Thursday, May 23, 2024

Beatrice Szymkowiak, Katie Berta, J-T Kelly, Tom Jenks + Cary Fagan : virtual reading series #32

a series of video recordings of contemporary poets reading from their work, originally 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,

Beatrice Szymkowiak : Three poems from B/RDS

Beatrice Szymkowiak is a French-American writer and scholar. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and a PhD in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of Red Zone (Finishing Line Press, 2018), a poetry chapbook, as well as the winner of the 2017 OmniDawn Single Poem Broadside Contest, and the recipient of the 2022 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry for her full-length collection B/RDS, published by the University of Utah Press in 2023. Her work also has appeared in numerous poetry magazines.

Katie Berta : “Like That” and “Birthday”

Katie Berta’s debut poetry collection, retribution forthcoming, won the Hollis Summers Prize and was published by Ohio University Press in 2024. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Denver Quarterly, The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Bennington Review, among other magazines. She has received residencies from Millay Arts, Ragdale, and The Hambidge Center, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and an Iowa Review Award. She is the managing editor of The Iowa Review and teaches literary editing at the University of Iowa and poetry at Arizona State University.

J-T Kelly : “Crossing,” “Keeping House,” and “West”

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis. He lives in a brick house with his wife and their six children. He is the author of the chapbook Like Now (CCCP/Subpress, 2023).

Tom Jenks : from Melamine

Tom Jenks is a UK poet and text artist. Melamine, a sequence of 8 line poems, will be published by The Red Ceilings in 2024. Details of his other books and his artwork can be found at https://tomjenks.uk. He edits zimzalla, a small press specialising in literary objects, details of which can be found at https://zimzalla.co.uk.

Cary Fagan : “Any Moment Now”

Cary Fagan is the author of eight novels and five story collections, most recently The Animals (book*hug). He has also written many novels and picture books for children.  His next book is a collection of stories called A Fast Horse Never Brings Good News.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

rob mclennan : 2024 Bronwen Wallace Award Poetry Shortlist: Faith Paré

Faith Paré for “Selections from ‘a fine African head’”
read Paré’s shortlisted work here
2024 Bronwen Wallace Award • Poetry Shortlist
interviewed by rob mclennan

Established in memory of writer Bronwen Wallace, this award has a proven track record of helping talented developing authors secure their first book deal. Two $10,000 prizes will be given for outstanding works of unpublished poetry and short fiction. The 2024 Bronwen Wallace Award will be announced on June 3, 2024.

Faith Paré is a poet and performer of Afro-Guyanese ancestry. Her work appears in publications including The Capilano Review, The Ex-Puritan, and Contemporary Verse 2. She has performed at York University’s Art Gallery, La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, and the Winter Garden Theatre. Paré was the inaugural winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship and served as curator of the Atwater Poetry Project from 2021 to 2023. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry. She lives in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang (Montreal).

The Jury citation for your piece writes that “Faith Paré returns the truth not only to the victims, but also to the survivors of the 1969 Sir George Williams University computer centre incident.This urgent, chimerical, and devastating workis finely crafted from the unreliability of archive and the misery of memory.” What was it that drew you to write about and around this event? How does one even begin to write about such an event?

Thanks for having me on the blog, rob!

I will try to answer both of your questions at once, because the mystery of both — of writing impulse and of empathy across space and time — implicate the other.

Early on, as I waded through the small, but dense and vibrant, body of research on the Sir George Williams Computer Centre Occupation, something inside of me had decided that what we know about the student uprising still wasn’t enough for me to live with.

That impulse had also rejected a scholarly treatment of the material. This was in part from my lack of historical training, as well as wringing over my resentments about being educationally ‘rewired’ in university. But ultimately, poetry insisted on being the form that I wrote about CJH—the protestor that the poems address—and the other anti-racist occupiers of the SGW Computer Centre in 1969, is because poetry is the method of love that I know best.

Many people find the historian’s approach to be cold and invasive, but what I find in the literature on the SGW Computer Centre Occupation is a tremendous amount of investment and care. I return to the scholarship of David Austin, Nalini Mohabir and Ronald Cummings, Christiana Abraham, Stéphane Martelly, Kelann Currie-Williams, among others, because their loving endeavour to ask questions of the historical record informs my own: to honour, through poetry, the grief and possibility that dwells in the lapses of historiography.

