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FIERCELY LANGUAGE RESISTS: MICHELLE GIL-MONTERO IN CONVERSATION

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Michelle Gil-Montero (photo: Dawn Zacharias) Earlier this year I found my way to Michelle Gil-Montero 's brilliant translation of  Edinburgh Notebook  /  Cuaderno de Edimburgo  by Mexican poet  Valerie Mejer Caso . The notebook is a body, a landscape of grief and dying, of vanished paths. In the landscape (in the body) are mountains, shadowy ponds, quicksand, clouds compressing time, hallucinatory apparitions and transformations. SUSAN GILLIS: How did you decide to take on this project?  Did the book find you or did you find it?   MICHELLE GIL-MONTERO: I had recently translated Mejer Caso’s  This Blue Novel , another book that confronts death and loss, and I really wanted to continue with her work. As soon as I began to read  Edinburgh Notebook,  I recognized  a relationship between the two books that compelled me to translate  Edinburgh Notebook  next. At first glance, the books are pretty different—formally, and in scope.  This Blue Novel  is a sweeping long poem that maps gener

Claire Caldwell: A Poem

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Claire Caldwell SOUNDS A RIVER MAKES Gas leak, ventilator, bear clicking its teeth. Twelve hundred caribou hooves on frost. Lips around bottle, bottle slurring on bar. Rattling aspen, dusky grouse, sheets drying outside. Grandmothers stuffing envelopes in a high school gym. Sex in a sleeping bag, house on fire. A children's choir after one kid faints, before the rest start to sing. from Gold Rush by Claire Caldwell , Invisible Publishing, 2020

WHAT SHIFTS: A CONVERSATION WITH BREN SIMMERS

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SUSAN GILLIS: How did you first come to poetry - or poetry to you? BREN SIMMERS: I grew up in a household of readers. We went to the library once a week and loaded up on books. My dad, d.n.  simmers,  was a poet and he encouraged me to write. For two hours every weekend, he would shut the door to his office and we knew better than to disturb him. From an early age, I knew that writing meant quiet, reading and muttering to yourself – all things I loved to do. Later, when I moved out, my dad had a book box by the door, his recently read pile. I could take anything I want. Having that kind of unfettered access to books and family support to pursue writing was key to my finding poetry.   SG: One thing I admire in  If, When  is the way you’ve made time and place almost porous; lives lived a century ago seem as present as those being lived now. In exploring those earlier times and places, what surprised you, what changed you (or, changed for you, in your sense of place and connectedness)?  

BREN SIMMERS: A POEM

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Bren Simmers SPRING CONDITIONS AT BEST We're tired of headlines, of doomsday pessimism, of ponying up for a season pass at Whistler only to get spring conditions at best. We want fresh pow and bluebird skies. We want can, not can't. Don't tell me what we've lost, show me what we've still got left. from If, When (Gaspereau Press, 2021) . By permission of the author Bren Simmers is the author of If, When (2021),  Pivot Point  (2019),  Night Gears  (2010), and  Hastings-Sunrise ( 2015), which was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her work has won the Arc Poem of the Year Award. She lives on Prince Edward Island.

Kevin Irie: The Tantramar Re-Vision

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John James Audubon, Whooping Crane (Sandhill Crane), 1835. Image from Museum of Nebraska Art                      In                     the marsh grass,                      wind                    stirs up some business           I don't know about.                                                           This exciting news about sandhill cranes  taking up residence in the salt marshes between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick sends me back today to Kevin Irie's luminous book of poems, The Tantramar Re-vision (McGill-Queen's, 2021). In these poems, instances of the extraordinary sometimes leap, sometimes slide into a landscape of shifting moods.            Something moves downstream                past thinking of us: Encounters are as likely to be with conundrums and meditative correspondences as with things.           How did it end as                      a small dark brush           sweeping the earth           up into a stillness           like an answer              

COIN OF ANOTHER WORLD: EDINBURGH NOTEBOOK by Valerie Mejer Caso, translated by Michelle Gil-Montero

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Edinburgh Notebook (Action Books) "Poetry -- that catacomb art which refuses to perish with our mortal beings"*  One of the reasons I love poetry is its way of keeping company with grief. This late winter and early spring I've been surging with grief. The catalog of particulars: another dictator pushing the world into war; misguided people trying to bully away a pandemic with trucks and noise; plastics riddling oceans; species vanishing; the earth heating up....Turning to poetry helps to restore my sense that there's more to humanity than collapse and destruction.  It's in this mood I return, again, to Valerie Mejer Caso's  Cuaderno de Edimburgo (Edinburgh Notebook,  in Michelle Gil-Montero's brilliant English). Poems of mysterious power and agitation document a loved brother's death by suicide and give luminous expression to suffering, calling us to confront our own sorrow. Collages by the author and photographs by Barry Shapiro punctuate the poem seq

VALERIE MEJER CASO: ECHO | ECO

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image by ralev_com Valerie Mejer Caso,  translated by  Michelle Gil-Montero  ECHO Once the ocean is spent, its hollow converts to steel, and all the oddly propped boats are ready to tumble onto that empty plate. I have no sun in this world, no ocean. What can I do with all these daggers, heaped where the mountain used to be? Some piece of the story has left us shaking, as a great wind jingles the bangles on a frightful crown, has dragged the rain and waterfalls to a distant atmosphere. Water’s time is captive. In it, the groom clenches his eyes and takes in the night of another body, and their breath flickeringly lights the cabin, the palm trees, the people drinking in silence. It brightens his face like a planet. Light enough to burst the sphere and spill its liquid down the street where the sea is still evaporating and the boat, with no way to steady itself, lurches. On their bloody evening, the trees stir, the broken jugs rejoin along empty paths. There is a mountain made of teeth.