Monday, November 30, 2015

"poem" broadside #336 : from these actual lines (for William Hawkins), by Cameron Anstee

from these actual lines (for William Hawkins)
by Cameron Antee
above/ground press broadside #336
Cameron Anstee lives and writes in Ottawa ON where he runs Apt. 9 Press and is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. He has published chapbooks with Baseline Press (London ON), above/ground press (Ottawa ON), The Emergency Response Unit (Marmora ON), and In/Words (Ottawa ON). He is the editor of The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (Chaudiere Books, 2015).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lyndsay Kirkham reviews Kate Schapira’s The Motions (2014) in Broken Pencil #69

Lyndsay Kirkham reviews Kate Schapira’s The Motions (2014) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of Schapira’s second above/ground press chapbook.

The 23 poems of The Motions are untitled, and all sit with a similar stubborn complacency against the edge of the white page. Similar in length and space-taking, these poems, on first glance, are interchangeable, when really, they tell a story when read as a collective tale of home, geography and minutiae.
            Despite a dedication to the verisimilitude of our lives, big themes waves to the reader when reflecting on the collection as a whole. These themes are then expertly whittled down to sharper points within the smaller and more nuanced pieces. The cohesion of Schapira’s work is one of its greatest features and calls one back inside the interior of these small glimpses of reflection.
            A reader is invited into the poet’s imagined spaces, to touch the “white comforters of her place” and linger in the crevices between the “local history” and the ephemera of a life-lived. Attention is paid to exacting an image, of creating perfect dioramas within each and every poem that fill The Motions. These precise snapshots are carried and crafted with a precise use of language that is without pretention or pomposity. They are words; they are doing work.
            Shapira’s collection repeatedly asks questions we are invited to use in disrupting the organized rooms of poetry offered throughout The Motions. It is in the questions – a patterned and obvious motif of the collection – where one detects a quiet but persistent rage; the questions swirl around the rest of the words, filling up the deliberately large white space. Readers feel magically observant, wanting to point toward the slipping mask of the landscapes that come to us as masked quiet and calm. This bubbling disquiet becomes a theme of its own with geographical, political and micro implications.
            The final poem in the 2014 collection doesn’t sew anything up for readers. The questions haven’t been answered and they are left with you in all their petite and crafted beauty: “I who wait/ on the rock hide my/ gravity, fail to remember/ filling with names. Caught/ as the stems of signs, pickets catch/ and resist”.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

launch of ryan fitzpatrick's dealingwithit.gif, November 28 (Vancouver,

Vancouver poet ryan fitzpatrick launches his latest above/ground press chapbook, dealingwithit.gif (2015) in Vancouver! See the facebook invitation here, where they say:
Saturday, November 28
at 7:30pm in PST
The Paper Hound Bookshop
344 West Pender St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1T1

Come by The Paper Hound Bookshop Sat. Nov 28 at 7:30 for the launch of ryan fitzpatrick's dealingwithit.gif, with readings from Danielle LaFrance and Jordan Abel. There'll be free wine!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Michael Lake reviews Roland Prevost’s Parapagus (2012) in Broken Pencil #69

Michael Lake reviews Roland Prevost’s Parapagus (2012) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of Prevost’s second last above/ground press chap (this one has appeared since).

“A backfield dig unearths two gleaming pre-human / Skulls.”
            So begins Roland Prevost’s suite of short poems about an encounter between some archaeologists and the remains of an ancient two-headed woman, the parapagus of the title. The woman’s story emerges delicately through meditations on the life of her anomalous body: “Female adult remains. Survival to maturity / Suggests an acceptance of strangeness.” We catch glimpses of her sex life and the struggle between her two selves, but rather than focus much on the particular deviances of this body, Prevost plays with notions of otherness, exploring how and why it is perpetuated: “Assorted reactions of gawkers, reverencers. / A notoriety: across families, tribes. Across to us, / Three species down evolution’s stream.”
            The perception of otherness goes both ways as Prevost imagines what the two-headed woman would think of us: “They wouldn’t recognize us as kin.” All of this unfolds succinctly in ten swift poems, the titles of which are, at first, frustratingly oblique – [ magical beliefs ] + { meats rendered } or [ passive aggressive ] + { bound } are two such title examples—but upon a second read, they become helpful thematic markers, like an archaeological site, if you will. Parapagus is a short read, but one that will reward an attentive audience.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Michael Lake reviews Gil McElroy’s Twentieth (2013) in Broken Pencil #69

Michael Lake reviews Gil McElroy’s Twentieth (2013) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of McElroy’s second last above/ground press chap (this one has appeared since). And, while we might think that the reviewer might need to read a bit more (why do so many reviewers from Broken Pencil say things like “I don’t get it, therefore the author needs to do more work”?), we very much appreciate his attention.
The eight poems in Gil McElroy’s latest chapbook are each a hazy snapshot of an early-twentieth century French poet or artist. We get Tzara, Picabia, Breton, Apollinaire, and some perhaps less familiar names like Desnos, Eluard, and Aragon. The poems’ titles indicate their subject, but any other reference [to] the artist’s life or work will likely have no entry point for the average reader.
            In “Aragon,” McElroy writes: “Wednesday it happened./ Cushy foreskins, suddenly./ Her breasts/ His marriage/ Broom broom”. Or from “Picabia”: “A dream/ should cure me, a sock in/ one’s pocket that turns/ into salmon outfits”. The writing is always vivid, but the specificity of McElroy’s allusions is lost without a larger conceptual framework in which to understand them. We are left without any indication as to where these poems are rooted: is it biography, interpretation of the artist’s work, or McElroy himself?
            Each poem is in two parts, the second of which is presented as footnotes of sorts. The writing in these sections have a feverish intensity gained through repetition and surreal imagery and is the most compelling part of the collection. From “Breton”: “In my sleep I see Breton in the trees./ Breton will be everything I’ve ever lost./ Breton will be drawing a crowd, Breton all alone./ Breton you notice./ Breton is passing by.”
            Twentieth could have benefitted from an author’s note to better position readers in this unfamiliar terrain. As it is, the handling of a very niche subject will leave many readers feeling on the outside of McElroy’s vision.