Perhaps this honouring may help prevent similar historical erasures. This feels critical to me as we watch in real time a rising revisionist narrative about campus occupiers across North America, who are demanding university divestment from the Israeli invasion in Gaza.

Or, perhaps this honouring won't help. It's a big demand for something small like a book.

Writing this manuscript has involved, even depended upon, a push-pull between the roles of poet or researcher, and failing at both. If I fail ‘right’, then I hope the book will capture a kind of truth that neither form can do in isolation.

What first drew you to writing about this at all, let alone through the lens of the poem? What do you think the shape or form of the poem allows the material that might otherwise be possible?

I began the poems while completing my undergraduate degree at Concordia University. Sir George Williams University is one of Concordia’s parent institutions. I learned of the computer centre occupation, the police brutality and fire that ended it, and the subsequent suspension, shunning, and prosecution of the protestors, as an urban legend passed between students.

For a long time, the history of the occupation was part of an unofficial record of the university. Decades of hard work from community organizers, some of who were computer centre occupiers or allies themselves, eventually prompted Concordia’s 2022 apology for its response to the protestors in 1969. I also presume that, for the university, it was eventually less advantageous to treat the occupation as an embarrassment than to find some claim to the students’ bravery — or even some ownership of it.

As a Black student, knowing the ill treatment that the occupiers endured, especially the Black and Caribbean-born participants, became inextricable from my university experience. It helped me understand the DNA of the university I attended, and why I struggled so immensely during my time as a student, back to my earliest memories of schooling. The computer centre occupation and its legacy taught me, among many lessons, how bound together the education, carceral, and immigration systems are in this country.

The computer centre occupation has also taught me to be discerning about how we tell stories about the past. This is most obviously demonstrated by how university administration, Canadian courts, and the press distorted the protestors’ motivations; but also through how narratives form, by who is considered a major or minor figure. When I learned from a peer about student protestor CJH, who is the focus of my manuscript, she was tacked-on to the end of a story about the protests. I was disturbed by the details of her death and its rumoured connection to the police violence at the scene, but also by how a life — a non-Canadian Black woman’s life — can be made peripheral, except when useful to a grander narrative.

I wanted to imagine the life that CJH may have lived during the occupation, what brought her there, and what followed. I won’t pretend that this desire is uncomplicated or even unselfish. Poetry, too, can be sensational, and extractive, and apocryphal. I think, though, that poetry’s devotion to the minute allows us to attend to the peripheral and to wondering beyond it. Scholarship demands concessions to relevance and rhetorical usefulness, whereas the poetic lingers in the marginal and tangential.

Did you have any models for the kind of poems you were attempting with this project? How did the poems themselves find their form?

The initial writing was really invested in contemporaneity, and the pieces found that through prose poetry. I wanted to articulate being Black in the university 50 years after the occupation and its violent suppression. Most of those poems touch on the turmoil of my early undergraduate years. I felt that I couldn’t scrutinize CJH’s life without implicating my own.

Prose poetry as a form was new and unwieldy after I spent so much time during my degree learning how to write better verse. I liked, though, how the form evoked so many associations for me: with the present, due to prose’s dominance in public life; with mundanity, which defines university bureaucracy; and with academia, because of the distant, incisive objectivity of research writing.

Most of the poems that wade into CJH’s life in the late 1960s/early 1970s, however, skewed back to verse. This serves a practical necessity of delineating temporal setting poem to poem in a project in which timelines intertwine. But I was also curious to re-learn the importance of time as a poetic tool. The line break and the caesura can rupture passing time, like the magic of a jump cut in film. 

An incomplete list of writers who served as guides throughout the work: Kaie Kellough, Jordan Abel, Saidiya Hartman, Dionne Brand, Jay Bernard, Hoa Nguyen, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Aimé Césaire.

How important is sound on the page as you work? Do you feel there is anything lost at all in sound or cadence through working on the page? What is the difference?

When I began writing poetry, I was a teenager enamoured by Toronto’s spoken word scene. I was fascinated by the art form for its attention to the voice and the body as integral to the text. It’s impossible to exactly re-stage a spoken word performance twice. I liked how, if treated carefully on the page, sound could command a certain poetic voice to come to the forefront regardless of the mouth reading it. I was hungry to achieve as close to a perfect mimetic space as I could between the written words and the performance. I saw this as a vital physical and artistic challenge.

Then I grew up a little, and began reading and listening to different work. I started to like the possibilities found in discrepancy or destabilization between the voice and the text. For example, in a fine African head, threading cut-outs from academic and journalistic sources into the text is a very simple gesture of building discord by incorporating various authors and modes of address. The creative impulse has become, “What are the different ways someone can read this?”

