Lately been feeling a lot of excitement and pride in some of my friends and acquaintances who are making some waves in the poetry world here in Canada. Garth Martens and Anne-Marie Turza, my co-finalists at the Bronwen Wallace Awards in 2010, both have books out Prologue for the Age of Consequence And The Quiet respectively. Looking pretty good, you guys. My mentor and good friend Jen Currin has got a book out called School. Jen’s been such a great help with my own manuscript and giving me advice about publishers and etc. usually over tasty Mexican brunches. Kayla Czaga (read two of her poems in the latest Maynard issue) has been on fire lately, with a haunting poem in the Walrus and winning the Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem (links to interview). Kayla will have a book out in the fall through Nightwood called For Your Safety Please Hold On. She has been a delightful friend and fellow poet and I’m really looking forward to her collection. The unstoppable Kevin Spenst is touring his chapbook across Canada. I think there’s a plan for me to read with him outside some taco place?
In the world of poets-that-I’ve-only-met-once-or-twice-but-feel-like-I-know-them-closely-because-of-the-generous-nature-of-their writing, I’m really excited about reading Sommer Browning’s new collection Backup Singers, Matthew Zapruder’s Sun Bear, Adam Sol‘s Complicity (Thanks Adam for making the time to have coffee with me when you were in town!) and Bob Hicok‘s Elegy Owed that I just found out about today.
Phew. There’s more that I want to cheer, but that’s a lot for now. I’m just really honored to know these terrific poets who also happen to be lovely, genuine individuals. I’m now gonna put a bunch of book covers below here to remind myself (and suggest to you) to get these books over time.
Well, here we are again. My trusty editor friends and I have put together another issue of The Maynard with some lovely poems by lovely poets. This is a bigger issue and has a lot more audio goodness than the last one. Also, a fantastic cover image by Yuka Aoki. Take some time to spend with this collection, and remember that submissions are always open for future issues.
The Maynard is an online poetry magazine that I put together, along with two other fine gentlemen, Mark Hoadley and Ram Randhawa. The three of us were given a chance, by our mutual instructor/mentor Jami MacCarty, to come aboard as the new editorial team. This is our first issue, and I’m quite proud of it. We read a ton of submissions over the summer and the poems we selected are the ones that really shook us awake. Some of my personal favorites are the strange post-apocalyptic “The Future of Music” by Jen Currin, the acidic snarls of “Testing Testing Is This Thing On” by Russel Swensen, and the haunting dream-poem “Pitcher” by Russell Thornton (recent Governer General Award nominee!). They are all great, though, in their own particular way. You can hear some of them read their poems aloud too.
Aside from all the learning that comes with pouring hundreds of different poetic voices into ones head in a short period of time, this has been a great learning experience for working in a collaborative way with others. Mark and Ram are both thoughtful and considerate editors and it was really interesting to work out our decisions about various aspects of the magazine. I’m looking forward to the new issue which is currently open for submissions.
This Saturday at People’s Co-op! I’m really looking forward to this, mostly because the Seattle poets, Don Mee Choi & Melanie Noel, are new to me and it is always exciting reading with, and listening to, new poets. And it’s great to share the stage with my old poet friends Rachel and Renee. Thanks to the host, Jen Currin, for inviting me and generally being an awesome and supportive poet.
And here is a fine interview with Renee Saklikar and Jen Currin in Sad Mag, where they discuss the ‘borderlands’.
Click the poster above (designed by yours truly!) to go to the facebook page for more info about the reading. Hope to see you Vancouver folk and possible Seattle folk there!
The exciting news around here is that a poem of mine is being adapted for a short film by some very talented filmmakers, notably my friend, director Nicholas Bradford-Ewart . They have shot the first scene and are looking for support to make the rest of it. Even more exciting is that they hope to make this film the first in a series of short films based on the work of emerging poets.
Check out the campaign, watch the first scene, read the poem, and toss in some $ if so inspired:
I am super honoured and excited about this as you can imagine, and will probably make the next few posts here related to the film in different ways. I thought I’d start with a little story that in some way, contributed to the origins of the poem.
