20181015

An interview with Aaron Tucker


Aaron Tucker is the author of the novel Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos (Coach House Books) as well as two books of poetry, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Bookthug Press) and punchlines (Mansfield Press), and two scholarly cinema studies monographs, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Hollywood War Films and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both published by Palgrave Macmillan). His current collaborative project, Loss Sets, translates poems into sculptures which are then 3D printed (http://aarontucker.ca/3-d-poems/); he is also the co-creator of The ChessBard, an app that transforms chess games into poems (http://chesspoetry.com). Currently, he lives on the Dish with One Spoon Territory, where he is a lecturer in the English department at Ryerson University (Toronto), teaching creative and academic writing. He will be beginning his doctorate as an Elia Scholar in the Cinema and Media Studies Department at York University. You can reach him atucker[at]ryerson[dot]ca

How easy was it to put together your latest collection?

My latest, Irresponsible Mediums (https://bookthug.ca/shop/books/irresponsible-mediums-the-chess-games-of-marcel-duchamp-by-aaron-tucker/), translates the chess games of Marcel Duchamp into poems. It was built from the work that Jody Miller and I did creating The ChessBard (chesspoetry.com), an app that translates old chess games into poems, that also includes a playable version. In terms of “writing” the book, since I translate, rather than wrote, the poems of the text, it involved a lot of other types of writing: there was the code we (mostly Jody) wrote; the 12 source poems I wrote; the language templates I wrote; the poetic statement (http://chesspoetry.com/poetics/); the grant applications; the social media posts promoting and explaining; the emails to Jay and Hazel at Book*hug; the emails to Jennifer Shahade, who wrote the excellent introduction to the collection; the emails to Derek Beaulieu to make sure I got his own visual translations of Duchamp’s poems in the book. I don’t think this web of writing is that unusual for any one book, but the putting together of the disparate parts borne of that writing, all the games in translation, the introduction, the poems was a large, exhilarating process.

By contrast, the book I’m working on now, tentatively titled Catalogue d’oiseaux after Olivier Messiaen’s solo piano piece of the same name, involved actually writing the poetry part and not just handing it off to my computer co-author. But in much the same ways, I did find myself putting the different parts together: ostensively, it’s a long lyrical poem, stitched together by travel, art, sex, birds, growing older and into love outside your twenties, with all the events of two lives combining. While I’ve just finished the first draft, and it’s messy, beyond messy, I was happy to polish a small part of it from rob mclennan at above/ground for a chapbook (http://abovegroundpress.blogspot.com/2018/04/new-from-aboveground-press-catalogue.html).

Your first novel appeared recently. Are you able to work on poetry at all during the composition of a novel?

I was! Typically, I’m the type of person that likes to have parallel problems that I am working through, and most often when I shift into the editing and revision stage of a manuscript, I find myself starting something new to balance that a bit. So, as I moved into editing of Y (https://chbooks.com/Books/Y/Y2), a novel about Robert Oppenheimer’s leadership at Los Alamos of the Manhattan Project, I began to write Catalogue d’oiseaux. For me though, I need to work steadily, daily if I can, on things, and having two writing acts in parallel helps me to stay sane, but also helps remind me that they are interconnected, and that the two feed each other, mutate the other in strange and lovely ways. With Y, I think working on the poetry forced the novel, at the scale of the book, out of a more traditional, straightforward bit of historical fiction and into something more a-chronological and weirder; at the scale of the sentence, of the word, the poetry work demanded a smaller focus, pushed the sentences past a lot of their more natural breaking points, that tended to morph the facts of Oppenheimer’s life into an amalgam of metaphor and those facts. Likewise, editing the prose, extended the lines of my poems – they are by far the longest, shaggiest lines I’ve written – but also encouraged me to write one long poem, a continuing narrative, a poem closer to the scale of a novel.

How is the process of writing a novel different than writing a collection of poetry?

I’m not sure if my next novel will be similar, but Y, being historical fiction, required a fair bit of research, ranging from biographies of Oppenheimer, histories of the atomic bomb, writing on New Mexico, the poetry that he read and loved, biographies of the women in his life etc. As such, I felt like I was charging up for a much longer time, building all sorts of different images and scenes and narratives, and mentally seeing how they might fit, then actually planning out at least the first few chapters with broad signposts. It was work start-and-stop than I was used to, and often the writing and editing of it would be interrupted by my wanting to ensure the facts and timelines were correct.