I’m also negotiating how to read these pieces aloud as I structure this book out of poems written across three years, with many shifts in poetic voice. That cavern between the voice and the text becomes wider and, I hope, richer with each day that passes, because I’m increasingly less of the person who wrote those poems. Poetic voice, to me, is an invitation to be embodied differently, and I love sound’s role in that. 

How close is this project to completion? Have you any sense of what might come next, or is that too soon a question?

I would like to finish the manuscript this year and to develop a couple of short performances based on pieces in the book. Beyond that, I am mostly planning toward deepening parts of my non-writing life. I’m skeptical of industry pressures to produce more. I’m grateful to the university for teaching me the dangers of tunnel vision. The writing will always be there. I have a lot of other learning to do.

 

 

 

 

rob mclennan’s short stories, On Beauty (University of Alberta Press) will appear in August 2024. His next poetry collection is the book of sentences with University of Calgary Press, the second in a suite of collections that began with the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022).

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Michael Turner : Tomorrow Is a Holiday, by Hamish Ballantyne

Tomorrow Is a Holiday, Hamish Ballantyne
New Star Books, 2024

 

 

 

I’ve been looking forward to Vancouver writer Hamish Ballantyne’s’s Tomorrow Is a Holiday since Rolf Mauer announced he would be publishing it and Rob Manery would be working with Rolf and Hamish as the book’s editor. Nice that Rob should be attached, given that he introduced Hamish to so many of us when he published his poems in SOME’s fifth issue. After reading Hamish’s SOME poems, I learned of his chapbook, Imitation Crab (Knife Fork Book, 2020), and a more recent chapbook called Blue Knight (auric press, 2022), not to mention poems in journals like The Chicago Review and Blazing Stadium.

Tomorrow Is a Holiday begins with its title, with its beautiful, if not sudden, retro-temporal suspension (learning that tomorrow is a holiday and its immediate effect on the texture of today), then its bio. We are quick to look at bios -- to see if the writer looks like us, has published in places we recognize as maintaining a standard worth aspiring to, to learn what they do for a living. In Hamish’s case, he “works seasonally as a mushroom picker and works in the Downtown Eastside the rest of the year” (the latter presumably as a community care worker). Does this work have bearing on the “content” of his poems? Yes, but not in the way we think of when we think of what used to be called “work writing.” The same might be said of the book’s “style”. Is it “language-oriented writing” because it “lacks” narrative insoles? Because it prefers syntactic knots to rhetorical zip lines? Do these distinctions mean anything anymore? They do to some.

The book is comprised of four sections, the last of which -- “ROCK ROCK CORN ROCK” -- consists of the poet’s irreverent or otherwise translations of three longer poems by 16th century Carmelite mystic San Juan de la Cruz (1542-91). The first section -- “Hansom” -- is also “about” a figure, a contemporary one, the kind endemic to any focused, if not improvised, gathering -- be it a mushroom-pickers’ forest collection centre or, as is increasingly common, an inner-city park, like Vancouver’s well-publicized Oppenheimer, Crab and Strathcona Park homeless encampments of the last decade.

Here’s the third page of “Hansom”:

learn from facebook that guy Hansom
threatened to stab
me with a triangle of porcelain
when shouting with my friend he woke
from a nightmare he is dead
a bbq for him

The structural similarities between “rural” and “urban” dynamics, exemplified as much through behaviour (swatting at mosquitoes) as through language (the mosquitoes themselves), not to mention the poet’s participation in these societies (simultaneously, binaries be damned), is to my mind the book’s great social achievement. Indeed, we find these similarities underscored in the title of the book’s third section -- “A&Ws” -- in reference to a fast-food franchise whose outlets look the same whether they are off the highway north of Campbell River or in the heart of downtown Vancouver.  

Here are first six lines of the poem’s third page:

a letter from jimmy buffet to
benjamin treating the form
of appearance of movement arrested
in the billboards advertising
billboard space: a whale encounters
an enormous incarcerated krill in a submarine

The image of a tightly wound, brainiac, “One-Way Street”-era Walter Benjamin receiving a letter from a ludic, don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff, parrot-toting Jimmy Buffet is cutely funny and there to show range. The poet demonstrates he can be both of these men, but is he a better man for it? Indeed, there are a lot of men involved in the production of this book and the turning of its lyric gyres (a she/her appears rambunctiously in the book’s second section, “Luthier,” but her energy is frowned upon and she disappears just as quickly), which has me wondering, Does Tomorrow Is a Holiday make a case as a course add for a Masculine Studies module?  

