20200921

(Reading Poem 16: mistyped text, Nick Flynn, perfume notes, Hesse’s Hang Up, Rimbaud, Ninjutsu Haiku from memory, Ondaatje, messenger exchange)


John Luna





Have a threat day. Pains that feel like swallowing is every morning I wake up split, missing you. Here, a small piece of light keeps opening and closing on the floor with the curtains as the earth.

Sweat as cotton-blossoms, sweat as cumin seed & coriander, sweat as onions sweating out time in the crisper. The cat, variegated as pepper up your nose, leaps nimbly off the counter; outside lawnmowers brindle the air before it has got up & got warmed. The first time my idea of absurdity or extreme feeling came through…was the best time, but it’s lost in summers now (old as in old magazines...) It [was] the most ridiculous structure… “I sat Beauty on my knees…”

A saline twang hangs around all afternoon. Mystery is a furrow set in the center of the attack truth makes in a state of benighted obscurity or liberty, undressed; unconjugated conjugal visitation. Error and romance slide & elide. It strikes you, like light slanting on a log, a roofbeam: for your eyes. Things we lost: (the) knowledge of the dead. Not yet, or not forever. Children who suffer from anxiety, depression, dysphoria, suicidal ideation, are on the frontier of a new shock... one the world has yet

to know personally; everywhere in the house this morning, a smell of paper burning, like fresh latex paint, like Habit Rouge, like Arthur Rimbaud setting down to work. It was lonely




John Luna is a biracial writer, artist and critic, whose practice includes poetry, visual art and critical writing as well as teaching in the areas of visual art and art history. He the recipient of a 2017 BC Arts Council Project Assistance Grant for an ongoing project involving text and visual art. Publication of his written work in art criticism and poetry has appeared via Ditch, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, Canyon, Cordite, Train, Matrix, GUEST, Rattle open mic, and The Hamilton Review of Arts and Letters, among others. His first poetry collection, Listing, was released through Decoupage Publishing in 2015; a second book-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry in 2017. He lives in Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia.

20200914

Shopping for a Plant That Will Actually Grow


June Son





On my eighteenth birthday or sometime
around then I spilt bile and lime juice and all the water

in the oceans probably weighs
nothing to a man who knows which

rope to pull. What light meant
and who decided its definition is

misty the night you stared at the decaf
like it was going to talk you out of it.

Somebody’s nephew and ideal
handholder and flushed ion looking

to pair infinitely, again and twice
or three times pored over kind

partings like bible study. I enjoy
tea steeped repeatedly until it’s

clear. That way you know what you’re
getting. Therefore I enjoy feeding

it to my guests. My coat was
brown. It never kept me warm.





Formerly a resident of Vancouver Island/a student at Tufts, June Son was drafted to the South Korean Army last year. He now serves as a gunner of a K1E1 main battle tank for the armored reconnaissance battalion of the Eighth Mechanized Infantry Division (just a half hour tank ride, a decent afternoon walk away from the North Korean border). His work recently appeared on Thimble Literary Magazine.

20200910

An interview with Sherry Johnson


Sherry Johnson is the author of two books of poetry, Pale Grace and Hymns to Phenomena. Her poems have appeared in many journals, magazines and anthologies, most recently in The Malahat Review and forthcoming in CV2 and The Iowa Review. Also a film critic, her articles have appeared in Senses of Cinema, MUBI Notebook, the Swedish academic journal Film International and others.

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

I was an avid reader from an early age and began writing poetry in my early teens. At the age of about 12 I first encountered Emily Dickinson (There is a certain slant of light) and Alfred Lord Tennyson (Break, break, break,\On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!\And I would that my tongue could utter\The thoughts that arise in me.) Their language recurred in my mind, and the feeling their poetry initially gave me was like that of shock combined with extreme joy. I began to suspect that I was a poet like them, and wrote a lot of bad poetry as any beginner does. I write poetry I suppose in order to recapture that initial feeling of discovering language for the sake of language. What fuels my language is often the language of other poets, the favorites I keep returning to, and there are always new discoveries. I am currently completing a manuscript of all ekphrasis. So aside from influences of language, I am also influenced by the visual language of whatever subject I choose to focus on. What has surprised me about ekphrasis is just how varied my response has been to the many visual works I have chosen. I never know what will unfold when I sit down to write a new poem. And what is most unexpected is what makes it all gratifying in the end.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

There are too many to list here of course and as I noted, my poetry is influenced by factors other than poetry. In Canada, I especially admire Anne Carson, Anne Szumigalski, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Avison, Christopher Dewdney and Sharon Thesen is a poet I have been wanting to return to. I read a couple of poems which took my breath away online and I'm wondering why her work is not everywhere. I'm going to order her book The Receiver sometime soon. For American poets I especially love C. D. Wright, Mary Jo Bang, John Yau and Charles Wright. Celan in German and Rimbaud in French. In Italian, I love Eugenio Montale, although I don't really read Italian. I just read Montale.

Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem after you began publishing full-length collections?

The more I write I think the more I seek perfection and work harder at the craft aspect of writing, maybe too much sometimes. Writing is certainly more than inspiration. At the same time though I've become more open about the direction a poem will take. I realize that the possibilities of poetry are almost endless.

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

Many people assisted me as a young writer. In hindsight, I feel I learned the most from Anne Szumigalski, as an example of a woman who labored and labored against the odds. She was a truly amazing woman. I attended a writing group in her house in the late 90s where she awed us with her erudition, linguistic attainments (I believe that by the time of her death she had studied over 20 languages) and her fantastic scones and homemade jams.

You’ve published poetry as well as film criticism. What is the difference between working on poems to working critical prose? Do the two sides of your writing interact at all?

There is some confluence in mood\subject\approach between poem and essay to be sure. Of course I don't wish to be too clinical in a poem or too flighty in an article. I only write criticism about films I find to be truly inspiring, so I do try to temper myself. And I do long to say something in a poem, even if I know it isn't necessary.
Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

Are people familiar with John Yau's poetry in Canada?!! It is something I have only discovered in the past couple of years. I encountered Yau through an article he had written on Cy Twombly. I love Twombly's paintings and Yau managed to express so much I couldn't have elucidated myself regarding his work. From there, I read his poetry and a really awesome anthology he put together of poets writing on the painter Neo Rauch. Also, I was truly impressed with a poem on the train site recently by David Martin. I don't know if I've ever read his poetry anywhere else, but I know I'd like to read more.

20200907

Stillleben mit drei Orangen / Still Life With Three Oranges (Cuno Amiet; oil on canvas, 1907-08)



Sherry Johnson




                                       Angles glyphed in softness
to keep the softness from rotting. Somewhere
between form and pleasure; one blindly depthsounds
the length of some pliant, swaying barrier
with the feel of a velvet cordon
snaking a waiting line at the bank. Cold wink
of a metal hasp curved at the end of it. Snap
                      & click & let it slip. Business
is business as they say. As they say. And here
business is oranges. Plated and paint-scaped. Sunk
with such a totality into their names as to sit
nearly umbrageless, echo-less. As the pale pink
money of such little-mouthed flowers, their smudged
work at light-silkening and how they shut up
(so quiet-like) as a group about it.

                                        And what of the punch-card cardboard
postcard’s quadrangle broached counterpoise? Infuses                            
a papery sense into leaves, a beige shrug. The painter’s
equivalency of an area rug. Register a hole-punch
glance just once — then move on. To black area blocked
behind fronds and pot / does not impart a sense of itself
to anything, remains delimited and distant; a knees
-pulled-up-under-the-chin-of-itself black look.

Memento mori for the Eurasian oriole he glimpsed
out of the pleated, flash-shot panes of the east oriel. A screen
                                                                   / screen winging shut and
yellow of feather admixed with split bone, coiled gut; he
angled the thing haphazard on a gash / scraped
once with the trowel and it vanished
as instantly as intimated. Light stayed liquid and brass.

Memento mori for 4 ‘o clock tea. For the jubilant, fleet skiing parties.

Memento mori for the many small lies navigated
in order to accommodate a social ease.

Memento mori for the poor and squalid,
                                                                                 and for those who are without locks.

Memento mori for the oily, fingerprinted scroll of the exhausted
tube of Mummy Brown, made from the chocolate-coloured, ground-up
remains of 6 separate Egyptians. Bury it with funeral rites in the garden.

Memento mori for the late light diffracted on the snow-crusted
peaks, and for the one who looked up, and — in
                                      looking — plummeted a moment down the mountain with it.

Memento mori for those who died in the mines — extracting the pigments.

Memento mori for the question which stood up defiantly
in the soul, bivouacked a brief time in the ribs, made it
all the way up into the throat’s pink vaults — then promptly died there.