The poetry, while also involving a lot of outside reading and thinking, in contrast, was something that poured out a little faster, with a little less self-consciousness. I hesitate to say it was easier, but it was definitely smoother, and I think it helped that it was all one piece, with a series of movements, rather than a collection of parts I would have to put together, like my previous punchlines (http://mansfieldpress.net/2015/03/punchlines-2/)

You seem to approach poetry collections as projects. How did this process emerge?

That’s funny, yes, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I think part of this stems from my tendency to start with big questions and then work to answer them with some poetic gesture. For Irresponsible Mediums, it was “How can I merge chess and poetry in some way?” For Loss Sets (http://aarontucker.ca/3-d-poems/), an ongoing collaborative project with Jordan Scott, Namir Ahmed and Tiffany Cheung, Jordan actually asked “Could we translate poems into 3D printed sculptures?” These lead to smaller questions, and it’s usually in answering those smaller questions or problems that the actual work gets produced. But I think working backwards from a large, semi-impossible looking question, works best for me.

I think for Catalogue d’oiseaux, the beginning question was “What would a love poem, at this stage of my life, look like?” Looking back, I can see myself asking this because I did want to write something that looked a little more what I used to write, something lyrical, less conceptual and more emotional; I wanted to make a pretty thing, rather than sort out some sort of intellectual concept.

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

I have been lucky to have so many mentors and great writers as peers, am still lucky to be able to have nourishing conversations, often not about writing at all. In particular, I think of John Lent, who lead my first creative writing workshop when I was in first year at college; he taught me so much about sensitivity and kindness in reading and writing, and then layering analysis and feedback on top of that. I was also lucky to have Margaret Christakos as the writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor when I was there doing my MA, and am lucky still get talk with her; she encouraged me to look at language as operating on different levels (as syllabus, as words, as lines, as stanzas, as poems, as books), and that poetry can/should work on all simultaneously.

I have only recently completed a French proficiency certificate at Ryerson, and I think my instructors over the last few years have really taught me a lot about how language works. Once I got over being the worst student in the room (and often having my former students in the class, far exceeding my baby French), I found it eye opening. Sounding like a child when speaking French, the frustration of that, pushed my writing in English to actually be leaner, something I could have done without understanding, in a semi-mechanical way, how a sentence works.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished the first draft of Catalogue d’oiseaux and am excited to move forward with it with an editor – it needs it! I am also gathering things for a second novel, set in Toronto and playing off the John Wayne movie The Searchers. The most immediate thing I have been working on is a screenplay adaptation of Y. I’ve never written a screenplay before and who knows if it will ever amount to anything, but I gave myself the challenge and I am finding it really wild and energizing.

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

There is a lot of energy in Toronto right now, and it’s great to in the middle of it!

I am excited to see a full work from K.B Thors in 2019. In the meantime, her translations are excellent! Stormwarning: http://www.phonememedia.org/stormwarning/!

I really enjoyed Khashayar Mohammadi’s chapbook Moe’s Skin (https://zedpress.bigcartel.com/product/moe-s-skin-by-khashayar-mohammadi).

Jeff Kirby is the saint of Knife Fork Book, and does everything there, including publishing really lovely books. But! He’s also a great poet! (https://knifeforkbook.com)

Michelle Brown’s Safe Words is quite a good book, and I think the folks at Palimpsest make great books (http://palimpsestpress.ca/books/safe-words/)!

I also recently met Kyle Flemmer, who writes and makes in Calgary, as founder of The Blasted Tree, including his work with star arrangements (http://www.theblastedtree.com/-19-54-12-53)!



 

20181008

There are no horses here

Erin Bedford


Where did you run
after I smoothed your flank
and whispered in your velvet ear
Gwan’go
 
Wait
Hang on
 
If you’re a steed in this one
I shouldn’t leave out that other lovely
that pretty palomino
or the saddle laid over the fence
and me at the gate
 
Alright
that didn’t happen
There are no horses here
only
 
this memory-gallop
whipped on by the report from Pompeii about a discovery
under layers of hardened ash
a mare’s skeleton 
a harness
inside the outline of a horse
 
How do you hold the shape of longgone beauty?
 