Here is “8” from “Luthier”:

and I DON’T even KNOW her I’m just pet-sitting
the rabbits of someone who did

she came up with sweatsuits she
boosted and none of us wanted
the sweatsuits she jubilantly cast out
the window they hung flapping from
the hotel sign for weeks

Early in my reading of Tomorrow Is a Holiday I was watchful for traces of more-northern B.C. landscape poets Ken Belford (1946-2020) and Barry McKinnon (1944-2023), but Hamish Ballantyne brings something different to the innovative Nature/Culture trails these two writers blazed. For Hamish is a more complicated man, of a generation that grew up when testosterone was spoken of as if it were a disease, resulting in a more self-regulated man, compared to Belford and McKinnon, who were born at a time of ferocious male privilege, when testosterone was closer to a working drug. I am, generally speaking, nervous about this new man, his reactionary potential, though I remain curious about where his poetry will take us.

 

 

 

 

Michael Turner was raised in the garrison town of Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish land. His books include Hard Core Logo, Kingsway, The Pornographer’s Poem, 8x10, 9x11 and (this summer, with Anvil Press) Playlist: a Profligacy of Your Least-Expected Poems. This July he, Joi T. Arcan, Whess Harmon and August Klinburg will lead the Banff Centre’s Visual Arts Thematic Residency Get LIT! Language, Image, Text.

 

Winston Lê : Spatial Contemplations at Studio Faire

 

 

 

 

 

          In March I decided to take a leap of faith and go off the beaten path.

This destination was Studio Faire, an artist residency located in southwestern France in the sleepy, yet vibrant commune of Nérac. Studio Faire is a maison de maître that acts both as contemporary arts space and living quarters for its residents. This mansion was built in the 1800s and still retains its period characteristics.

Julia and Colin were amazing hosts, and I’m grateful for them in letting me into their home and this slice of paradise. I truly admire what they are doing: creating and cultivating a space where artist from different disciplines and walks of life can truly thrive. Faire in French means make. That’s exactly what I got to do during these unencumbered two weeks.

Studio Faire offers a diverse range of studio spaces. My live-in studio was called “The Garden View Room.” It was just as the name suggests. A double bedroom that situates at the back of the house with a view over the garden through two large windows. Every morning, the light would pour in from the south-facing garden. I made good use of this space cultivating it as my own. Julia even provided me with a sizeable corkboard where I would pin clustered mind maps for poem ideas and memos for daily writing goals. 

 

As this residency is a self-directed program, what you want to accomplish during your time is solely up to you and the other residents. The best thing I got out of this residency was devising a routine for writing during my stay. A typical day consisted of a morning of revising draft poems, organizing my current chapbook manuscript, and generating new ideas.

 

There was an armchair in the corner of my room where I sat down to read from passages of random artbooks every morning before I got to writing. Julia and Colin happen to have a small bookcase outside my room. During my stay, I dubbed it the “wee bookshelf” for my Scottish hosts. Combing through the spines of novels, artbooks, and poetry collection, I serendipitously came across a back issue of Room magazine. It seemed a piece of Vancouver found me. Or perhaps I found it?

I’d also changed up my routine by writing in the garden in the backyard. There was so much botanical life sprawling in this garden that made me feel so blissful. It was a good meditative spot to go unwind or if I needed a solitary place in nature to rethink an idea or reapproach my writing methodology.  One morning I was fortunate enough to get a photo of a tree branch shadow reflected across my laptop screen. 

 

 

Time truly felt like it was own. I was able to immerse myself in my writing, while exploring this hidden gem of a town. After I wrote in the morning, I’d go out and about in the afternoon to venture off into Nérac. The most impressive feat of this small town would be the omnipresent character of the long river called the Baïse. It felt like this river followed me wherever I wandered. It sourced through the commune like a pulse. In that moment, embracing the grandeur of where I was, I allowed myself the permission to abandon everything else and just simply exist for my writing.   

 

I relished in my thought-provoking discussions with my fellow resident, Rob Kitsos. Rob was a dance artist who came to Studio Faire to work on his choreographic research on materials and space, Moving Matter. Coincidentally, Rob also hails form Vancouver.

