20210916

An interview with Monty Reid

Monty Reid is a poet based in Ottawa. His books include Garden (Chaudiere), The Luskville Reductions (Brick) and Crawlspace (Anansi) as well as recent chapbooks from above/ground press, corrupt press, postghost press and others.  Segments from his current project, The Lockdown Elegies, have appeared in Train, The Quarantine Review, Noon, Guest and other journals in print and online.  He is the Director of VerseFest, Ottawa's international poetry festival.

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

I've never been able to figure out what exactly got me started.  I was a happy, if sometimes lonely kid.  My father died when I was very young, and we were poor.  There weren't many books around but I read everything in the house.  Still, I was more interested in baseball and hockey.  I wrote my first poem in high school, trying to impress Yvonne, the girl who sat in front of me in English class.  Didn't work, and I should have learned.  I got into law school at the University of Alberta but discovered that the only classes that held my attention were literature, and I soon switched out of Law into English.  Some profs there (Doug Barbour and Bert Almon mostly) encouraged me to write.  I had a few publications early on (Nodding Onion, White Pelican, Grain) that let me think writing would be a sustaining interest.  But I have never seen it as a career. or myself as a professional poet.  I just see writing as one of the most satisfying ways of engaging with the world.  Music would be a close second.  And the world, with all its wonder and its outrage, is always there.

What keeps me going is seeing the fresh and provocative work of other poets.  For each, it's a way of thinking through the world.  Maybe I can still learn something. 

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Influence isn't a strong enough word.  I borrow, steal, extend, respond.  And there are so many.  I've long loved WH Auden and (particularly the later) William Carlos Williams.  Bob Kroetsch, bp nichol, Phyllis Webb, were all early influences. Bob Hass, with whom I once had a very strange breakfast in Lake Tahoe, helped me calm my line down and Leslie Scalapino showed me a lot about hesitation. I continue to admire the passion and slow-burn fury in Erin Moure's work, but also the sustained interest in translation, which has become significantly more important to me over the years. M Nourbese Philip's Zong was an eye-opener. I was influenced as well by the social committment and generosity of spirit in Tom Wayman. I'm in awe of the constant production of rob mclennan. There are so many more.

Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem over the years? How has this evolved?

I almost never approach the individual poem any more. They always seem to hang out in bunches anyway, like teenagers at the mall. A poem always seems to be a means of exploration, the trails lead off somewhere else, the options open up, and as I've gotten older I'm more at ease with chasing down some of those options with less urgency than before.  You realize, eventually, that you can't chase them all.

You seem to favour the extended lyric. What is it about the longer form that attracts you?

There's a kind of loose coherence there that attracts me. The longer form has a bit more carrying capacity.  It can go off in different, sometimes unpredictable directions (see previous question) and the links that hold it together can be looser or tighter, as required. I don't believe the self, that lyric generator, can be lost completely without serious dysfunction, but its hard edges can soften, and it can be redistributed in various configurations and concentrations in multiple locales, which is something the extended form makes available. Most of my recent sequences feature this constantly redistributed self.

You were the managing editor of Arc Poetry Magazine., as well as the current artistic director of VERSeFest. Why are these roles important, and what have you learned through the process?

And long before that, I edited NeWest ReView (for a year) and started The Camrose Review (with Wade Bell and Robert Kroetsch), put out crudely-made chapbooks as Sidereal Press, helped found the Writers' Guild of Alberta, and helped establish VERSeOttawa.  I believe in doing the work that makes a community of writers possible. That work can take many forms and can be approached in many different ways but I do believe that 'community' is profoundly important to the well-being of writers (and others). There are those who distrust the notion of community, but most of them are just part of different communities.

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

I've never had a mentor per se. But there are many who have helped along the way, from university profs to poet friends to patient partners, for which I continue to be grateful.

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

Sylvia Legris. Rob Winger. AnnHarte Baker.

20210906

Slight of Hand

Simon Turner

 

 

Poetry is a kind
of magic 

where you taste my

             tangerine
from the juice, 

smell the rind—

              piquant
              drops 

    across the
nose hairs; 

                               too bad
I've got phlegm back there.

It’s runny nose sea

             –son, 

    and I
              don’t like

    to choke
              it

back

    unless I have to.

 

 

 

Simon Turner’s poetry has been published by Plenitude Magazine and bird, buried press, and is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead and Canthius’s “Whose Pleasure is it Anyway?” digital series. They participated in Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2020-21 poet-in-residence mentorship program and received Carleton University’s George Johnston Poetry Award for 2019. Simon lives in Ottawa, masquerading as a PhD student, and has had four plays staged in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong either at or in collaboration with The Theatre On King.

