April 30, 2020

ANNICK MACASKILL'S BANFF

Annick MacAskill writes: “Banff” is a poem from my latest collection, Murumurations, which just came out with Gaspereau Press. The book is a collection of queer love poetry that also explores the limits and intersections of sound, language, meaning, communication, noise, and song.

I’ve long been fascinated with love poetry. As I wrote this book, I was conscious of how I did (and did not) fit in with many of the (male, straight) models that have defined this tradition. I’m grateful for writers like Carol Ann Duffy, Audre Lorde, Anne Carson, Arleen Paré, and others who have given us their own takes on the established mode of the love lyric.

I had planned to launch Murmurations in Halifax on Thursday, May 14, at Café Lara. I had asked fellow Halifax poets Jaime Forsythe, Nanci Lee, and Sam Sternberg to read with me. I hope to re-schedule this event at some point in the future.

Annick MacAskill
BANFF

Clouds trip over mountains, lend
shadows to our hands, ungloved—
four small blessings for November,
yours larger than mine, though
not greater, you say, skirting
the path, pointing the way back
to the gallery. I say brother
but that’s not what I mean. I say
friend—though more than oil painting
or sculpture, I’d like to know
the weight of you, hold it
between my teeth or under
my tongue, a secret
like the white ermine in the snow.


Annick MacAskill’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada and abroad. Her debut collection, No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J.M. Abraham Award. Her second full-length collection, Murmurations, was published by Gaspereau this spring. Originally from Southwestern Ontario, she now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. Visit her website at annickmacaskill.com. Murmurations can be ordered on the author’s website, from independent bookstores, and directly from Gaspereau Press.

April 29, 2020

REVISIONS MASTERCLASS: SARAH VENART, EPIPHANY


This is the fourth and last in a Poetry Month feature series with Sarah Venart, who walks us through the revisions history of some of the poems from her forthcoming book, I Am the Big Heart (Brick 2020). Comments and questions are welcome. What do you see changing as the poem develops?

Sarah Venart
EPIPHANY

Here I am, with one hour to find it.
Here I am in this tenth month, the peeler of pears, 
the slicer of hotdogs, cutting them into strips 
smaller than a child’s windpipe. 
Here’s my apologetic smile, accepted by the daycare 
in return for my children. So what is there to find 
in one hour on my desk’s shallow surface? 
I’ve mislaid all of it somewhere among 
my mind’s tiny grey flags, in the millions of scraps 
piling up. I left it behind in the dark bleeding gums 
of the dog that I loved, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide. That was twelve years ago. 
What was she looking for? 
What if she’d stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. 
And I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When my black dog was being put down, in her last 
second I whispered, Squirrel. 


REVISION HISTORY


Creation: Winter 2014
The Tenth Month an unlikely location (Later became EPIPHANY)

for epiphany, or in the morning, 
or in the afternoon.  The mind full of 
tiny grey flags, millions quietly pile 
up.  Or the black bleeding gums of the dog 
again retrieving her dark rocks from the 
tides. What if I stopped looking up? Meta-

phor not only the sky, but migrating 
everywhere. And everyone is arrow, 
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons.  And 

I was the big heart, wasn’t I? When the 
dog was being put down. In her last 
second, I whispered, Squirrel. 


Revision for submission, Spring 2018

Epiphany

The tenth month an unlikely location
for it, or this morning or this afternoon when
you are a mother who used to be a poet.
You sit at the desk and have one hour to find it.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s tiny grey flags
in the millions of scraps piling up.
Or maybe you left it in the dark bleeding gums
of the dog you love, watching her clench another
rock from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second I whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision May 2019
Epiphany

You have one hour to find it.
You’ve peeled and cut the pears, the leash already clipped on and trailing 
behind the dog as she turns to thump down at your feet to wait.
You’ve even prepared the apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
when you stand in their doorway.
You sit at the desk and have an hour to find it,
one hour in this tenth month, an unlikely location,
when you are a mother who used to be a poet.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s assortment 
of grey flags, in the millions of scraps piling up. Or maybe you left it 
in the dark bleeding gums of the dog you love, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easier then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second you whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision June 2019
Epiphany