Other than updating each other on the progressions of our projects, we discussed our mutual love with geometric linguistics, ekphrasis methodologies, and interdisciplinary collaboration within the arts. I enjoyed our evening wanderings through town. On one such occasion, we got lost on the way, enamoured by the iridescence of the town at twilight.

At end of our two weeks as a thank you to Julia and Colin, Rob and I decided to perform and present on the work we did during our productive time at Studio Faire. I read ekphrasis poems from my collaboration in progress with botanical artist, Katrina Vera Wong, Frankenflora Morphologues. Rob presented on his research in the form of his choregraphed video he had created in response to the spatiality of Studio Faire. His presentation also included an oral recitation of a found poem I wrote in response to Rob’s ekphrasis methodology of material and space. For the performance, we used the Garage Studio (Rob’s studio) as the venue.

It was a good  venue for our performance as we were both using visuals and audio. As Rob says about the Garage, “It’s a room with tons of history and mystique. It’s a great raw space.”

          All in all, Studio Faire is an amazing experience that allows you to curate a residency experience towards your needs and wants. For me that was balancing my own creative practice, wanderlust, and collaborating ideas with the like-minded individuals who I shared a home with.  I was humbled to be accepted as the first 2024 Poet-in-Residence. I hope to return one day. I know there are exciting developments happening at Studio Faire and I can’t wait to watch its growth as an arts and culture space.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winston Lê is a Vietnamese-Chinese poet and interdisciplinary artist who resides in Langley, BC. His writing has been featured in periodicities, Sparkling Tongue Press, Ekphrasis Magazine, pagefiftyone, and filling Station. His poetic practice encompasses different modalities concerned with language acquisition, including receptive bilingualism, poetic dictation, speculative poetics, and asemic writing. His debut chapbook, translanguaging was shortlisted for the 2018 Broken Pencil Zine Awards. translanguaging is now curated as part of the special collections at Colby College Libraries and Michigan State University Libraries, respectively.

 

Jérôme Melançon : Trop de Pascale, by Pascale Bérubé

Trop de Pascale, Pascale Bérubé
Triptyque, 2023

 

 

 

 

In her debut collection, Trop de Pascale (Too Much Pascale), Pascale Bérubé uses tightly written prose to retrace the movement through which the body winds up of around its image. While each poem plays on appearance and disappearance, Bérubé does not lift any veils or let anything vanish. She dodges clichés about femininity in order to better confront them; she avoids any notion of identity in order to better situate herself:

“i die but there are many other pascales, never exactly the same each time i cancel one. i always feel like everything i am not.”

“je meurs mais il y a plusieurs autres pascale, jamais exactement la même chaque fois que j’en annule une. je me sens toujours comme tout ce que je ne suis pas.” (19)

Bérubé’s poetry lends itself to a philosophical reading just as much as a poetic reading. The latter reading might focus on looping effects and repetition of themes; on the fading of each poem into a sentence without final punctuation; on the minor chords struck by the composition of the sentences; on the mirror and screen effects through the uses of the self, of the self as others, of others as versions of the self, of others as versions of others yet; on the euphoria of slight modifications to a steady beat exploding in dropped beats – all this announced by the quotation from SOPHIE’s song “Immaterial” which opens the book.

The philosophical reading, which I’ll take up here, is announced somewhat later in the collection by the reference to the Hebrew meaning of Pascale as “passing through”: Bérubé leads a reflection on transformation, the constancy of appearance and replacement, and the inter-replaceability of selves. Her poetics ties into the poetics of the body, the practice of creating an aesthetic expression not so much of beauty as of passion and tragedy, these grand sentiments of being overwhelmed by something within oneself.

And as selves take the place of others, the Pascale who writes these poems maintains an undefined and porous relationship with the Pascales within the poems, speaker or object. Appearances are as real, and often more real, than her body. In its leaning toward appearances, the body comes to matter more and more and gain meaning, even as it is transformed. There is no real body, no natural body to which she can return; each alteration has a continuing presence past its own time.

The Pascales of which Bérubé speaks appear, make their appearances on screens. Mirrors people the poems; they add reflections and images to those she gives of herself “as an author, as a performer, as a cam girl” (98-99). Her hope seems to be to “lie down in the embrasure of my reflection and no longer move from it” (“me coucher dans l’embrasure de mon reflet et ne plus en bouger,” 97).