With an injection of plaster
But also
with stories about that last night in the stable
 
Maybe that’s what I’m doing too
plumping a husk with poems so it won’t collapse
because there are no horses here
only this empty space
only bones
and a harness
 
They were getting her ready to run
 
 
Erin Bedford’s work is published in William Patterson University's Map Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Temz Review. She attended and won a Certificate of Distinction for her novel Fathom Lines from the Humber School for Writers. Currently, she is acting as shill for her second novel, Illumining, and has just completed a manuscript of poetry. Follow her to find out more @ErinLBedford



20181001

from O-Zone

Orchid Tierney


Orchid Tierney is from Aotearoa-New Zealand, currently residing in Philadelphia. Her chapbooks include Brachiation (Dunedin: GumTree Press, 2012), The World in Small Parts (Chicago: Dancing Girl Press, 2012), Gallipoli Diaries (GaussPDF), and a full-length sound translation of the Book of Margery KempeEarsay (TrollThread, 2016). Her collection a year of misreading the wildcats is forthcoming from The Operating System. She co-edits Supplement, an annual anthology on Philadelphia writing. These three collages come from a new work in progress titled O-Zone that explores ongoing Ozone depletion, circulations of memory and childhood fragility in Nu Zild.

20180924

Train : a journal of investigation

Issue #2 : Michael Aird Chris Banks Erin Bedford Shannon Bramer Aidan Chafe Allison Chisholm Daniel Cowper Catherine Graham James Lindsay Dominik Parisien Constance Schultz Isabella Wang

A limited amount of copies will be available for free at the following locations:
Open Books: A Poem Emporium (Seattle WA), Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop (Brooklyn NY), knife| fork | book (Toronto ON) and the ottawa small press book fair, November 24, 2018 (Ottawa ON).

includes shipping


Michael Aird lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. He recently completed his first full-length manuscript, Something to Eat and Drink on Every Page.

Chris Banks is the author of four previous collections of poems. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada.  His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.

Erin Bedford’s work is published in William Patterson University's Map Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Temz Review. She attended and won a Certificate of Distinction for her novel Fathom Lines from the Humber School for Writers. Currently, she is acting as shill for her second novel, Illumining, and has just completed a manuscript of poetry. Follow her to find out more @ErinLBedford

Shannon Bramer is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Precious Energy, with Book*hug. Her plays The Hungriest Woman in the World, The Collectors and Monarita were all produced thanks to the dramaturgy and support of the Women’s Work Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Shannon has a children’s book forthcoming from Groundwood in March 2019.

Aidan Chafe is a writer and public school teacher. His debut collection of poems Short Histories of Light was published with McGill-Queen’s University Press (2018). His work has appeared in literary journals including CV2, Event, PRISM international and The Maynard. He lives on the unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation (Burnaby, BC).

Allison Chisholm is an award-winning pie baker. She lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario. She played glockenspiel in the Hawaiian-Dream-Pop band SCUB. Her poetry has appeared in The Northern Testicle Review (Proper Tales Press) and The Dollhouse (Puddles of Sky Press). Her chapbook, On the Count of One, was published in 2017 (Proper Tales Press). Her forthcoming book of poetry, On the Count of None, will be released this fall through Anvil Press. She is the curator of The Museum of Tiny Objects.

Daniel Cowper’s first book of poetry is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press. His chapbook, The God of Doors, was published by Frog Hollow Press as co-winner of its chapbook contest. Daniel and his wife serve as the poetry editors for Pulp Literature, and live mostly in a small cabin on Bowen Island, BC.

Catherine Graham is a Toronto-based writer of poetry and fiction. Among her six poetry collections The Celery Forest was named a CBC Books Top 10 Canadian Poetry Collection of 2017 and appears on their Ultimate Canadian Poetry List. Michael Longley praised it asa work of great fortitude and invention, full of jewel-like moments and dark gnomic utterance.” Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and CAA Award for Poetry and her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction. She received an Excellence in Teaching Award at the University of Toronto and was also winner of IFOA’s Poetry NOW. Her work is anthologized internationally and she has appeared on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. Visit her at www.catherinegraham.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @catgrahampoet.

James Lindsay is the author of the poetry collection Our Inland Sea (Wolsak and Wynn) and the chapbook Ekphrasis! Ekphrasis! (Anstruther Press). He has a regular column for Open Book where he interviews poets about their work. He is also the owner of Pleasence Records, a Toronto-based record label. 

