procedures: “A deer is captured chewing / on a human bone,” and: “Blue flowers the size of fingernail clippings / have names.” Tynes asks: “What is a discovery / even doing in this neighbourhood?” A question often asked by citizens when crimes are committed in their quiet boroughs. They can hardly believe, yet, crime, even violent crime, respects no boundaries. “We power wash // spider mites and get talked to / by the police. Longest day // of the year and the gun / still in its holster.”

          We get hints, though nothing specific, as to the exact nature of the crime. Beyond this, there still remains no mention of the word “mushrooms” to be discovered anywhere in the text(s). Then I realize, I also have absolutely no idea what a Mushrooms Daily Planner is, or if such an animal exists. I Google and find that it’s a sort of calendar which is “perfect for jotting down your wonderful ideas or aspirations, tracking down your fitness program, keeping your good recipes, and documenting other accomplishments.” Makes sense, as Tynes seems more interested in the physical accumulation of data in its myriad guises and in its presentation to an audience for them to mull over and decipher, to “crack the case” as it were: “I record better on days / I have pockets.” Yes, because pockets provide a tangible location where she can stash notes and found materials to take home and have available in order to construct her poems. And what splendid turns of phrases here: “I check the slides  // for feces before the kids show up. / I examine beautiful names // for things that are ordinary.” The “slides” (at first glance) can be regarded as glass plates containing fecal evidence to be put under a microscope for examination, but then effortlessly transforms into something more chillingly real: children’s playground slides which may be contaminated by feces — what? how? by whom? for what no-good purpose? No explanation is offered. And feces? A beautiful name, yes or no? Well, sure, why not? Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and so on and so forth, “For things that are ordinary.”

Meanwhile, I don’t miss the fact that mushrooms are grown in shit (nutrient-rich compost) and also have beautiful names: bisporus brunnescens, matsutake, chanterelle… Or that the chapbook itself is the Mushrooms Daily Planner, with its display of raw materials, gathered, recorded and arranged in a particular order by the poet.

The final poem begins: “So ritual dagger and turning gold back / to straw.” The endless process/cycle/ritual of death and renewal. The completion of one yearly planner and the beginning of the next. Digging through the shit to uncover the beautiful.

          Of course, I could be totally wrong in my interpretation, and that’s fine with me, pleased to be permitted to wallow in the text without benefit of a defining road-map, the journey being every bit — more! — as interesting as the arrival. And as for Flaubert, I will concede that anything already interesting become more interesting if you look at it long enough. And, it’s true, Tynes’ chapbook continues to fascinate with multiple readings. To pick up and run with a quote from Tynes: “I tie the knots. Nothing blows away.”





Stan Rogal lives in the The Big Smoke, not to be confused with the recently opened cannabis outlet at the corner of Dovercourt and Bloor, which he frequents for research purposes only. The author of several impossible-to-locate books; published in various magazines and anthologies scattered like wacky-tabacky ash across the country. A Spinozian pantheist and former porn star.

Jérôme Melançon : Experiments in Imagining Otherwise, by Lola Olufemi

Experiments in Imagining Otherwise, Lola Olufemi
Hajar Press, 2021




Collapsing the past, present and future seems like a good idea.

Or maybe mostly shifting them around now and then, destroying circularity and linearity. A shell game, where each of the shells is full of something still indeterminate, past, to come, graspable all at once.

It’s a matter of decision, of embrace, of inhabiting. Of leaving blank spaces and filling others; of knowing that others need our blank spaces. Pulling on a thread, a rope, not to bring something closer to ourselves and take it away from others, but to pull ourselves closer to where we want to be, to those with whom we want to be.

So temporality is collapsed, shifting – well, no, because that’s giving temporality too much agency. This is simply something it can do as part of our experience, even as it envelops us. So: Lola Olufemi collapses and shifts temporality around. She brings the horizon closer, pushes the limits further, is quite concerned with the spaces we choose to inhabit and those we choose to leave.

In Experiments in Imagining Otherwise Olufemi sends no straightforward message, builds no thesis. This book is a manifestation, not a manifesto, not a work of theory, not a collection of short stories, not a book of poetry. Genreless, genreful, even as that brings it into the general surroundings of poetry, and taking from each of these forms, each moment of the book is something of all of the above. Full of forms, woven with so many materials, always concerned with grasp and touch, but not definite, not leaden – solid yet in flux. There is so much energy, the book is alive and alive differently through each of its moments.