The poems take their strength from their internal interruptions, which let in other possibilities for the self and for her relation to others. To give only one example: in the middle of a longer poem, we read: “i imagine a futurist city where water sometimes flows” (“j’imagine une cité futuriste où l’eau coule parfois,” 89). Anytime a poem veers into a non-human image, it returns renewed to the body.

In this manner, practically as well as in what the poems let us see, disappearance is a matter of one aspect (of a self, of a room, a screen, a space) leaving room for another. Makeup and clothes are less the instruments of an apparition than the crafting of the erasure of what is not yet, the creation of an expectation. This disappearance cohabits with the appearance of others, the disappearance of the self working through envy and desire for others as potential selves, selves that exist in their own movement of appearance: “the skin you want is just underneath the skin you see” (“la peau que tu veux est juste en dessous de la peau que tu vois,” 82).

Disappearance can also be a movement into another woman – into her image, into the space she creates, into the space between her and herself – without us readers ever knowing if this other woman, this “tu,” these other women, are also Pascale, more Pascales, and even simply videos of herself, selfies stored on her phone. We do see her relate to others through their image, as in this passage where Bérubé renders her uncertain relationship to a woman on a book cover:

“a young woman whose appearance evokes goodness, long hair split with a precise part in the middle, white blouse under pink sweater, sitting, hands over the knees. behind can be found this other version of her, black turtleneck, head titled, menacing, her gaze fixed upon us.”

“une jeune femme à l’allure sage, longs cheveux fendus d’une raie précise au centre, chemise blanche sous pull rose, assise, mains par-dessus les genoux. derrière se trouve cette autre version d’elle, col roulé noir, la tête penchée, menaçante, le regard fixé sur nous.” (75)

Both Bérubé and the women she mentions tend to disappear in the gaps between their selves and themselves. This disappearance is in fact a mutual relationship, each being able to contain the other. She holds the desire that others might want to enter her, “that vacant girls may find in me a landmark, a decorated room, even if I am still searching the other vacant woman who may offer me a home” (“que les filles vacantes puissent trouver en moi un repère, une chambre décorée, même si je cherche encore l’autre femme vacante qui pourra m’héberger,” 100). Bérubé is not concerned with representation, or presence, or identification, or identity – but with hospitality, with being capacitous, able to hold, comfort, give something of oneself to others so they may do the same for others still.

At stake in this relationship to others – and specifically to other women – is her happiness: “i could choose to be vacant and happy through the real radiance of these bodies that are yours” (“je pourrais choisir d’être vacante et heureuse à travers l’éclat réel de vos corps à vous,” 109).

It is as if appearance is more the self than the body: “with each filter i reveal myself, i become this holy version of myself. iconique. frank, direct like scalpel light” ( “avec chaque filtre je me révèle, je deviens cette vision sainte de moi-même. iconic. franche, directe comme la lumière en bistouri,” 77). She gives meaning to skin, to screen, to presentation, destroys the idea that women’s work on their appearance is meant to attract a gaze or a touch. Through ideas that fall into oblivion as others rise, she gives a poetic body to renewal.

Bérubé displays great precision in the description of others, presenting surfaces under which she can slip herself and go unnoticed. The dismemberment of the self extends to others as well. With these poems focused on the poetics of the body, Bérubé leaves us with a nothingness that is a bright light, a hope that is movement through existences, beyond herself, beyond ourselves.

 

 

 

 

Jérôme Melançon writes and teaches and writes and lives in oskana kâ-asastêki / Regina, SK. His third chapbook, Bridges Under the Water (2023), is not-so-newly out with above/ground press. It follows Tomorrow’s Going to Be Bright (2022) and Coup (2020), as well as his most recent poetry collection, En d’sous d’la langue (Prise de parole, 2021). He has also published 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). He has edited books and journal issues, and keeps publishing academic articles that have nothing to do with any of this. He’s on various social media under variations of @lethejerome.

Stan Rogal : Four poems

 

 

Teenage Wasteland [reprise]
         
The Who
                                        

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
                   — T. S. Eliot

 

Arrested by an abrupt minatory staccato of ponderous monosyllables. A dizzying vortex of beating wings & flying drapery. Enigmatic images that serve to penetrate the lizard brain. What bulks large is a strong element of the phatic. Hey you — don’t walk on the turnips! Good God, when will they ever learn it? The broken fingernails of grubby hands. [Don’t cry, don’t blink an eye. It’s only teenage wasteland.]