Dominik Parisien’s work can be found in The Fiddlehead, Wordgathering, Plenitude, Exile: The Literary Quarterly, as well as other magazines and anthologies. His poetry chapbook, We, Old Young Ones, is forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press. He is also the co-editor, with Navah Wolfe, of The Starlit Wood, which won the Shirley Jackson Award, and Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction with Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual, French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

Constance Schultz has often been stopped by trains although now she doesn't see them much.  She has writing in various journals and literary magazines including Figroot Press, The Seattle Star, Empty Mirror, Stonecoast Review and some are forthcoming in Them Dam Writers.

Isabella Wang: I am an emerging Chinese-Canadian writer living in Vancouver B.C. My poetry and prose have appeared previously in The New Quarterly and Looseleaf Magazine. At 17, I am the youngest writer to be shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s 2017 Edna Staebler Essay Contest. I will be studying English at SFU in the fall of 2018, while serving as an intern for Room Magazine.


20180917

Of Senility


Michael Aird



dribbling a constant Standard & Poor’s
fixity for youngsters, as far as
primary production—I too
lovingly gaze at the brute strength now used
for lifts and transfers—just don’t get him shouting
if you’re going to reminisce about
brick and mortar or Made in America—
success might be nothing but a decay
in volatility, the lull that looks like
what analysts describe as
most afternoon naps—the general
could be close to anesthetic in such
an equilibrium—but every donation
is still meant to guarantee
that wage rigidity feels as bad as
putting the socks on, pulling off
caregiver preferences
it’s been repeated optimally
until you can no longer distinguish
having from not having one



Michael Aird lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. He recently completed his first full-length manuscript, Something to Eat and Drink on Every Page.


20180910

Girl in Transit


Téa Mutonji


we talk about trauma in between
tasking dishes and beer orders:
last night, two little girls were shot in a park
whenever my ex-boyfriend touched me
I thought twice before showing affection
affection leads to obsession obsession leads to
crazy crazy leads to borderline borderline leads
to bipolar bipolar leads to what the guy before
the last would say every time I said, I love you
you hurt me— “there’s no pain in love, repeat after
me,” no pain in love love in pain, no
it’s been years now, he would say, “tell yourself
it didn’t happen and you’ll believe it
also, bend down for me, show me how good you
are at blowjobs.” I am good at other things too:
table number 242 has ordered two rolling rocks
one for himself and one for his brother
who he left behind a little girl who thinks goth is sexy
I offer him a tequila on the house—this house!
I’ve taken naps on the bar wood
have gotten naked in the staff room
have made love in the parking lot
(making love is what happens when
a cock slips inside a cunt and nobody knows why)
“a transaction,” Mother said
those two little girls are sisters
they will be taught how to perform
their mother will be charge by the hour
the littlest one is now twenty-seven years old
her boyfriend says “it’s all in the past now”
she hears the gunshot whenever the faucet runs
solution: she drinks her own saliva
another waitress comes up—her eyes are deep
like a toilet bowl, whenever she blinks
I hear it flush, “How are you?”
my ex-boyfriend was good at this—his head was so bald
I could crack an egg on it, at night
I’d count the hair follicle on his head
afraid to wake up and forget how I got here
solution? I never slept
there’s an empty mason jar on my bedside table
I keep it there in case I need the reminder
the waitress reminds me
they were just little girls.



Téa Mutonji is a Congolese-born writer currently living in Scarborough. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bad Nudes, The Temz Review, and Minola Review. Mutonji’s debut collection of short fiction will be the first title published under Vivek Shraya’s newest imprint, VS. Books, in association with Arsenal Pulp Press.


20180903

Yet Another Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Catherine Graham
 
 
In this version, father is Icarus.
Daedalus, daughter, the quarry, Crete.
The sun-rust light—his need to escape—mother’s
 
red hair, she visits them daily in the blades that set nightly,
highlighting the water into fall colours.
No feathers or wax, just a widower eager

to test new boundaries, to flag his wide arms
in a New York bar, to soar into alcohol’s sky
of lost self and achieve flight.
 
But the daughter is fearful with red
thought alert. She whispers behind him
before he goes out: Father, be careful.
 
The sun is the deer on the dark road home.
The flight is the car as it flips.
Father as Icarus soars into sky—
 
 
 
Catherine Graham is a Toronto-based writer of poetry and fiction. Among her six poetry collections The Celery Forest was named a CBC Books Top 10 Canadian Poetry Collection of 2017 and appears on their Ultimate Canadian Poetry List. Michael Longley praised it asa work of great fortitude and invention, full of jewel-like moments and dark gnomic utterance.” Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and CAA Award for Poetry and her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction. She received an Excellence in Teaching Award at the University of Toronto and was also winner of IFOA’s Poetry NOW. Her work is anthologized internationally and she has appeared on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. Visit her at www.catherinegraham.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @catgrahampoet.




