Monday, January 01, 2018

SOME POETRY BOOKS I READ IN 2017

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Well, will you look at this. It's New Year's Day and I wanted to start the year as I mean to go on which is to write more about books I've read. This is not a resolution, you understand. I'm singularly bad at keeping those, but 2017 was a good year for poetry and I thought I should celebrate some of it. Here are just a few of the books I enjoyed this year, in no particular order.

Making Room—Forty Years of Room Magazine 
     ed. Meghan Bell; Caitlin Press


     In 1999 when Room was called Room of One's Own they published my poem, The Quilt, my first appearance in a litmag so what's not to love! I've been dipping into this anthology which as you might imagine is full of treasures. I'm particularly enjoying the interviews about the magazine's history with former editors.

Narrow Bridge
     Barbara Pelman; Ronsdale Press


   Got to hang out with Barbara at a poetry retreat this summer. I'd read and enjoyed an earlier collection of hers — Borrowed Rooms — so I knew I liked her poetry. Last night, when I opened Narrow Bridge, I landed on As If We Invented Love and the lines, 

                                                  Even her —
     tumbled hair, old slippers, housecoat
     wrapped grimly around her waist.

suggested the narrator in this  particular poem might well be peering down through the skylight in the kitchen! Poetry as mirror.

Her poems about family— a centenarian mother's daily phone call, a father's last days, a special moment with a grandson — are beautifully wrought.

A number of the poems are set in Europe, including the delightful Marcello poems that first appeared in a chapbook, Aubade Amalfi, from Rubicon Press, and they make me want to start looking up airfares. So much to identify with. This, from Go:

A woman over seventy should open her travel account,
run her fingers over the globe, and choose

Words to live by. Words to love by. Wonderful collection. I'll leave you with The Well:
The Well by Barbara Pelman

The Man With the Dancing Monkey
     Barbara Mulcahy; Wolsak and Wynn

Barbara and I bonded last spring during an event at which, for reasons that are incomprehensible, we both were reading. Barbara lives in my part of the world and published this book in 1997. The section, Raven Meditations, is testimony to her powers of observation. I'm just discovering the book now. This gem, for example . . .

Learning by Barbara Curry Mulcahy

Refugium — Poems for the Pacific
     ed. Yvonne Blomer; Caitlin Press


Victoria B.C.'s poet laureate, Yvonne Blomer, wanted to do something that would draw attention to the plight of the Pacific Ocean, what with global warming and all of our waste that so often finds its way there. There are so many good poems in this anthology and I'm ever so proud to have one of my La Manzanilla poems included. I'm taking a copy with me to La Manzanilla this winter to donate to Helping Hands Bookstore which resells books brought down by tourists and donates money to children who need financial aid in order to continue their education. Here's what it looks like on a shelf in my studio.





Tethered by Linda Crosfield


Reading Sveva
     Daphne Marlatt;  Talonbooks


Sveva Caetani came into my life one late January/sometime in February day in 2000 when I happened to be walking down Baker Street in Nelson and there in a window was one of her paintings. I went in (it was a little ad hoc gallery that wasn't there very long and I don't remember its name). I looked at all the paintings. I came back a week or so later and bought the book that went with the exhibition, ninety dollars when I didn't have the budget for ninety dollar books but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I poured over it. I was struck by the story of Caetani's life, most of which was spent in Vernon, B.C., and the reproductions of her paintings fascinated me then and still do.

One day I was curious as to whether anyone had written poetry about her so off I went to the Google mines and discovered that Jack Pine Press had a chapbook of such poems by Daphne Marlatt. I tried all kinds of ways to get a copy but it was long sold-out. Some years later I asked a mutual friend if they'd connect us via email. We corresponded briefly and while she did't have any extra copies lying around Daphne very kindly sent me a file with the text of her poems so I could read them. Needless to say, I was more than delighted when this little book came out. It's a beauty; there are six colour plates of Caetani paintings and a few photos of her and her family as well a strong biographical component and Marlatt's wonderful poems. Look what she does with cicadas!