I set off, I take up the march, I set off. I put my queer shoulder to the wheel. I rush out as I am & roam the streets. Unreal town under the brown fog of an autumn dusk. Dance of death across a chalk-grey sky. Then comes a memory, a rope, a string of jittery lights. Town’s end that peter’s out to rats’ alley. Where the dead have lost their bones. Down Greenwich Reach, past the Isle of Dogs. Let’s go, let’s go, & make our visit. [Don’t cry, don’t blink an eye. It’s only teenage wasteland.]

The who & the why don’t count no more. In the mountains is where you feel free. Where there is no water, only rock. Gonna go south in winter, gonna tan beneath a new summer sun, gonna spit out all the butt-ends of my youth. I’m no Prince Hal meant to take the fall, no. I’m the Fool, that’s all. These are the pearls that were his eyes, look! Oh, there will be time, there will be time. What’s that noise? Who are those hooded hordes? Those who arrive to cultivate the fog. Spend a penny on the ailing old guy why don’t you. ‘Jug-jug’ to dirty ears. My health seems threatened, terror comes, I sleep & wake to the same sad dreams. [Don’t cry, don’t blink an eye. It’s only teenage wasteland.]

 

 

un(en)titled

 

Dear Jean-Paul Auxeméry: I am lonesome, alone, & sore a’feared. It is Tuesday April 21, two o’clock in the frozen afternoon in a frozen basement apartment in a frozen city in an even more frozen country where I am perpetually broke & always in debt. I’m not interesting I’m not interested I’m so sick of Berlin or Toronto or Prague or/& wherever with its lurid & melancholic lighting of faux film noir. Strings of dead horses bloat the roadways, this, & pastel painted rows of block-&-plaster houses. Where nothing happens but the wallpaper. Where dentists continue to water their lawns even in the rain. Gone are the days of the Havana-Veracruz overnight cruise ship. Gone are the days of those bronze-skinned Spanish craft-workers whose altars, sugar skulls, sugar paste animals, candelabra, & papercuts, etc., were among the finest. Gone are the days we ate potato salad on a sunny patio surrounded by dahlias, drunk on wine, a texture of mumbled words & wild laughter, ending with the conjugation of French erotic verbs; when Isamu Noguchio stepped on Yoko Ono’s Painting to Be Stepped On with a pair of elegant Zohri slippers; when naked dancers infiltrated the Sculpture Garden — remember? we captured fireflies in jars & hung them as lanterns in the evening — when Art disappeared into everyday life. So much for the “Generation of the 80’s.” Yet, the phantom limb reveals the illusory rule of the world it haunts. A butterfly flaps its wings in China & the ground trembles in NYC. Dear Jean-Paul Auxeméry: who are you? where are you? what do you do? are you famous? I copied your name from somewhere out of an old lit mag I’d leafed through in a used bookstore because I liked the sound. Since you ask (you did ask, didn’t you?), most days I can’t remember. Frightened by the gnash of hydrogen & oxygen binding. The tarantula rattling at the lily’s foot. Wasn’t it Jenny Holzer who said, “People who go crazy are too sensitive”? Perhaps. Dear Jean-Paul Auxeméry: your head is a green bag of narcissus stems, you twist darkness between your fingertips. The domain of poetry is blurs & blurts. Slowly the poison the whole bloodstream fills. You might as well be talking to a radish (nota bene: instead of pulling a gun I think I developed language skills to deal with threat). Dear Jean-Paul Auxeméry (how I enjoy repeating your name): do you realize how beautiful it is to reach out & touch someone; how good it feels to share molecular orgasm with a friend? Please, protect me. Protect me from what I fear I want — to be put on the morning train, kissed, & given my ticket to a comfortable steady job in the suburbs — the single purpose to walk through snow.

 

 

Hello, Jacqueline?

 