This play on erasure, on what has to be erased, annihilated, destroyed, brought back without its meaning because it cannot disappear, because it is constitutive, because the future and the past hold one another. What has to leave place for new thoughts, new relationships, new lives. Men, capital, the police, the state, the factory, the expectations, possession: it’s one of those lovely books. Determinations, with pages that seem like forms to create manifestoes and works of revolutionary political theory because of redacted words, letting us see how little meaning come from specific choices, bounded concepts and ideas, and even from our settings. And the self – pages with blanks meant for readers to inscribe themselves. A fulfilling lack of continuity between moments, pages, but a constant striving.

To let the book speak for itself: 

“If we take imaginative potential seriously, we can properly articulate a politics committed to the expulsion of misery, a politics that is not ‘politics’, a schema that refuses persuasion, compromise, sacrifice, the trap of practicality.” (34)

“I want to fall into the gaps and then tear the gaps, smudge them, stretch them, rip them into tiny pieces and submerge my body in the material scheduled to be discarded, so that History will never find me.” (38)

“they are building a linguistic structure that defines the realm of the possible, that implicitly tells us to want less, to expect that total reconfiguration is out of the question.” (43)

“When we think about what we want, we also have to think about how we will deal with the multiple threats to our lives.” (84)

“The scope of our concern must extend beyond ‘I’–the individual person who we imagine exists in isolation–toward that ‘other’ who we imagine is separate from us.” (88-89)

“We need some ways of thinking poetically about grief & violent repetition and some ways of thinking practically about our next strategic move. both require a certain kind of belief.” (110)

“Some call that an escape from the misery of the day,
becomes retreat, or another map for the future

but I want the full story suspended in impossibility
dripping with conjured things [...]

only a pattern of intensities that responds to the skin on
our fingertips.” (124)

Lola Olufemi gives us a tool, an incantation, a weapon, a pillow – an unbounded piece of affective technology (7). The beauty of it, the act of creation maintained in its non-state of uncertainty, as a call, as a desire, as a pull, as a moving into – an inflation of the material (8). A record of traces, an abandon to the multiplicity within any one phenomenon. (32) A theorizing from experiences, emotions, and strivings, and a piercing through of theory through fiction and appeals to participation. A book without walls, let alone a fourth wall to bring down. A packet of seeds for growing utopias.

When I say “she” I might be unfair: I could say “they” because there are many subjectivities within the book, many lives that are threatened, especially black lives, women’s lives, queer lives. The voice of the author shifts enough to let us feel that she adheres to utterances for the moment they are uttered, as long as they have the effect they need to have, the effect that made them worth putting on paper. Characters and unspecified others, leaving readers free to fill in these blanks as well. Some are simply nameless, their name taken away by the state along with their lives, their hopes. In this book as in so many others their lives find a value of which they had been robbed.

So many solidarities that even solidarities go unnamed - they are simply ready to be witnessed. As with much of the rest of the book: we can see, feel, almost touch connections, we readers have little choice but to set our own relations against those of the book. Beyond Britain, beyond Nigeria - or rather maybe superimposed, the pages like tracing paper to make compositions through superposition. Not just any relation, and not only solidarity, but love.

Love in that it can’t be lived outside of the market, of the prison, of the means of production, of the state, of their dispossession. Love in that it could be lived through different efforts, through refusals, through a recovery, through choosing to give in to others rather than to those forces. “Look, I think love is a matter of positioning.” (69)

A commitment to what communism or something like it or anarchism or something like it or collectivism or just togetherness can be today. To what kind of organizing and coming together full of the past can already be a future.

This book is a living gift with which to make gifts of life.






Jérôme Melançon writes and teaches and writes and lives in oskana kâ-asastêki / Regina, SK. His most recent poetry collection is En d’sous d’la langue (Prise de parole, 2021). He is also the author of a bilingual chapbook with above/ground press, Coup (2020), and of two books of poetry with Éditions des Plaines, De perdre tes pas (2011) and Quelques pas quelque part (2016), as well as one book of philosophy, La politique dans l’adversité (Metispresses, 2018) and a bunch of different attempts at figuring out human coexistence in journals and books nobody reads. That includes a few articles on one of his teachers, Miguel Abensour, and his forays into thinking otherwise and maintaining the utopian and revolutionary imagination sharp and ready. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @lethejerome and sometimes there’s poetry happening on the latter.

