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Showing posts from 2020

UPWELLING WITH SWEET EELS

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This poem by Susan Buis from Gatecrasher might be more explicitly a praise poem than some others in this striking collection (Invisible Publishing, 2019). Its active soundscape makes it, for me, one of the most pleasurable.   Susan Buis OSPREY   For the dive, for the strike and clutch muscles shiver in communion to hold a hover through gusts  bending air to arc, wavering a spread fan, wings tensile as spring branches. In the gap before the articulate plunge all trembles but the eye  fixed on a brackish creek upwelling with sweet eels that thrive in briny confluence and streaks of red weed swaying in the gullet --  weed that's weft for a scavenged wood warp, mass of nest to weave another stick through. From its first line, this swift-moving poem makes the osprey visible. Precise verbs and the repeated word "for" signal a praise poem in the tradition of Hopkins; a poem dedicated to the osprey's majesty and power. By line two, "for" shifts reference to what'

CONCRETE LIKE FIRE: MARY SODERSTROM IN CONVERSATION

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Storage pyramids at McInnis Cement. Mary Soderstrom photo   In this post, Concrete & River makes a brief departure from poetry to chat with Mary Soderstrom about her most recent book, CONCRETE: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future (Regina: University of Regina Press, 2020). SUSAN GILLIS: Thanks, Mary, for talking about your book Concrete in this slightly unconventional context, a poetry blog. When I saw the advance notices, I couldn't resist following up with you, and I'm glad I did.  In the book's first chapter, you recount thinking and writing about roads, both literal and metaphorical, and “as one thing leads to another,” you began to consider concrete as a material. Can you pinpoint a moment you knew you were going to take concrete as the subject for a book? MARY SODERSTROM: I came up with the idea in the fall of 2016 when I was finishing up Road through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move . I like to have a project on the go always, and concrete se

SARA VILLA & THE BEAUTIFUL LANES

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    For many, if not most, people, the pandemic has changed how we engage with work, ideas and creative practice. Sara Villa writes from Montreal: This week I experimented with centos and collages and it felt liberating. This is a cento I wrote accompanied by a collage created using a film still from a movie by Man Ray, the picture of a sky from a magazine and an old map of NYC.  The beautiful lanes of sleep I dreamed again you were alive, and woke.  I figured you'd hear me sooner or later.  It's 12:10 in New York and I am wondering  what now?  I'm tired of these big things happening on faded maps of America.  Line sources: 1) Alun Lewis, "The Sentry"  2) Anne Michaels, "I Dreamed Again"  3) Diane Di Prima, "Conversations"  4) Frank O'Hara, "Adieu to Norman"  5) ruth weiss, "Single Out"  6) Joanne Kyger, "As Ever"  7) Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "The Jack of Hearts"  Collage image sou

SARAH VENART: I AM THE BIG HEART

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I'm thrilled to find Sarah Venart's fine new book, I AM THE BIG HEART , in the mailbox. I walk back to the house so absorbed in it I forget to check the pines that line the lane for the owl that sometimes waits there, watching. Thrilled because it was fourteen years in the making, Sarah says, at times with much uncertainty over whether it would get made at all. Thrilled because I got to watch some of the poems taking shape (see Sarah's revision worksheets for four poems, from draft to publication, here ). The cover is unsettling and beautiful, and the book is thicker than I'd imagined - partly that luxurious paper all Brick's books are printed on, partly the hospitable distillation of a whole lot of thoughtful and passionate and sometimes resistant living. Hospitality, especially when it feels like invitation, is one of the best things to find in a poem. When the poem goes "here's what this is like for me; how is it for you?" I feel a little more alive

CONCLUSIONS THAT NEVER CONCLUDE

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"If you don't like what you wrote, don't think about the words, just remember it better." I'm paraphrasing Robert Hass's advice on revision in a dimly-recalled Vimeo of a talk given in Rotterdam , a paraphrase itself of something Jack Kerouac once said. The context was a discussion of the sources of poetry according to Rilke (memory, dream, art) and its subjects (joy, longing, grief). Hass had set up a quick exercise in noting a location for each of those emotions. Just before this, someone in the audience asked about revision, to which Hass responded with an anecdote (about Robert Duncan and his poem " My Mother Would Be a Falconress ") that suggested a poem only acquires the name 'poem' when all the writing is done, essentially another way of saying writing is rewriting is writing. I recall, as a young person just beginning to find my own poems, asking a friend about her process and how she knew when a poem was finished. The quest

YUSUF SAADI AT THE POETRY PARTY

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Yusuf Saadi writes: I had just finished reading One Thousand and One Nights , where, famously, Shahrazad must narrate a story to the king in order to entertain him all night so he doesn’t kill her. I was thinking about the interaction of language and sensuality, the kinds of sensuality on the surfaces of language and beyond language, and how the body incites language and vice versa. Pleasuring Shahrazad In rosewater I rinse my final words, dip them into your body. Your slow, saline drip on my tongue. You eclipse Medinan dates soaked in honey, saffron rice with diced pistachios, a single pomegranate— surah carved in Kufic on each ruby seed. Camphor recites its being inside a kerosene lamp. Don’t plead, simply ask for pleasure pleated upon pleasure past tongue-winding rinds around words. Damascus musk settles on damask pillows. Iced watermelon wine gushes in crystal glass. Hebron peaches blush; sea-coast lemons             cleave in halves. My nails moon

MY NAME, BUT NOT MY PAPERS: SADIQA DE MEIJER

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Sadiqa de Maijer photo by Cat London Sadiqa de Meijer writes: This is the title poem from my new collection. I've always liked the riddle of how to get the fox, goose and grain across the river, when some will eat the other if left alone. Older versions of that quandary sometimes feature a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage. I wanted to ask, particularly from a multi-ethnic and diasporic perspective, what if we look at that cargo, and even the landscape of the river itself, as internal to the speaker? Sadiqa de Meijer THE OUTER WARDS I saw that I would have to cross the river, and that it was the Rijn. I had a fox, a goose, a sack of grain. I said, I love the gay men in kufiyas on the Rembrandtplein, and the muted half of me, from a land of five converging waters, with an upstream alphabet— so what makes me yours every night, slow current, floodplain of drowning grass? Then the goose was in the reeds. It had an egg. Twigs and quills, the ruckus