20180827

An interview with Julia Polyck-O'Neill


Julia Polyck-O’Neill is an artist, curator, critic, and writer. She is a doctoral candidate in Brock University’s Interdisciplinary Humanities program, where she is completing a SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary and comparative critical study of contemporary conceptualist literature and art in Vancouver. She has taught in art history and contemporary visual culture, and is currently a visiting lecturer and scholar in Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Her writing has been published in B.C. Studies, Feminist Spaces, Tripwire, Train, Where is the river, Fermenting Feminisms (a project of the Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology, curated by Lauren Fournier), The Avant Canada Anthology (WLU Press, forthcoming 2018), and is co-editing a special issue of the journal Canadian Literature with Gregory Betts. Her debut chapbook, femme, was published in 2016 by above/ground press; her second, Everything will be taken away, also from above/ground, appeared this month.

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

I began writing quite young, as a form of rebellion and self-sustenance, which writing often is for young women growing up in small places, perhaps particularly in Northern Canada, where realities can be especially isolating. (I grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon.) I found opportunities, which were thin on the ground, in a few institutional spaces to workshop my writing and to perform and publish, although my teachers tended to focus on my other creative talents, so I never learned to identify as a writer, but instead, as a visual artist and a member of the visual arts community, broadly. I rediscovered writing mainly by means of my academic voice. And so, I found myself performing and publishing from within a shifting academic subject position, and from a place of understanding myself and my voice as interdisciplinary, dynamic, and unfolding.

What keeps me going? There’s a dialogic quality to my writing, and I write in conversation with others. I find being the member of an expanding intersectional feminist community in Canada and the U.S. to be quite emotionally generative in ways that only writing and reading can satisfy. Recently, I’ve has the opportunity to work as a visiting lecturer and scholar in transnational American studies in Germany, at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, and I’ve found myself driven to write by solitude and alienation, and a longing to reunite with my communities in Canada, which oscillate between Vancouver and the Toronto area.

What was the process of putting together your first chapbook? Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing poems now that you’ve published a chapbook?

My first chapbook was produced as part of a special series rob mclennan produced to commemorate “The Concept of Vancouver,” a Canadian studies conference I co-organized with Gregory Betts and Andrew McEwan that featured scholars, artists, activists, and poets. I had assembled a series of poems as a result of responding to a selection of critical posthumanist and other feminist texts, and receiving the invitation to put something together, I thought it might be interesting to see how it felt to see them published and out in the world. I’ve been surprised at the amount of support I’ve received in relation to releasing this little book, and it’s helped me establish a stronger and more sustained writing routine. I credit the sense of writing for and with a community in helping me develop as a writer. That shift from writing only for myself and my own thinking process, to writing with a sense of purpose has helped me to find a voice that in turn helps my academic writing; I feel more assertive, and I feel I have something to share with my audience. I feel the care and attention of the experimental poetry community.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Because my research project is so engaged with the poetics of specific poets, it’s inevitable that my work in theory and criticism and my creative project intersect significantly. My poetic work also engages directly with the work of others because of my often ‘uncreative’ method. To name a few influential poets in my academic life, I’d first gesture to the more obvious: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets; KSW poets, especially Lisa Robertson and Jeff Derksen. Oakland poets; Buffalo poets; Philadelphia poets. Transnational poets. There are also the less-obvious figures of the writerly conceptual artists whose manifestos, art writings, and autobiographical writings I reference in my recent work: Martha Rosler; Adrian Piper; Gillian Wearing. And then there are the philosophers whose work becomes increasingly poetic as I re-examine and turn it over it in my writing: Sara Ahmed; Rosi Braidotti; Hélène Cixous.

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

Consider first that the question of who and what has hindered my development as a writer would also make for a useful question, as least rhetorically. We should be turning our attention to the structural issues that discourage women and marginalized individuals from writing and publishing.