Robert Hogg : Reading A Wolf Lake Chorus and The Ogre

Reading A Wolf Lake Chorus and The Ogre
A Suite in 8 Parts

for Phil Hall



I didn’t really
read A Wolf Lake Chorus
to the mechanics

at Hallville Garage
although they did
switch my summer

tires for winter
treads they didn’t

There are no
wolves in that poem
only birds

and too many
fails to explain

why I didn’t
sit and wait
like ordinary

folk my hands
tucked away

engrossed in
reading A Wolf

Lake Chorus
to myself
then writing

this poem
to Phil Hall
or also to

unhinged a poem

can do that
drive you

mad him mad
her an And an And
the birds

were making
small talk
and what I heard

I saw
playing a saw
until at last

Mad her
An and
broke free

RLH: Hallville ON: 2021-11-22 11:10 AM



Blame it on
covers I

meant to bring
The Ogre
along to read

but when I
got there I had
A Quiet Affair

they both looked
alike in
the gloom

RLH: Hallville ON: 2021-11-22



Maybe it's
just as

I didn't
the ogre

to the

bad enough
I thought it
was in my bag



For you
the poem is
a catch-all drawer


for me
more a drawer
of catches

RLH: Mtn: 2021-11-23



I’m not sure what
you’re doing in
The Ogre

unless you’re
shooting ahead

when language
wants to
hold you back

it’s not that you
don’t know

you’re going
it’s just
you’ve no

idea how
you’ll get there
each word

a testament
to desire

RLH: Mtn: 2021-11-23 8:03



What I do
know is

you take

I’d never

from one

to another

like a frog
on fire

2021-11-23 7:38 PM



And when you

the lily

you swim
to the next

hop on

it was


no need to


2021-11-23 8:47 PM



I get it now

the ogre


in order

paced it all
out in long

and short

this is the way

it should


to end but


the completed

sounds out

a new

hidden song


no more

rise and fall

silence now

sound wind
now crashing


getting a


2021-11-23; 2021-11-23 9:06 PM; 2021-11-23 9:16 PM; 

2021-11-23 10:42 PM






Robert Hogg was born in Edmonton, Alberta, grew up in the Cariboo and Fraser Valley in British Columbia, and attended UBC during the early Sixties where he was associated with the Vancouver TISH poets, co-edited MOTION - a prose newsletter, and graduated with a BA in English and Creative Writing. In 1964 he hitchhiked east to Toronto, then visited Buffalo NY where Charles Olson was teaching. After spending a few months in NYC, Bob entered the graduate program at the State University of NY at Buffalo, completed a PhD on Olson under Robert Creeley, and took a job teaching American and Canadian Poetry at Carleton University in Ottawa for the next 38 years. His books include: The Connexions, Berkeley: Oyez, 1966; Standing Back, Toronto: Coach House, 1972; Of Light, Toronto: Coach House, 1978; Heat Lightning, Windsor: Black Moss, 1986; There Is No Falling, Toronto: ECW,1993; and as editor, An English Canadian Poetics, The Confederation Poets – Vol. 1, Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2009. He recently published several chapbooks: from LAMENTATIONS, Ottawa: above/ground, 2016; two Cariboo poems, Ranch Days – The McIntosh from hawk/weed press in Kemptville, ON; Ranch Days—for Ed Dorn from battleaxe press (Ottawa 2019); A Quiet Affair – Vancouver ’63 (Trainwreck, May 2021); and in August 2021 a chapbook titled From Each Forthcoming (above/ground). In December 2021, a chapbook will be released from Hogwallow Press, called The Red Menace, and another from Apt 9 Press in Ottawa, called Apothegms. In April 2019 Hogg edited a Canadian Poetry issue of The Café Review in Portland, ME. His poems have appeared in over seventy periodicals, most recently: Pamenar Online; Empty Mirror; The Café Review; Dispatches; Arc; Some; BlazeVox Online Journal, The Typescript, Caesura, Ottawater 16, Sulfur Surrealist Jungle, Touch the Donkey and recent issues of Periodicities, Bandoneon, and Taint Taint Taint. In early July 2021 a Spoken Web podcast was presented by the UBC Kelowna Amp Lab featuring Robert Hogg’s life and career; it can be heard here: His ideas on writing have recently been collected as five responses to questions from Thomas Whyte found here:

Books currently in the works for publication include: Lamentations; The Cariboo Poems; Postcards, from America; Amber Alert; Not to Call It Chaos – The Vancouver Poems; Oh Yeah—More Poems. In progress are The Offending Temple, and Ill Parodies – O, a selection of satires on various Shibboleths and current affairs. Now retired, Hogg continues to write at his organic farm in Mountain thirty-five miles south of Ottawa.



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