Memento mori for the chrome points
flashing between bearings, the lace collars and volatile smell of wood polish.

Memento mori for the tabby found drowned in the cistern. The soft,
                                                                     limp leadenness of it. Its glassy green gaze.

Memento mori for the yellowed ledger
from the last century, with its 5 water-stained, empty pages.

Memento mori for the frame. And for the casual, flaccid
brushwork accentuating cloth’s tooth. This second hand
                                                            feeling hung on the hook

of an August day when absolutely nothing (everything) was immanent. 




Sherry Johnson is the author of two books of poetry, Pale Grace and Hymns to Phenomena. Her poems have appeared in many journals, magazines and anthologies, most recently in The Malahat Review and forthcoming in CV2 and The Iowa Review. Also a film critic, her articles have appeared in Senses of Cinema, MUBI Notebook, the Swedish academic journal Film International and others.

20200831

Bullhead


Dan MacIsaac




From murky water
between tarred pilings,
through a dark
labyrinth of currents,

the bullhead sculpin
spirals to lush bait
torn from the mussel’s
gunmetal shell,

ripe flesh draped
like a matador’s
undulating cape
over the bright

barbed hook
that pierces
the scaled lip
and forces

the horned fish
up through a helix
of cross-currents
to corkscrew

flailing, gills
splayed, gasping
into the sere
maze of air.




Dan MacIsaac served for ten years as a director on UVIC’s Environmental Law Centre board. Brick Books published his collection of poetry, Cries from the Ark. His poetry has been published in a wide variety of literary magazines, including filling station, Stand, The Malahat Review, and Arc. Dan MacIsaac’s work has been short-listed for the Walrus Poetry Prize and the CBC Short Story Prize. His website is www.danmacisaac.com. 

20200827

An interview with em/ilie kneifel


em/ilie kneifel is a poet/critic, editor at The Puritan/Theta Wave, creator of CATCH/PLAYD8s, and also a list. find 'em at emiliekneifel.com, @emiliekneifel, and in Tiohtiá:ke, hopping and hoping.

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

i began writing-writing when i realized i was writing at all. i was writing-about the third or fourth album i had to (not had to, but had to) write something about, when i thought, oh. this. this is this. eventually, i belly-flopped sideways into what we might call poetry, but my starting point, criticism/ekphrasis, feels like a perfect case study for what i am always trying to do, which is to track (frantically!) how sounds/senses dislodge me.
the sounds keep me going. i have no choice. but now, unbelievably, there are also people who keep me.

Given you work in text and visual mediums, how do the multiple sides of your writing interact? How did you begin with visual poems at all?

this is such a nice question to get, because i’m in the middle of another “oh this” moment with visual work (aka just realizing that i have been doing it at all). so thank you.

i justjust crystalized a tentative aha moment last week, when i said to my friend, the poet-playwright-etc. Kevin Latimer, that the idea of a playwright’s role (“the idea” because i was making big provisional jumps that i think were ultimately reductive) is to imagine into the bodily (the stage!), whereas i think i, as poet/critic/whatever, am trying to cull the bodily back into the recesses of language. so i think, i think, what is happening is: i am always or often beginning there, in the seeing/feeling/heaving. and then my visual work is just a natural trace of that starting point. feet in wet concrete. or maybe messy fingers leaving marks.

You currently do editorial work for The Puritan as well as theta wave. Why are these important, and have you been learning through the process of working on literary journals?

i think i’m going to answer this question by saying this. Kelly Whitehead, my co-editor at The Puritan, is so smart, so kind, so curious about the world. i cannot believe it. and, well. Bára Hladík, the artist extraordinaire who runs Theta Wave, has been unspeakably important to my existing at all. she has been so generous to me in a practical sense, by so graciously letting me putz around Theta, doodle in corners, but she has also taught me so, so vividly about both radical patience and breaking things. living with a sick body feels like a deep gift when i remember it means that i got to know her.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

honestly, if i really think about it, my influences typically work in other media, in the way that they allow themselves some opening, or create what could only have been what it was. so many of them are secrets (i know, i’m sorry, i’m just kind of superstitious about saying what’s precious aloud), but truly everyone should know Tierra Whack. as for poet-poets, i think they influence the way that i actually live (living: different from writing? maybe?). these, incredibly, are so often my friends (i can’t believe i get to be the kind of person who says this) (names are coming! i promise. skip to the last question if you’d like).