But yes, turning back to the actual question, those who make it easier and safer are of supreme importance. Mentorship has been tremendously important to the development of my work and identity. Certainly, Gregory Betts has helped me tremendously in feeling more comfortable publishing, and his continued support remains quite helpful in building international scholarly and writerly networks. Poet and published rob mclennan also figures prominently in my life as a kind of perpetual support system, not only in offering me opportunities to publish, but also in that he almost singlehandedly sustains a significant community of writers and readers. Poet Jeff Kirby is another person who helps foster and build community at their poetry-only bookshop, Knife Fork Book, in Kensington Market; the whole Toronto experimental scene seems to have undergone a facelift as a result of Kirby’s tireless efforts. I was lucky to read at the closing event for the initial space, just before I left for Germany.

My own emerging role as a mentor is also important to my work. I feel responsible to the students I’ve encouraged, as some of them are writing against all odds. I also do my best to nurture the work of other writers when I am given the opportunity. Writing can be a precarious, delicate affair for many.

What are you currently working on?

In an immediate sense, I am working on a second chapbook for above/ground, Everything will be taken away, which will be published in August this year as part of the press’ 25th anniversary. I actually have two manuscripts I’m working on in tandem. I’m working on multiple projects in this way because I’ve started to think of my work in terms of seriality and thematic unity, largely because I’ve been enjoying tighter serial collections in my reading. In the longer term, I’m developing a full-length poetry manuscript that connects to my academic research, and explores poetics and visuality, particularly in terms of theories and philosophies of form, ontology, and materiality. And, of course, my dissertation.

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

This is a surprisingly challenging question to answer, in that there are so many talented poets I read whose work occupies a peripheral space in literary performance and publishing, and sometimes in the intersections between literary and academic publishing.

I’ll start with a poet whose work is increasingly important given recent events, and I’m under the impression that many would benefit from encountering: Heriberto Yépez, whose work challenges U.S. border politics and the concept of borders more broadly. I saw him give a paper at the 2016 Buffalo Poetics conference and have been following his work ever since.

Closer to home, I’d recommend encountering the work of Dana Claxton, an accomplished visual artist whose decolonial poetics challenge settler poetics. There are also several emerging voices to attend to, particularly Dominica Martinello, Klara du Plessis, and Noor Naga. And we should all be watching and supporting poet activist Rita Wong who is dedicating her time and energy to protecting the Peace River Valley from the Site C dam, bringing attention to the destruction of sacred land and its longstanding Indigenous communities.

20180820

A Coral to Dedicate the Miracles You Enrich

Jared Schickling



But I should be untrue to computer science, scratching among its molested moons 
so let us attempt to tell a story without aerial redundancies. 
Spring brings all the penetrates. 
Enjoy the many hollow attempts to make 
the wonderful phlegm. 
There is solute fortune in entertaining it. 
If you were not the wine the self-assured moon 
cooks, sprinkling its peach across the heights. 

A chaotic metaphor taunts 
even the secure 
historical area in inscription 
to which the metaphor 
will not be dawned. 
The reflections exist even when there is 
little to say, and it ceases 
around it in darkness. 
My nocturnal nose relinquishes you always. 

One of them is cleansed, 
the other knows details. 
Where is everybody 
he quips, and when can we see what 
is going to happen? 
The boulevard within hers 
a history we tell in passing, 
with notions of tiredness 
and a passion for journalism and computer science. 

 

 

In addition to journal and ephemera pieces, Jared Schickling is the author of several BlazeVOX books, including The Mercury Poem (2017) and Province of Numb Errs (2016).  Other books include Needles of Itching Feathers (The Operating System, 2018); The Paranoid Reader: Essays, 2006-2012 (Furniture Press, 2014); Prospectus for a Stage (LRL Textile Series, 2014); Donald Trump and the Pocket Oracle (Moria Books, 2017); and Donald Trump in North Korea (2017).  He edited A Lyrebird: Selected Poems of Michael Farrell (BlazeVOX, 2017), and he edits Delete Press and The Mute Canary, publishers of poetry.  He lives in Lockport, NY. 

 

20180813

An interview with Shannon Bramer


Shannon Bramer is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Precious Energy, with Book*hug. Her plays The Hungriest Woman in the World, The Collectors and Monarita were all produced thanks to the dramaturgy and support of the Women’s Work Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Shannon has a children’s book forthcoming from Groundwood in March 2019.

Photo credit: Sadie Glenn Derry

How did you begin writing and what keeps you going?

