20190523

Duplex Foster Child (response)

Erin Russell


Like uniform growths on the underbelly of a curling/yielding shoot
Spreading white hives, the thighs of late pregnancy,
When they left you at the duplex you were old enough
Already the night was
Sleepless the sound of jets
The wrist-slit sky you stone faced the spackled ceiling
The smell of her boyfriend’s cigarettes, the molding/rolling papers like
Currency in absent reference
Like stars that extinguish in cities
His cowboy
     Boots in the corner near the open door
The negative space of ankles knocking out like tumours
           
      Coldplaying /in/ the split level den       straight on till morning
                        Other children, foster children, Overwatch-gamer lost children below your crepe paper mattress
folding words away,
               folding worlds away,
bookending palimpsests on your as-yet unmarked skin

Nameless boys, curious boys, first-star-on-the-right boys                  
   the boots

           were brown or bottle green



Erin Russell is a writer from Calgary living in Amsterdam. Her work has appeared in Scrivener, Montage, Time Out Amsterdam, and The Holland Times among others, and has been translated into French and Chinese. She won the Wycliffe College Poetry Award at the University of Toronto two years in a row. She lectures in literature and writing at Amsterdam University College.

20190520

Het Diner

Lydia Unsworth


Buttons that respond organically, take what they see and enjoy the proximity of other animals, the things they say, the way we say them. No longer villages, we are three-course meals, one plate after another, each understood only in terms of our neighbours, our alternatives, our allergens. I’m talking about smashing the plates up, the cutlery, getting our hands in, even if it’s soup and we’re not built for it. I’m talking about eating off the floor if we want to, legs entwined, mouthfuls from the arms of eager acquaintances. I’m talking about houses with ten bedrooms, five beds in each. I’m talking about telling people where you are going, not because you have to, but because you might want them to come along. Gentle snoring like the sound of waves crashing against rocks that have always been uncommunicative. Reliable. You, the sand. Me, the sand. All of it inseparable, unimportant. I want bread and butter with too much butter. Watch me. I want to eat with my unwashed hands.





Lydia Unsworth is the author of two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (Knives Forks & Spoons, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (Erbacce, 2018), for which she won the 2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Ambit, Pank, Litro, Tears in the Fence, Banshee, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Sentence: Journal of Prose Poetics, among other places. Based in Manchester/Amsterdam. Twitter @lydiowanie


20190516

An interview with Terrence Abrahams


Terrence Abrahams lives and writes quietly in Toronto. His second and third poetry chapbooks are forthcoming this year with ZED Press and baseline press. Find him on Twitter at @trabrahams.

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I’ve been writing since childhood. I “published” several issues of my own magazine between the ages of 9 and 10, complete with articles, interviews, short stories, and advice columns. The magazine was aimed at cats.

I only recently read something Mary Oliver wrote in her essay collection, Upstream. She said, “attention is the beginning of devotion.” If that’s the case, I’ve been beginning my whole life, and I don’t plan on stopping. That keeps me going.

With your second and third poetry chapbooks to appear by the end of the year, do you feel your process of putting together a manuscript has evolved? How do you decide on the shape and size of a manuscript?

My process for putting together is organic. All that has evolved is my sense of what should be or shouldn’t be included in a manuscript, what makes or breaks the theme or tone. Since I tend to write towards a loose but overarching narrative, I want my poems to tell a story of a place, a feeling, or both, and I keep this in my pocket as I begin putting a manuscript together.

To put it simply, if my writing was a shape, it would be round.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Many, too many to comfortably list here. I am interested in directness, and in deceptively simple works. No poem is simple; some just appear to be so.

To name some names: Anne Carson make me think; Souvankham Thammavongsa tells me to pay attention; Danez Smith encourages honesty; Lily Wang wants me to dream; Cameron Awkward-Rich offers imagery; Jos Charles says to experiment; and Mary Oliver says, live!

I also like any and all poems that are green.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?

I’ve taken only two formal classes involving creative writing; poetry with A. F. Moritz, and fiction with Lauren Kirshner. Other than that, my mentor is the collective encouragement my friends offer me. Their love is everything to me and my work.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working, slowly, toward a full-length manuscript. It has taken on many forms; it can’t settle. I’m not going to force it to settle. We’ll see what happens.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

Sanna Wani! She has a chapbook out with Toronto-based Penrose Press this April. I’m unbelievably excited for it. Her work is sunlight on Sunday morning. Reading it is like taking a deep breath.