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

mentorship, hm. i think, beyond mentorship, i am always thinking about generosity. i have found much more lushness looking around than i have in looking up, you know? the people who have genuinely assisted me are the people who have taught me this -- that what is worthwhile about any of this, the hanging my legs out in the open, is that i might get to make a friend out of it, if i’m lucky.

What are you currently working on?

secrets (sorry! again with the superstition).

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

hm, if more attention means i wish i could bake them three cakes everyday to thank them for the way they pay attention: nivretta thatra, sanna wani, lily wang, trynne delaney, ava hofmann, nicole delcore-kaifetz, rachael mcdaniel, conyer clayton; of course bára and kevin again. i read poems by sasha debevec-mckenney and angelo maneage recently that i have very very stuck in my head. also the way devin gael kelly writes poems about poems. also joanna sternberg, even though they technically sing.

20200824

Reminders


Kim Fahner



In one breath, under a shadowed night tree,
I wish to be a planet. I wish to turn slowly,
to see night become day over and over again,
to feel the throb of rhythm, the tattoo of
heartbeat at the place where the skin
is thinnest, at my wrist. Kiss me there.

Remind me that I have thin skin.

In one breath, when a crow flies above me,
I wish to be a branch. I wish to reach out,
fastened to trunk but leaning towards sky,
to feel the leaves flicker around me
and brush over my shoulders,
wind chimes belling in my ears. 

Remind me that I can fly.

In one breath, when I swim in a borrowed lake,
I wish to be a fish. I wish to slip through water,
fins and scales layering themselves, prismed,
as I dip and dive with spirit. This fish,
I think, will lead me away from shore,
from grasp of clothes, from press of gravity.

Remind me that I am free.

In one breath, in this slow inhale and exhale,
I make myself again, over and over,
until the planet stops turning, the branch
stops reaching, the fish stops swimming.






Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was the fourth poet laureate of Sudbury (2016-18), and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, as well as a supporting member of the Playwrights' Guild of Canada. Currently, she is Ontario representative for the Writers' Union of Canada. Kim has recently had poems published in Room, Riddle Fence, and Prairie Fire. She may be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com 

20200817

My Bosses Want Me to Attend the Company Mindfulness Session


Julian Day




ostensibly to learn some sort of lukewarm, rehashed stoicism
but probably because they read something
by a Thought Leader on HBR, LinkedIn, or Medium
about how meditation reduces sick days
by 2-3.5%, and so I know what’s expected,
I show up, listen to the tinny video, and tune out
until something starts to click, click, click,        
and all around me the walls start to crumble,
the other people stir nervously,
and then the ground gives way, suddenly
sending me whooshing up towards the cosmos,
my body trailing laughter and streams of thin orange light,
and no, I hear them yelling, stop, stop,
this isn’t what we wanted, this isn’t
adding any sort of value.








Julian Day lives in Winnipeg. His work has recently appeared in Juniper and Ghost City Review, and his debut chapbook will be published by Anstruther Press in early 2021.

20200813

An interview with Joel Robert Ferguson


Joel Robert Ferguson is the author of The Lost Cafeteria (2020, Signature Editions) and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Arc, The Columbia Review, The Honest Ulsterman, The Malahat Review, Orbis, and Southword Journal. He lives in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory, with his partner and their three cats.

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

I had a few false starts with writing. My mother is a published poet and a former English teacher, and though I didn’t take an active, consistent interest in poetry until I was well into my 20s, there was still a groundwork there from growing up in a home where literature was valued.

I started to get “serious” about poetry after reading poets from the Kootenay School of Writing (or influenced by the KSW) like Donato Mancini, Colin Smith, Jeff Derksen and Rachel Zolf, writers whose work is politically committed without being didactic and whose use of language is shot through with this immense sense of play. Though my poetry is usually more of a personal-lyric these days, reading experimental writers like these felt very liberating and instilled in me the sense that I was “allowed” to write poetry. I think that’s what keeps me going with my writing practice, feeling allowed to have a relationship with literature as something much, much larger than and beyond myself. It’s a relation that’s given me a lot and I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Beyond the aforementioned poets there are quite a few. I learned a lot from the writings of Roberto Bolano and Sina Queyras (who I had the good fortune to have as my thesis advisor), specifically how effective it can be to interlink metatextual references with personal narratives in poetry. Seamus Heaney has been another big influence on me, as well as Frank O’Hara and his evil twin Frederick Seidel.

Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem, now that you’ve published a full-length collection?

I find that now it’s a bit more of a struggle not to overthink any individual poem I’m working on; it’s easy to start thinking of each new poem as needing to be contributing towards some new manuscript, which can really stifle spontaneity in structure, language, motifs and the like. I often have to remind myself to just let poetry be what it wants to be, that the joy of exploring thought and feeling through language is a good of its own, not necessarily underwritten by the goal of publication.

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

Mentorship has been really important for me, both in helping me improve my craft, pointing me in the direction of collections and poets I should be reading, and teaching me how to edit (and edit, and edit, etc.). In particular, I was most fortunate to have a year in undergrad at the University of Winnipeg where I was taking creative writing courses with Catherine Hunter and Margaret Sweatman; I think that their classes were invaluable for me as a young writer, as Catherine really pushed me to work on my lyric voice, while Margaret encouraged me to try more and more experimental forms.

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

So far as living poets go, I think that my fellow Winnipegger Jason Stefanik is doing some incredible work; his 2018 collection Night Became Years is well worth checking out. I’d also mention Ian Kinney, whose debut book Air Salt I’m reading right now and which I’m enjoying a lot, as it threads the needle between found text and personal narrative in a very cool and exciting way.


20200810

Reading Poem 21 (cover of a book about Cathedrals, 3rdhand Decameron, etymology, gaming lore, leftover words, old phone conversation, magazine interview, Chauvet documentary, Wikipedia dérive, pseudonym spy fiction)


John Luna







Apples and pears ripen and fall, totally neglected but regretting rien, like some Medieval orchard visited by a disaster so vast nobody could account for what came before. This whole time I’ve been writing in kind of sweeping, terraced declines; I’ve been

getting older myself, or more properly, it has been getting older, this interspace called directing, commanding, insisting, negotiating, hustling, running, defrauding, collecting (stopping with a hiss & a click as a cliché finds its shape in the mold; leaving a squishy bit in the fabric, the soft spot under the powder-coated skin, sliced tennis-ball fuzz, ‘pop’ of the breathless tippy-top of a baby’s skull…Veil. Lily. Wound. Woods behind the house

where mastery lives, alive as fuck in the long grass. It looks like there is nowhere now I can place you: not in the earth for an oven, not in grain-saying photo developer night, fingers stirring figures in varieties of timber tasted in the teeth of an old saw.  Monitoring expressions like those of doubt or skepticism play like nature over your joy-reliving face. Scumbling up the stairs in sock feet I like the restive, haunted quality of following our ghost’s trail, her tread a fact just as dense as a bear skull

found on an altar in a cave. The psychogeography of what we are reducible to language’s milk-teeth, dead letter of our time together read in the fillings, enamel and permeable mansions of dried speech.





John Luna is a biracial writer, artist and critic, whose practice includes poetry, visual art and critical writing as well as teaching in the areas of visual art and art history. He the recipient of a 2017 BC Arts Council Project Assistance Grant for an ongoing project involving text and visual art. Publication of his written work in art criticism and poetry has appeared via Ditch, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, Canyon, Cordite, Train, Matrix, GUEST, Rattle open mic, and The Hamilton Review of Arts and Letters, among others. His first poetry collection, Listing, was released through Decoupage Publishing in 2015; a second book-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry in 2017. He lives in Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia.

20200803

Heatwave


Patrick Grace



How long ago was it, just last week
the streetlight burst again when I passed

underneath, I guessed coincidence
after the second time, remember,

when the heatwave shattered record-
store windows and the power

we all held in our hands extinguished
for a few minutes, and we crawled out,

begrudgingly, from our wander into wonder
of the faces around us.

It lasted a short time.
In faraway cities, trains changed tracks.

Birds alighted the switch rails.
North become east and the earth tilted.

It lasted a short time. The last time
the light burnt out above me

on the road away from home,
my hands held nothing but glass.

My chances decreased the further
I found myself. The street stayed empty.

A train echoed across town.
All along we’ve struggled to look up.




Patrick Grace is a queer writer from Vancouver. His work has been published in Canadian journals such as Prairie Fire, EVENT, Arc Poetry Magazine, and recently, Grain’s Queer Writers issue. His poetry has been longlisted for CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize and twice for PRISM international’s Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize, and his poem “A Violence” won The Malahat Review’s Open Season Award for poetry in 2020. He is the managing editor of Plenitude Magazine.