I started writing when I was a child; when I was in middle school I discovered the work of Canadian poets Irving Layton, Gwendolyn Mac Ewen and Leonard Cohen and fell in love with what a poem could do, how a poem could make me feel. When I got older I started reading Ana Akhmatova, Langston Hughes, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and my love for poetry and language grew and grew. I continue write because the effort to create is so satisfying—because writing consumes me and because writing is hard but it also helps me figure things out, about myself, about the world.

What was the process of putting together you latest poetry collection? Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing poems since working on plays or your forthcoming book for children?

I’m inspired by broken things and whole things: that’s how Precious Energy came to be. It took me a long time to write and refine the manuscript because I was in over my head with life: marriage, children and caring for my parents as well.  Once the manuscript was accepted I sat on it for a long time and then kept revisiting it. I did a lot of rewriting and also let new poems emerge. My publisher, Book*hug, also paired me with a wonderful editor, Jennifer LoveGrove (a brilliant poet and fiction writer), and she helped me figure out how to push many of the poems down further into the dark, surprising places they wanted to go, especially when it was hard for me to be as brave or funny or sad as I wanted to be.

I love listening to people talk; how people express and hide what’s inside. It’s so wonderfully peculiar and specific. Some of my poems are like monologues—they arrive in my head and want to speak their piece. They possess an individuality that is simultaneously fragile and immediate.

I find playwriting to be a more fluid process. Once I have a bit of momentum and have found the special way a character speaks, dialogue unfolds quickly; the work starts to grow and change and travel. The characters in a play say things and they don’t always understand why they are saying them. Also, my plays are more extroverted than my poems. My plays possess a bit more volatility and swagger. Poems are harder to write and take longer to finish because they need so much tinkering and tenderness.

The poems I’ve written for children are really poems for human beings of all ages. But I’ve tried to see the world through the eyes of a child in these poems; these poems were inspired by conversations with children and by conversations (overheard!) between children—both my own and those I have spent time with in schools as a visiting artist and kindergarten lunchroom supervisor.

All of my work explores tension and fluidity in relationships.  I’m compelled in all genres by the beauty and power of language itself, the space it creates, on the page and inside me.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

The list of poets that have influenced me over the years is enormous. The first poets I ever read and fell in love with as a child and then later as a young adult have probably been the most impactful: Gwendolyn MacEwen, Leonard Cohen, Federico Garcia Lorca, Langston Hughes, Roo Borson, Yehuda Amichai, Anne Carson, Janet Frame (a now deceased novelist from New Zealand whom I’ve been obsessed with for decades). Gypsy Guitar by David McFadden and Cruelty to Fabulous Animals by Gary Barwin were also two really important books for me—I remember being so buoyed and thrilled by the surrealism in those books, by the delight and aplomb. I still want to write poems like that someday!

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

I don’t think I would have found the confidence to pursue writing if not for the encouragement of my first poetry workshop instructor at York University: Libby Scheier. She was the first person, after my mother, to tell me that my poems were good. She was also an excellent, compassionate critic and it was from her that I first learned how to accept criticism and use it to help my work improve and grow. It was so wonderful to have a real-live poet (and a wonderfully bad-ass feminist poet at that) be my first poetry instructor. She did not shy away from difficult subjects in her work (sexual abuse is one example), which in turn inspired me to write about anything I wanted. I could write about flowers. I could write about terror. I could write about both at the same time.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a strange new collection of poems and miniatures called Little Guns.  It’s going to be quite different from Precious Energy. I’m also finishing a play for young audiences called Chloe’s Tiny Heart is Closed. It’s a play for children about death and divorce (but it’s also a comedy with an endearing and grotesque clown at the centre)!

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

I’m sure there is more than one poet out there who should be receiving more attention! There are so many books and so many poets; but I’m quite delighted by the work of those who are currently in the spotlight in Canada. I am a poet and I am fan of poets. I only wish every poet could experience that feeling of being acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts. Writing a book is a huge amount of work and an accomplishment in itself—one that should be celebrated! However, it’s unfortunate (and understandable!) how deflated one might feel after all that work if a book isn’t properly reviewed or if seems none of your peers notice or like it. Before social media it was harder to tell who was getting attention and who wasn’t, so it’s easy to get tangled up in it all and feel worried and self-conscious about it.  I try not to. The prevalence of online magazines and blogs mean that more books are being reviewed than ever before and I’m grateful for that. I had ten years between my last two books and it feels very good to have something out in the world again.