Between Brush Strokes by Daphne Marlatt
One Foot In
     Jeff Pew; NeoPoiesis Press

Jeff Pew writes about the absurdities of life. He takes on door-to-door evangelists, the tooth fairy, and love and absolutely soars when his poems reflect on the work he does as a school counsellor. There are a few choice bill bissett poems in here as well. And this one, about fishing and stuff:


River Lore by Jeff Pew

Acquired Community
     Jane Byers; Caitlin Press


Full disclosure here: Jane's part of the tiny, perfect poetry group I belong to so I got to see these poems before they got together in this very important book that examines the history of the LGBTQ community in Canada and beyond. Michael Dennis reviewed it in Today's Book of Poetry. Here are a couple of pictures from the launch back in October 2016.



Celebrating the publication of It Hurt, That's all I Know, (Nose in Book Publishing) earlier this year!
Jane writes with humour and searing honesty. The section about AIDS activist, Michael Lynch,  is particularly moving. Acquired Community won the Golden Crown Literary Award for lesbian poetry last summer.

Committee of Adjustment by Jane Byers

liminal
     Jordan Mounteer; Sono Nis Press

     I mentioned this one a couple of posts ago when I was at a reading. Jordan Mountain writes of land I know. Where else can I find Lebhado Flats, Cottonwood Market, Oso Negro CafĂ©, a Kaslo ice field and various creeks and rivers named and gathered in one place? There are also a number of travel poems situated in New Zealand, Viet Nam, Thailand and South America. He writes evocative pieces that place the reader comfortably in whatever location he writes of. From the poem Akisame, for example, this ending:

Something unsaid slogs under the porch
                                                  like a stray dog escaping the weather.

And this one:
Diagnosis by Jordan Mounteer

Frequent, small loads of laundry
    Rhonda Ganz; Mother Tongue Publishing

Such a mind has Rhonda Ganz! Her poems are smart, funny, and nearly all of them contain some zinger or other that all but knocks you off your feet. It wasn't easy choosing a representative one, they're all so good, but I went with this one as it's New Year's Day, another clean slate ahead, and here's Rhonda's take on it. See what I mean?

In the Backcountry, Risk of Avalanche Remains High by Rhonda Ganz

56 Days of August Poetry Postcards
     ed. Ina Roy-Faderman, Paul E. Nelson, and J. I. Kleinberg; Five Oaks Press


     For the past decade I've been doing this crazy thing every August that involves getting on a list of fellow postcard poets and sending a card with a poem composed directly on it to the rest of the people on your list. Most of the poets and artists in the anthology are from the States, with a smattering of us from Canada and at least one from the U.K. Given the common thread is simply that it's August and everyone's responding to the poetry challenge in their own way, a more eclectic collection would be hard to find. Subject matter ranges from poems about There are love poems and rants. Three-liners and ones I can't imagine how the poet managed to fit it onto a card. You'll find odes to food, to other poets (mine is about/for Rona Murray who once lived in Ootischenia, as I do), to pets and the natural world. Some make you laugh, some make you shiver. Here's my Rona poem which I've already revised to clear up a couple of pronoun references!


Poem for Rona Murray by Linda Crosfield

I could go on for ages, pulling out books, finding and sharing some of the little treasures they contain, but it's time to work on my own manuscript. Happy New Year, everyone. May all your dreams come true!

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

CONSTRUCTING A CHAPBOOK 101

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Chapbooks from Nose in Book, so far
This year I've had the honour and pleasure to make two chapbooks: It Hurt, That's All I Know by Nelson poet, Jane Byers; and I just finished packing up and shipping out my latest project, Our Own Stunned Heads, a serial poem chapbook by Victoria, BC poet, 
Stephen Bett.


With Jane Byers and her chapbook, It Hurt, That's All I Know
I operate Nose in Book Publishing out of my basement lair in Ootishenia. Before I get to the putting-together stage in these pictures I've spent some time putting the words into book form. I love that part of the process—where to break a stanza, should the page numbers be up to the right or bottom centre, font size, what to do about the cover—but the last bit, as chronicled here, is so very satisfying. 


Stack of covers and text, ready to go
First cut takes excess paper off the sides. I want a fold, but not too big.
Cut the top and bottom to size. It's important to keep changing the blade.
Score the cover with bone creaser to facilitate folding

Fold in the flaps 
The cover, ready to receive the text

Insert the text block 
Use an awl to punch three holes in the spine 

The actual sewing takes less than a minute

Tie a knot 

Snip off excess thread

VoilĂ !