After Lydia’s Strange Origins
A friend and I were walking across a soccer field towards some kind of commotion by a clump of trees near the youth centre. It was dusk. Emerging out of the blurry shadows were growls and yells and some laughter. Getting closer, we saw a young man, an acquaintance, fiercely attacking a small tree. He was charging at it, tearing at the branches with his bare hands, ripping them apart. He had wide bloodshot eyes and was snarling. Some of his friends were trying to talk to him, coax some reason into him. Repeating his name, asking him to look them in the eye and calm down. Others were laughing, egging him on; “Fuck trees, man. You show that tree who’s boss.” In this quiet sheltered town, it was the kind of incident that makes a night. It was awful and sad, but one couldn’t help be entertained.
My friend watching beside me, remarked on how, despite being delirious with rage, he didn’t lay a finger on anyone who was coming up to him, trying to talk or get him to stop. It was all directed towards the tree. No one seemed to know what it was about. Maybe he was on drugs, maybe not. Maybe a psychotic episode, maybe not. Someone said his windshield had just been broken by someone, but it was hard to imagine that causing this reaction. Maybe it was about a girl, I thought. The way I was feeling most of the time around that time, heart-raw, kind of crazy, it seemed the most sensible explanation.
I had tried to write a poem very directly about the experience that it didn’t quite ring. But somehow the image of a despairing man attacking a tree fit as a simple opening line in ‘After Lydia’. I don’t remember actually writing the poem, but I remember thinking about some of my friends in my old town. One who, after being dumped, bought a ticket to Jamaica where he mostly stayed in his hotel room doing lines of coke. Another who hit the gym after his breakup; I saw him a few months later and he was huge. I thought about the small, immature and desperate ways I reacted, or wanted to react, after heartbreak.
It’s kind of a funny poem in a way, despite its subject matter. While Lydia might have been somewhat inspired by a girl or two that I had known back then, I was probably just as much thinking of the archetype of a beautiful dangerous woman. Girl as powerful storm that ravages a town. It was fun to see these young men, like little toy action figures, being tossed around in her wake.
We didn’t stick around to see what happened to the young man. He probably calmed down eventually, smoked a joint with a friend, wept maybe, or some tough guy equivalent. Maybe the next morning he wouldn’t remember anything. Whatever it was about, I hope the experience gave him some resolve. That squinting in the light of the new day, with cuts in his arms, leaves in his hair, he was ready to move on to his next chapter.
Here is a new poem and it’s called Dear Liza
Thanks to Nick Thran, contributing editor, for requesting that I send him some work for their newest issue. A long time ago Nick sent me a little note saying that he liked my poems in the Bronwen Wallace Award chapbook. At the time, I was all, neat, some dude on facebook likes my poems! Then I promptly forgot about it. Some time later at the Vancouver Poetry Conference, I saw this young poet read his poems and talk about poetry with a kind of nervous charm. I went up to him to tell him how much I liked his work. And he was all, “Oh, you’re Raoul right?, I sent you a message on facebook.”
I like that these connections happen. And I’m happy that he asked me to be part of this issue which seems to be an act of strengthening connections, forming associations. It’s humbling to be among the poets included in this issue and I recommend that you spend some time reading each of their fine poems.
“I tend to like art that does more than what’s necessary, goes further, exceeds; but that keeps its contours sharp, holds its shape. I think of the way huge flocks of pigeons reverse and catch the light in a synchrony that doesn’t eradicate the oneness of each particular bird. This isn’t to say that I can’t turn it down for a slow jam when I feel it, or that I can’t build a poem around a single gesture rather than a whole array of them. I can and have. But I’m a relatively excitable person by nature, and when I try to write calm, tranquil poems, I usually feel more or less like an impostor, like I’m assuming someone else’s sensibility, or worse, like I’m trying to modify my work to make it behave more sensibly, or generically — to make it appeal to as many palettes as possible.”
- Timothy Donnelly, author of “The Cloud Corporation”
read the rest of the Harper.org”6 Questions” interview here.