Hello, Jacqueline? … Are you there? … It’s me … It’s 4:40 pm, Toronto time, Monday, as you must be aware ... Can you believe? … The sky is perfect today, just like yesterday, just like the day before, almost viral ... Dreadful has already occurred ... Even the walls are flowing, even the ceilings ... Fratricide of the unexpected pretty but not edible (sorry, an [vain] attempt to say something someone would say — any something, any someone) … A friend of a friend, you know? The story & how it happens … To whom it may concern, so on & so forth … Following Andy Warhol’s dictum: “I want to be a machine” … Cars parked off the sides of the roads covered in dust & bird shit … Fire a cannon down Yonge street at rush hour you don’t injure a soul … Individuality ceases to exist … Allen Ginsberg’s: “I am looking for the true cadence” … Fine … Jean-Paul Sartre’s: a human being “is what it is not” … What the fuck? … Words throw themselves across the floor, bad actors reciting worse lines … We’re all pretty intelligent, but are we smart enough to stop paying attention to how intelligent we are? … I mean, if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you, right? … That was Frank O’Hara, a poet you admired, yeah? … YOU said: just because we made love in Montreal doesn’t mean I have to cook for you in Zanzibar — wow! super, I won’t forget … Meanwhile … Keeps thundering, never rains … Faces irresolute & unperplexed … Breath quiet but violent … Sleep impossible, dreams vividly surreal (night of the living dead, giant rats, dismembered dolls [strange, those eyes again, & they’re radioactive]) … Should I be frightened? (I am) … This morning in 100% humidity my hair went straight … [I doubt God is kind, well-meaning, good, I doubt God [[enter here, as if on cue, the Four bloody Horsemen of the freaking Apocrypha, ha!]] … “Sanctuary’s polka dots are imperfect, expressive, roughly painted, & evoke individualism, but en masse” … In a fit, in a funk, they complain (who? they, them, you know): “It’s almost over the top neo-baroque — cultishly formal, closely set with visual features, hyper-referential — but it is lavishly invented, detailed, particular in its language, & so, fully realized” … blah, blah, blah … It goes on … People living high & dying low … It’s as if no one has heard: wear heavy rubber gloves, rubber-soled shoes, avoid electrical wires … Aw, shut up [gotta admit, I dunt wanna be self-reflective no more] … Hey, did you hear about the suicidal glazier who wrote a novel entitled Gone with the Window? … No? … Do you know the joke that goes: a sewing machine & an umbrella meet on a dissecting table & the sewing machine asks … Okay, yeah, probably, doesn’t matter ... People everywhere — have you noticed? — are eating truckloads of avocados & injecting Lysol; are talking about moonburn, moonbath, & about touching the sky … Well, do you know how beautiful it is to touch each other? … Just saying … Have you seen the horizon lately? … The plausible form thinks itself a garden … Reddish-gold that blackens into mountains … Whatever … Pretty quiet on the block after the 7:30 pots & pans concerts … Once the raccoons & skunks venture out, I go inside … Keep the house cool by pulling down the shades, crack a beer & read Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu … Not true, but you know that, & my French … Anyway … I’m using up your answering service … I miss you … Call me … I’m home … Where else …  

 

 

[I wanna be sedated] [reprise]
         
The Ramones

 

What a difference a day makes. Twenty-twenty-twenty-twenty-four little hours. Suddenly too sunk in scholarliness to observe what should be observed. I’m dehydrated, I’m running in neutral. As in a forest of trees if it rains & they are not heard the rain drops & they are not heard yet. Who used to be the shit now ain’t worth shit. Hard on the outside, numb on the inside, that’s me in a nutshell. Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. Ah, quick, quick, quick. Toss me in a wheelbarrow, stick me on a bus [I wanna be sedated].

Hast du etwas Zeit für mich? Do you have some time for me? Maybe even a little? [I mean, I might like you better if we slept together. Just sayin’]. I walk alone & never say good-bye, let me go (let me go). Get away, run away, far away, how do I [repeat same line: Get away, run away, &ETC]. Listen, this is an important moment. I won’t be fooled by cheap “Pop Muzik” theatrics. A case of lousy luck, really rotten luck, I’m screwed. Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. Ah, quick, quick, quick. Flag me down a taxicab, ship me parcel post [I wanna be sedated].

Too late to die young die pretty. Come as you were, leave as you are become most unbecoming in the small print. [But where is the plagiarism especially apparent/proven? This/here? No. This/here? No. How about this/here, then? Perhaps]. A wholly non-ironic revival of the classic melodrama rediscovers the sincerity & powerful emotion of the heart. Dawns are heartbreaking, dusks less so since they signal the barky night. I’m not well, I almost never dream. Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. Ah, quick, quick, quick. Strap me to a stretcher, get me on a drip [I wanna be sedated].

 

 

 

 

 

Stan Rogal lives and writes in Toronto along with his artist partner Jacquie Jacobs and their pet jackabee. His work has appeared almost magically in numerous magazines and anthologies. The author of several books, plus a handful of chapbooks. Currently seeking a new publisher: anyone??? Co-founder of Bald Ego Theatre and former coordinator of the popular Idler Pub Reading Series.

 

most popular posts