20210823

Jet Lag Discoveries

Adrienne Stevenson

 

 

 

 

going west is easier
than going east, but
only if you do it first 

the body’s adrenaline
has an expiry date
of less than 48 hours 

swollen feet resemble
puffer fish 

angry germs lie in wait
in recycled air—wreak their wrath
on unwary travellers 

it doesn’t matter whether
you're assigned a seat
          in the steerage cabin
you’re a toad
          under a truck's wheels
or you're a penny on the rails
          when a freight train passes
you’re equally squished 

nobody has any sympathy
to spare because they
feel the same themselves 

should have taken the train

 

 

 

Adrienne Stevenson lives in in Ottawa, Ontario. A retired forensic scientist, she writes poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. When not writing, she tends a large garden. Her poetry has been widely published in print and online journals and anthologies, most recently in Summer Rain, MacroMicroCosm, Page & Spine, Poetry and Covid, Jaden, Still Point Arts Quarterly, Lifespan vol.2, Bywords, Masque & Spectacle, Constellate Literary Journal. Twitter @ajs4t


20210816

Four poems on receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (first shot,

rob mclennan

 

1.

This unfamiliar pharmacy: lone strip mall beside row housing,
and the apartment where my grandmother lived 

once she sold the house, and later, as

the doctor finally took away
her car keys. How long was she there? Before 

her final weeks, resisting relocation

into a nursing home, arriving many years
beyond when she probably should. The silence 

of low traffic,
plentiful birds. I park within an empty lot 

and wait.

 

2.

I held              my jab, this
one good thing. An appointment, five days prior 

to my high-risk spouse.

An epiphany, to profess. There was no pain,
no soreness, stiffness. A low exhaustion 

impossible to distinguish

from this day-to-day. I mean,
pandemic.

 

3. 

Ontario, a question              far closer
to silence 

than monologue, dialogue. This blustering
of swagger, house rules, bubbles, the figure 

of the body: how
has it evolved? We do not speak of blood clots, 

bleeds. I reserve my anger

for what truly deserves. Our inept
premier, poorly preening 

to pretend, before
he simply hides. I ask, again: how 

has it evolved?

 

4.

A strip mall, five shops wide: the pharmacy,
within. Where, for a long time, two lots held 

by Dairy Queens. Earlier still, two
Mac’s Convenience. How 

would one choose? Competition, clearly,

is fierce in these parts. Across Albion Road North, the empty
baseball diamond, sketched 

in green. Awaiting players, this absence of crowds,

of neighbourhood children. How diamonds
are forever.

 

 

 

 

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 poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019), Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022). In spring 2020, he won ‘best pandemic beard’ from Coach House Books via Twitter, of which he is extremely proud (and mentions constantly). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com

20210809

Hydrotherapy Security of Coordination

Joshua Martin

 

 

 

compact bonus context
          Mini Pro matchstick
…/…/…/
ethernet deluge made
          of [garbage]

herd of wandering elephants
<life expectancy drops.
;;;;;
     walk-in bath calls intervention
     creates a murder vacuum:
                             vital opportunity to
                             descend

 

 

 

Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the book Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in Otoliths, M58, Punk Noir Magazine, Beir Bua, Scud, RIC Journal, Ink Pantry, Streetcake, The Collidescope, SORTES, Prolit, E-ratio, Nauseated Drive, and Fixator Press among others. joshuamartinwriting.blogspot.com

20210726

Demolition

Dane Karnick

 

 

The house shrieks like cellos
Shaking bows on 61st
As each cornice snaps 

Allegro energico
Where meals once served crunch
In a John Deere moment 

Helpless against minor keys
Trashing years of badminton
In contrapuntal swing 

While the tractor swings away
Square footage between grades
Like an overture 

That unflinchingly
Bulldozes all school years
Into a tidy coda

 

 

Dane Karnick grew up by the Colorado “Rockies” and lives near Seattle.  His poetry has appeared recently in El Portal, Umbrella Factory and Ephrastic Review.  Visit him at www.danekarnick.com.

20210722

An interview with Jay Besemer

Jay Besemer is the author of the poetry collections Men & Sleep (Meekling Press, forthcoming 2022), Theories of Performance (The Lettered Streets Press, 2020), The Ways of the Monster (KIN(D) Texts and Projects/The Operating System, 2018), Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017), Chelate (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and Telephone (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). He is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Transgender Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Jay was included in the groundbreaking anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Find him online at www.jaybesemer.net and on Twitter @divinetailor.