20190513

the quiet sounds of a painting I will never hang

Terrence Abrahams




tchhh                         


sssh




tch tch tch

            

                                    sh



                                                                                    klnk



  

Terrence Abrahams lives and writes quietly in Toronto. His second and third poetry chapbooks are forthcoming this year with ZED Press and baseline press. Find him on Twitter at @trabrahams.


20190506

Prodigal Son

Mike Ferguson


Never returning home, and with those many times in a pigsty all that enlightened was leaving again. You can love whoever for whatever without the need for narrative. Placing a parable in a colloquial aside is like painting with sand. Our sly cries and raw provocations. A return to form can mean how prose replaces the sonnet. A restoration of the sun beyond a horizon of tall trees. Of course, he did not literally return to a place that never existed. Redemption in shame, apparently. I turned away, many years ago, and these are the consequences of having been there in the first place.


Mike Ferguson is an American permanently resident in the UK and widely published in online magazines. His most recent print collection is the sonnets chapbook Precarious Real [Maquette Press, 2016] and he edited with Rupert Loydell the music poems anthology Yesterday’s Music Today [Knives Fork and Spoons Press, 2015]. A retired English teacher, he co-authored the education text Writing Workshops [Cambridge University Press, 2015].


20190502

An interview with Kate Feld

Kate Feld writes short fiction, essays, poetry and work that sits between forms. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including The Letters PageThe Stinging Fly, The Lonely Crowd, Train and Hotel. A native of Vermont, she has lived in the Northwest of England for many years. She lectures in journalism at The University of Salford, hosts Manchester literary events and leads workshops on creative writing. She is the founder of UK creative nonfiction project The Real Story and co-presents the literary podcast The End of All Things. She tweets @katefeld and maintains a small establishment on the internet at katefeld.com

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I’ve worked as a journalist since I was 25, so for most of my adult life that’s where all my focus and creative energy went. I had been trained, as a newspaper reporter, never to write in the first person – you have it drummed into you that ‘you’re not the news.’ The self-effacement becomes habitual. And I was a very young woman then, so you could say I relinquished my ‘I’ before I knew what it was. How could I write without that?

It wasn’t until I was about 40 that I became really interested in doing creative writing. Then I was asked to contribute a personal essay to an anthology – I didn’t know anything about it, but I gave it a shot. Writing specifically from my own subjectivity, rather than burying that behind the impartial, observational mask of the reporter – it was thrilling. I loved it. I was good at it. And it just kind of took over, then. It was all I wanted to do.

There is nothing more interesting, more absorbing or more challenging to me than writing. You know that feeling you have when you’re a kid, drawing pictures, singing a song, making a fort, when every part of you is completely focused on what you’re doing? That is what writing gives me. And I don’t think there is anything better than making a fine thing that only you can make, a piece of art that will mean something to other people. Why are we here, if not for that?

It would be easier not to write. I have to rearrange my life to do it, over and over again. Needing to write makes my priorities different than other people’s and complicates the hell out of everything. I mean, I have to earn a living. I have to raise my kids. But I don’t have a choice. This is it. So, it happens. It happens however it can.

Your author biography references your work with the essay and short story forms, as well as works that sit between forms. Do you notice a difference in how you work between different genres, or is it a matter of approach?

There isn’t so much a difference in the way I approach forms as a difference in the way I approach each individual piece of writing. So, maybe a sentence or idea comes into my head, often in a dream or daydream. Sometimes it turns into dialogue or seems to belong to a situation or a perspective, which leads me into a story. I rarely know what’s going to happen with it until I sit down and start writing.

Or I can become aware, after picking away unconsciously at a snag in my thinking – oh, this is probably an essay, because there is something to work out which I don’t fully understand, and my mind is already in a state of attentiveness, casting around for elements that will perform different roles in the piece. Then the components of the essay (experiences, observations, excerpts) begin to talk to each other. It’s like having a party in your head.

A poem is more of an adventure – a murky exploration led by sound and associations and resonance – and this seems much riskier. I’m not able to address that process directly. I feel like I’m blundering around with a blanket over my head.  Or maybe, performing a very specific and complicated maneuver without looking at my hands.