Not quite done. Now the books go into the press for at least a day.
They emerge nice and flat
Books everywhere
Last one!


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Monday, November 27, 2017

UPSTREAM BENEFITS SYMPOSIUM IN NELSON

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I've been keeping occupied of late making chapbooks and helping a friend move so I didn't get to  much of  the Upstream Benefits: Rural Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays symposium that took place in Nelson over the last four days, but I wasn't about to miss the panel Saturday afternoon with Tom Wayman, Nancy Holmes and Fred Wah talking about the ways in which they represent the rural in their work, nor the reading that night. 

"Art is Essential", or so it says on the poster, and I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but it really is, isn't it? Art in its many convoluted and wondrous forms keeps us going. Take those days when it's raining, you slept in because you forgot to set the alarm so you haven't time for breakfast and you get in the car, a song comes on the radio and next thing you know you're singing along and the day just got a little bit brighter. Or you're reading a book and something jumps off the page at you, grabs your shoulders and gives you a good shake. Or you're walking down Baker Street and there in the window of a pop-up art gallery are paintings by Sveva Caetani who you've never heard of and you go in and find yourself in tears. Or your kid plays guitar in the Library Lounge at the Hume Hotel, great old songs you mostly know, then surprises patrons with cool renditions of themes from television shows. In Castlegar you can walk around downtown and see sculptures that change every year, and the favourite, as voted on by the public, gets to stay. Dancing. Theatre. Jewellers and blacksmiths. The chefs who concoct the most wonderful edibles—it's all art, capital A Art, and I'm grateful for the small part I play in it.

Miriam Needoba, Oxygen's about-to-depart (she's going back to school to pursue graduate studies) and really-going-to-be-missed Executive Director, introduced the panel. 
Tom Wayman introduced the speakers with a pithy talk about rural vs urban art making.
Nancy Holmes, punctutating a point. She teaches at UBC's Kelowna campus and is very involved with is 2017's winner of the Pollinator Advocate Award for Canada thanks to her involvement with Border Free Bees. A favourite quotation from her talk: "Bees dance to tell us where the honey is." (Robert Duncan)
Fred Wah needs no introduction to Nelsonites, having grown up here. He was Canada's 5th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2011–2013) and has written many books of poetry. Favourite quotation from him during his talk is one he credited to his wife, Pauline Butling, who said, "Art exists to give the artist news of themselves."
Fred and Nancy sharing a laugh
Another interesting remark came during the Q&A from poet and audience member, Barbara Curry Mulcahy who likened artists to providing "sound" by being the thin skin of a drum the world plays on. Altogether an interesting conversation on a November afternoon.

In the evening we were treated to a wonderful reading with Nancy and Fred who were joined by Jordan Mounteer. 

Tom introduced the poets
I was delighted that Nancy read a few poems from The Flicker Tree: Okanagan Poems as well as from new work. I loved that book enough to blog about it in 2013!
Given that he hails from the Slocan Valley, for no good reason at all I'd not had the pleasure of hearing Jordan Mounteer read until now.  His book, liminal, got to go into an immediate second print run after his publisher, Sono Nis, suffered a fire in 2016 that razed the warehouse where books were kept. It's a wonderful collection of poems about tree-planting, travel, relationships and more. 
Fred Wah took us for a trip down the Columbia River via beholden, a collaborative poem he wrote  with Rita Wong.
Last October I had the honour of doing a reading with Fred, also at Oxygen, and just as he got started the lights went out. He didn't miss a beat, finishing with the help of the flashlight on his phone! Happily, the lights stayed on this time. 


The symposium is over but if you're in Nelson you'll want to take in Upstream Benefits: Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History. This is an exhibition of work by ten local artists that endeavours to show how their work is influenced by where they live (ie. rural). The artists involved are Courtney Anderson, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson and Rachel Yoder. I've only had a chance to go see it briefly (as in, I got there twenty minutes before closing time) but I want to go back and spend more time with it. And you have time, too, as it's on until February 11, 2018!

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