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

I began as a small child, trying to emulate the science fiction stories I loved. I began reading spontaneously at a very early age (a neurological event/arrangement called hyperlexia) so by the time I was 8 or 10 I was reading at an adult level and attempting very ambitious sci-fi tales I wasn’t able to follow through with. (I still can’t!) I also kept journals and notebooks sporadically until age 13, when I began a steady journal practice I still maintain. My poetry emerged from that journaling experience at about 14. I remember suddenly shifting the prose in the notebook to enjambed lines and stanzas, but I don’t recall why it emerged in that way.

What keeps me going? Living my life in the world, deeply involved with it and its beings. The need to write is a constant in my life, but one thing that’s been vital in continuing is to let myself not-write for long periods of time. I have to let my work and my process change, especially as my physical circumstances change, and sometimes this requires a break of a year or more on certain types of writing, or on certain projects, so as to give the changes a chance to happen, to catch up to myself as it were. It’s how I stay loving, if that makes sense.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Oh boy. I always put Tristan Tzara at the head of lists like this, but I am also connected to the other Dada and Surrealist poets. I read a lot of traditional Japanese poets as a teen/early adult, especially Basho and Ikkyu. In college when I first began writing prose poems I read Merwin’s versions very avidly; I’ve loved him since then. More recently I find myself more engaged in relation (I mean both work & author in conversation) with my peers and other contemporary poets, as my working modes continue to change with me. I think this is what’s most important to emphasize about my poetics: it’s a relationship, always present and always changing, more a mutual engagement than a unidirectional flow. I have always favored poetry in translation, as you can tell from my initial influences, and I’ve done some translation myself. Now that I’m very secure in my poetics, in what I do and how, I find that there is more of a process of mutual recognition than influence happening when I connect with other poets/poetries.

Have you noticed a difference in the ways in which you approach the individual poem over the years? How has this evolved?

The individual poem...not really. My process relies on an attention to the needs of each piece/projec itself as it forms, so no matter how it originates (from a source text or from an interior urge) the individual poem communicates its needs and I help it form. That’s the best way I can put it. The approach is always permission and attention, making space for the poem to happen. What’s changed over my decades of work is the confidence with which I can make that space, and the trust I have in both myself and my work to honor our needs.

There’s more to say about this but it ties in to your next question too, so consider these two parts linked.

Lately you’ve been working on erasures. What do you see as the difference between your visual work and erasures, compared to your work in the lyric mode?

I’d rather address the similarity here, for many reasons. I do countless visually-oriented erasures, for example the ones you’ve been featuring. But some of my erasure projects result in another text, a book of prose poetry (like A New Territory Sought) or stanzaic poetry like Crybaby City or the forthcoming Men & Sleep. The important thing here is that both types of erasure products (book or image) result from the same originating process. That process also relies on the same attentiveness to the project’s needs--whether a whole grouping or long-poem book project, or an individual or serial image derived from painting or drawing over a source text.

That connection also exists between these erasures and my other work (I make video pieces and film photography, as well as collage--and collage-poetry--and other visual art forms). In other words, when I work on things, I do not impose any preconception of the precise form or content of what I make. For instance, if I choose a source text for an erasure project, I am not initially sure what kind of erasure it will be. That gets revealed along the way. I have just completed the second draft of a chapbook-length erasure project based on an antique sewing machine manual. Though that source includes the kind of illustration that often sparks a great visual erasure, it soon became clear that I was uncovering & co-creating--with the text--a compelling piece that needed to remain word-only. When I record video and audio to use in a piece, I don’t have a final form in mind. The video forms itself around what the raw segments suggest when I revisit them in the editing program. Same with my collages--both types of work take a long time, typically characterized by lots of poking and shifting, repeated engagements, and then some kind of unpredictable something! that unites and gives life to the whole.

Honestly, this happens with the unsourced or interior-sourced poems and prose as well. Basically everything emerges out of the same root approach, but some of the specific processes differ from project to project.

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

I grew up in Buffalo, New York. It’s a big poetry city, but in a sort of “town/gown” way. I was more of the “town” variety, not being connected to the poetics program at SUNY Buffalo. One of the major benefits I had, though, was the example of family friends and friends’ family members who were poets. I can’t remember when I first started going to poetry readings, which tells you how far back it was! Anyway, it was vital for me to see that there were grownups who took this stuff seriously and who were making poetry and sharing it with audiences. Also, when I was a teen, I took part in a youth workshop led by Jimmie Canfield at Just Buffalo Literary Center. That place was then pretty new (this was the mid-1980s), and Jimmie’s now moved on to another world, but I think her instruction and example offered me my first chance and my first tools for committing to my poetry, as a lifeway, and as something I could offer the world.

Truthfully my main mentors now are my friends and peers, other contemporary poets, with whom I collaborate and converse and work toward a better world. I’m also lucky (and old) enough to have a chance to informally mentor some younger/newer poets. Now that my teaching days are ten years behind me it seems it’s paradoxically easier to do that!