Often, I’ll try something a few ways in different forms before it clicks: part of a problematic essay will become the center of a story, or I’ll realise that the reason a story didn’t work is that it’s a prose poem, and has to be approached differently. I’m really still working all of this out. The thing about writing across forms is it takes much longer to achieve a level of skill and proficiency with each one, but I like that uncertainty. It feels alive to me. The idea of being ‘at home’ in one form makes me squirm.     

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

I am drawn to poets who work in prose and whose writing stretches against the perceived boundaries of form. I love Mary Ruefle’s two volumes of short prose, especially The Most of It, which is unlike anything else – generous, hilarious and exacting. Rosmarie Waldrop’s prose poems and sequences have such a weird, ringing power. They’re like spells. And Anne Carson is doing extraordinary things in the place where poetry, essay and fiction overlap. Her work is both warm and daring, and reading it makes me braver. There are many other writers who aren’t poets whose work has changed the way I think: Elizabeth Hardwick, Marguerite Duras, Leonora Carrington and Dorthe Nors for starters.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?

Because I’ve never studied creative writing in an institution, I don’t have a wealth of great writers to draw upon here. I went to grad school for journalism at Columbia University in New York and my favourite professor, the New Yorker staff writer Cynthia Zarin, turned out to be a poet and essayist as well as a journalist. I think encountering her and responding so strongly to the full spectrum of her work helped me realise that you can do all kinds of writing – you can do great journalism alongside great creative work. I mean, you don’t have to be one thing. What you are will inform whatever writing you undertake. After you have been writing across forms for a while, I think you develop some confidence about your identity and how it is expressed through writing. Though you may choose to speak in many voices, all will be recognisably yours.

In Manchester, where I live, the friendship and support of the city’s community of writers is so important. We all learn from each other – at performances, in collaborations, in writing groups or just talking about reading and writing. That’s a kind of mentorship. But I think independently studying the work of great writers is what I have learned the most from. Reading with attention and seriousness, which takes a lot of time.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a novella called Open Mouth. It’s a story about madness, personal mythology, songwriting and solitude. It’s set near where I’m from, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which is a really wild part of the world. It’s strange opening a channel to the particular feeling of that place when I’m living here in the UK.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

Geraldine Clarkson, an Anglo-Irish poet whose first full collection should be coming out soon. I’m really looking forward to reading it.
 

20190429

Debates (Hansard)


David Alexander


Mr Speaker I rise today on a question of privilege and raise a
glass to Hansard the only place I feel alive or loved now that
I am dead and gone and not even my constituents can bring
me back for they too are lost Mr Speaker I have tried to be an
honourable man some honourable members hoot and holler
but I have not when I have lost confidence I have said as much
and stopped and sought direction and now I am risen to make
it known that if on occasion I have asked a dubious question of
poor assumption only my own stupidity made it so Mr Speaker
I should like to amend on second reading these remarks now
that parliament is ended that it has been my pleasure to serve
the people of whatever the hell and caucus in my party’s outer
shell and feel the discourse elevated by our peerless elocution
Mr Speaker and surely good policy must flow from that



David Alexander is the author of After the Hatching Oven from Nightwood Editions (2018). His poems have appeared in Prairie FireThe Rusty ToqueThe Humber Literary Review, the Literary Review of Canada, Big Smoke Poetry and other journals and magazines. David volunteers as a reader for The Puritan and works in Toronto's nonprofit sector.


20190425

Three poems for knife│fork│book



rob mclennan


1.

A resistance, stocked. Within these walls,
enough to flood Spadina’s passage,

each nineteenth-century window. Speak to me
of the principled stance. And the conviction that wisdom

lies in books.

The Bellevue Estate of George Taylor Denison,
one hundred acres

of interjection: a low-rise marketplace
of patterned shops and grocery,

this brightly-coloured quilt.

André du Bouchet: I will repeat myself
like earth you tread.


2.

Gadding, smalls. This spare notebook leads
to highways, alleys, loops

of cellular, broadcast. Cold knowledge,

passion; a poem

might pronounce in shadow, lifts; the transparency
of disappeared. A stream of fluent,

bewildered power. Signaled, as

an array
you may further wish to investigate.