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

I resist singling out an individual because there are so many undervalued poets! These days I can only talk about where one should search, and for what/whom. So:

      new/young poets publishing in tiny magazines or on tiny presses;

      new/young poets self-publishing, streaming or doing open mikes;

      Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Muslim and Arab poets, particularly Palestinian, African & African-diasporic & from other colonially-impacted cultures;

      working-class and poor poets;

      trans poets;

      disabled poets;

      poetry in translation;

      poetry emerging from an experimental process or taking a “difficult” form;

      poets whose lives involve multiple intersections and variations of those above cultures, experiences, backgrounds and circumstances.

Those are the poets who are doing the most exciting work, and they all need more attention.

20210719

integrity

 

Jay Besemer

 


 



Jay Besemer is the author of the poetry collections Theories of Performance (The Lettered Streets Press, 2020), The Ways of the Monster (KIN(D) Texts and Projects/The Operating System, 2018), Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017), Chelate (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and Telephone (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature and was included in the groundbreaking anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Find him online at www.jaybesemer.net and on Twitter @divinetailor.

20210712

VATE

 Adrian Lurssen

 

 

 







Born and raised in South Africa, Adrian Lurssen lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry has appeared in Fence, WITNESS, Posit Journal, The Bombay Gin, Phoebe, Boston Review's 'What Nature' anthology, Poetry Lab Shanghai, Indiana Review, and places elsewhere. These erasures ("translations" of stories by Rudyard Kipling) are part of a larger project, conversations with texts and writers that appeared in the landscape of Adrian's childhood: post-colonial, Apartheid-era, Cold War South Africa. Kipling, Champion of Empire, spent time in Cape Town, living in the home of another Imperialist, Cecil Rhodes.

20210705

Give Away

Philip Kienholz

 

 

 

Need the shelf space      take out the architecture books
Stack and box catalogued items      send out notice -- come and get them
Technical details, data tables, colour
Charts, histories of building
                                                  & drawing technique 

Gifting opens a positive value      new spatial voids
Possibilities that unknowns can enter
Mind’s empty spaces      room to move around
Proving ground      multiplicities of knowledge
To interact
Ease suffering of
Collapse or not

 


 

 

Philip Kienholz is a lay Buddhist monk, permaculture gardener, and architect retired from licensed practice in Manitoba and Northwest Territories. He has published a poetry book, Display (2016), and two chapbooks, The Third Rib Knife (1966) and Born to Rant Coerced to Smile (2017). Poetry of the last two years is at Unpsychology Magazine, Deep Times Journal, The Closed Eye Open: an exploration of consciousness, Wild Roof Review, Nine Cloud Journal, Lucky Jefferson, New World Writing, Gravitas, Train: a poetry journal, Free State Review, The Write Launch, and Genre: Urban Arts.

20210628

hymnody

Jeremy Stewart

 

I

weep & pee—
a way out
but not for us 

island sprouts bushes
western ribbon snake 

ringtone the wilderness
preach annihilationism 

inhaling finish to finish your work
spasmodic rasp of progress   intermittent drafts
words sprung from a thicket of talk
post-lettered 

 

II

overlooking Lake Hollywood
happy birthday to me 

what time doesn’t do // what doesn’t time do 

clouds dissipate
purify your wardrobe
compressed dynamic range 

pictures from the built world

in the camp theatre, I played
the back half of the horse, but
I was fired for smoking

  

III

musical renunciations
never be bored again 

the hopeless guitar, cornered
poppycock green harlequin
tent enfolds costumes in the torchlight 

every time is the last
(or will be 

drooping north // not green except when
rivers in leaf text
the this-thus
the moment I leave you at preschool 

riding different trains
exit unknown tunnels into
a daylight blacker than burial 

I’m (not) mistaken, I see that now

 

IV

we are who we are most of all
to someone else 

inward-looking eyelids, blood
black bubblegum          (the snap of 

we play ghosts
two notes wish to form a chord 

a low meadow inside a rainbow
properly I should remain obscure 

energy field painting transferred to sound
look between the depths of sound
as with stacked pages of closed books 

we who are most
of all someone else 

stolen guitar haunts the obdurate present
label the parts of speech 

all this passing away, transformed into God
knows what

 

 

 

Jeremy Stewart's experimental novel In Singing, He Composed a Song is forthcoming from the University of Calgary Press (September 2021). Stewart won the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry for Hidden City (Invisible Publishing). He is also the author of (flood basement (Caitlin Press 2009). Stewart is a PhD student in English Literature at Lancaster University, UK. He once dropped a piano off a building.