3.

Toronto neither New York nor Vancouver. Two hundred kilometres
of Yonge Street, percolating north. A dark crease

astride a labyrinth; the pure altitude
of shuttered pines, these rows

of automobiles. Amid a lineage of care and careful lines,

a carless gait, a lyric hearth,
a book-safe space. Kirby beckons,

here: the day agrees. Chemists recognize,

the compounds lignin and cellulose: observed in dusty classics,
coffee, and chocolate. As books ferment, release

a similar comfort, scent. A poem’s worth.





Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent include the forthcoming poetry titles Household items (Salmon Poetry, 2019) and A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019).


20190422

Letter to K. from Žižkov

Alison Braid


It’s half past four in the afternoon in Prague
on the rise of the Bohemian Basin. You’ll be

counting bird after bird until you hit 50,
wet on the B.C. coast and will be for months.

Next door a woman believes a man sleeps
in her attic, materialises downstairs to cut

her hair at night. Police are summoned
to discover a homeless man in a dumpster

with houseplants in his hands. In Vancouver
the trees that surround you peel away

from themselves. Streets run into the ocean.
In Prague life is seldom still. Harvest moons

spawn shape-shifting nightmares. Kafka’s head
in its square, revolves. Did I tell you

the morning Papa died
the air raid sirens sounded, unscheduled?

Out the window I watched women
walk dogs, unhurried, and decided to not

be alarmed. Sat through the heady looping
in the kitchen trying to understand how

to manoeuvre the days to follow.
Learning the sirens mourned the passing

of a firefighter felt fitting too. I sat through
the afternoon and into the night, unable to conceive

of bombs falling, or his stilled hands. Watched a light
go out across the way, as it had the night before,

and the night before that. Nina Simone sings under
the long horn of a reversing truck and I balance a cup of tea 

while writing you. I moved 8000 miles
to stare at the same trees: maple, linden, false acacia.



Alison Braid is a Prague-based Canadian writer. Her work has appeared in Bad Nudes, The Puritan, CV2, The Maynard, Poetry Is Dead, and elsewhere. Her poems have won Honourable Mention in Grain's 2018 Short Grain Contest, and been shortlisted for CV2's 2018 Young Buck Poetry Prize.

 

20190418

An interview with Daniel Cowper

Daniel Cowper is a poet from Bowen Island, BC, whose poems have appeared in Train, and recently in In/Words' special issue Dis(s)ent, Cascadia Rising, Southword (Ireland), and Big Smoke. He is the author of The God of Doors, a poetry chapbook with Frog Hollow Press, and his first full-length collection of poetry, Grotesque Tenderness, is forthcoming from McGill-Queen's University Press in Spring 2019.

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I grew up on Bowen Island, BC, in a micro-culture where everyone was encouraged to practice some form of art. We were were given licence to develop whatever creative practices interested us, and my natural medium happened to be words. As an adult, writing took step after step towards the centre of my life.

Now, it would be difficult to stop writing. I feel uneasy if I allow a few days to pass without writing. After a week or two away from writing, I’m very anxious and out-of-sorts. Even if I learned to cope with the absence of writing, the eagerness I have for my unfinished projects (I always have more projects in hand or in mind than I can master) keeps me writing.

Your first full-length collection is scheduled to appear soon with McGill-Queen’s. What was the process of putting together a full-length collection, compared to putting together a chapbook? Was there a difference?

I think the change in scale does require a different approach.

With my chapbook The God of Doors, I tried to sequence the poems to make the best ones easiest to run into: I put my favourite poem first, the second strongest poem last, and put the poems I liked least in the second half of the collection.

The full-length manuscript, Grotesque Tenderness, is divided into five parts: the first, middle and last parts are discrete poem sequences, and the second and fourth sections contain themed assemblies of lyrics. The collection’s centre of gravity, a mass of grief mixed with guilt, is reflected on in the first four sections before being obsessed over in the last section.

So you could say I organized my full-length collection much as if it was a series of five chapbooks. But in Grotesque Tenderness, the poems are organized to follow a coherent exploration of the underlying themes, regardless of how fond I am of them. With so many poems in one book, I thought it was important to create a navigable and satisfying route from cover to cover.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

I expect most poets have a ‘first’ contemporary poet, who shows them it is still possible to write poetry. For me, that happened to be William Logan. I read “The Saint and The Crab” in the New Yorker when I was about 20. After that, I sought out some of Logan’s books, and poems like Blues for Penelope, Punchinello in Chains, and After a Line by F. Scott Fitzgerald persuaded me that words could still work miracles. Logan is often criticized on account of his own (sometimes theatrically harsh) criticism of other poets, and while that may be fair, I’m in his debt.

There are too many poets I’ve learned craft from to answer this question properly. I could tell you about Edith Sitwell’s sound patterning, or the way Richard Wilbur and Joachim du Bellay taught me to develop the thought of a poem. I could talk about how T.S. Eliot builds his big poems out of bite-sized pieces, or how he cloaks what’s really on his mind in ambiguous imagery. But any of those topics are essays in themselves.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?

As you might guess from my answer about influences, I feel that much of my development as a poet has come from careful study of poems I admire, by poets I’ve never met. In the last couple years, my wife, Emily Osborne, has been a constant source of encouragement, good advice, and insight, and has certainly helped my writing develop.

I have never taken a creative writing course, and I have never worked closely with a single mentor over a sustained period of time. Instead, I’ve relied on the fellowship of other poets in poetry workshops, such as the Algonquin Square Table, in Toronto. The encouragement and support I’ve received from other poets in the workshopping context has been of enormous importance to me, both as a writer and a human being.

I’m also grateful to Shane Nielson, who chose The God of Doors for publication, and whose encouragement was essential to my actually getting a book manuscript submitted to publishers instead of gathering glitches on a hard-drive.

What are you currently working on?

This past summer I set out to avoid bleakness and negativity in my writing. Since then I’ve been dwelling on some unexpected ideas (why mind-body dualism?) but overall I’ve gladly found myself expressing more praise and fewer complaints.

I have a pair of book-length prose projects that need some revision - a novella and a novella-length fairy tale. Both are “nearly finished,” and have been for some time. It is extremely challenging for me to make enough time to work effectively on those prose manuscripts, so progress feels glacial.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

Emily Osborne is my favourite poet, hands-down. I’m biased, of course, but I can’t help that. Emily’s chapbook Biometrical is available from Anstruther Press.


20190415

T​ANGIBILITY

Kara Petrovic


and how do you view yourself?

a ghost can feel nothing, taste nothing, exist as nothing but exist anyway.

                   i lay out my pills and thank         
                   them for their colour.

                   black and white,
                   absolute, but with a drop of
                   dark blue (or turquoise or ohhh
                   pretty in pink based on your
                   dosage not to be stopped or
                   changed without medical
                   supervision), it is shaped into  
                   something new.

i repeat: a ghost can feel nothing, taste nothing, exist as nothing but exist anyway.

                   i lay out my pills and thank          
                   them for their flavour.

                   the flavour of
                   unseasoned unsalted over-
                   cooked mashed potatoes,
                   made by your mother when you  
                   were sick,
                   but made over and over
                   again until you felt better.

so, a ghost that can feel nothing but exist nonetheless. to be ethereal and corporeal all at once. to be felt by others as cold cold cold but never feel the brush of their skin against yours.

what do you see when you look in the mirror?

real real real i am real you cannot take that away from me with your silver mirrors that reflect an empty room.

        ( note: this cannot be confirmed)
( note: this is noted)

no better than a drug addict, draped over drugs, can see the track marks on the soul. try this vitamin supplement. and this one. and this one. and this one. better now, there. maybe the brain is broken but at least can be better than a drug addict.

          ( note: this cannot be confirmed)
( note: this is noted)

when did you first notice this behaviour?

born not of flesh and bone, but water and smoke.

to be ethereal
          and corporeal
all at once.



 

Kara Petrovic is 23 years old and is living in Toronto, Ontario. They are a survivor of trauma three times over and are living with a variety of mental health disorders. They have self-published a collection of poetry, beyond rock bottom in 2017 and have been published in CONKER magazine in 2018. In 2019, their work was selected for publication in Philadelphia Stories. Also in 2019, they self-published another collection titled forget-me-not. They have also been selected for Toronto's Emerging Writers Reading Series. They identify as genderfluid and pansexual.