You have one hour to find it.
You’ve peeled and cut the pears, the leash already clipped on and trailing 
behind the dog as she turns to thump down at your feet to wait.
You’ve even prepared the apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
when you stand in their doorway.
You sit at the desk and have an hour to find it,
one hour in this tenth month, an unlikely location,
when you are a mother who used to be a poet.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s assortment 
of grey flags, in the millions of scraps piling up. Or maybe you left it 
in the dark bleeding gums of the dog you love, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easier then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second you whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision July 2019 
Epiphany

Here I am, with one hour to find it.
Here I am in this tenth month, the peeler of pears, 
the slicer of hotdogs, cutting them into strips 
smaller than a child’s windpipe. 
Here’s my apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
in return for my children. So what is there to find 
in one hour on my desk’s shallow surface? 
I’ve mislaid all of it
somewhere in my mind’s tiny grey flags, 
in the millions of scraps piling up. 
I left it behind in the dark bleeding gums 
of the dog that I loved, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide. That was twelve years ago. 
What was she looking for? 
What if she’d stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. 
And I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When my black dog was being put down, in her last 
second I whispered, Squirrel. 

April 28, 2020

EAVAN BOLAND: WHAT LANGUAGE DID


Eavan Boland
WHAT LANGUAGE DID


The evening was the same as any other.
I came out and stood on the step.
The suburb was closed in the weather

of an early spring and the shallow tips
and washed-out yellows of narcissi
resisted dusk. And crocuses and snowdrops.

I stood there and felt melancholy
of growing older in such a season,
when all I could be certain of was simply

in this time of fragrance and refrain,
whatever else might flower before the fruit,
and be renewed, I would not. Not again.

A car splashed by in the twilight.
Peat smoke stayed in the windless
air overhead and I might have missed it:

a presence. Suddenly. In the very place
where I would stand in other dusks, and look
to pick out my child from the distance,

was a shepherdess, her smile cracked,
her arm injured from the mantelpieces
and pastorals where she posed with her crook.

Then I turned and saw in the spaces
of the night sky constellations appear,
one by one, over roof-tops and houses,

and Cassiopeia trapped: stabbed where
her thigh met her groin and her hand
her glittering wrist, with the pin-point of a star.

And by the road where rain made standing
pools of water beneath cherry trees,
and blossoms swam on their images,

was a mermaid with invented tresses,
her breasts printed with the salt of it and all
the desolation of the North Sea in her face.

I went nearer. They were disappearing.
Dusk had turned to night but in the air--
did I imagine it?--a voice was saying:

This is what language did to us. Here
is the wound, the silence, the wretchedness
of tides and hillsides and stars where

we languish in a grammar of sighs,
in the high-minded search for euphony,
in the midnight rhetoric of poesie.

We cannot sweat here. Our skin is icy.
We cannot breed here. Our wombs are empty.
Help us to escape youth and beauty.

Write us out of the poem. Make us human
in cadences of change and mortal pain
and words we can grow old and die in.

(from In a Time of Violence)

Posted in memory of Eavan Boland, 1944-2020

Image, The Independent

April 27, 2020

ANCALAO AND MICHELSON: A TRILINGUAL ARGENTINE ROAD POEM



Seth Michelson writes: Liliana Ancalao (b.1961) is a leading Mapuche poet. She was born in Puel Mapu, also known as the Republic of Argentina. The Mapuche have traversed the southern third of South America for some twenty-thousand years, including their vital travel along an Andean route that would be appropriated and formalized by Argentina into National Route 40. Liliana's poem reflects on this transformation. Women of the Big Sky is the first single-author book of poetry in English-language translation by a female Mapuche writer from territorial Argentina.

(Note: Mapuzungun words and phrases in Seth Michelson's English translation are glossed below)


a photo on route 40

it no longer runs
from the Senguerr River to the Genoa
no matter how much mate and talk
we pour over

when walking the route
pu lamngen
it once led us to Copawe’s brown ash
another time the white wind didn’t recognize us
this time we returned splitting fog

always straining sight
not to miss footprints

the groundwater of memory
surges from the land
here dinosaurs blackened in their own oil

here the ash of the fires that burned
he of the choike feet
he who killed his father
he who left, teaching us the loneliness in waiting for him
still

here the snort of Orkeke’s and Casimiro’s horses
on one of their trips
to the Mapuche Applelands

and here those without memory
those who no longer raise their arms to
kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe

here the weather-beaten men
ready to make lassos of rawhide
and subject again the bull Chupey
to the brutal
beautiful
bellowing like that of the konas
trapped in thunder

the thunder that our enclosed
people
and our lonco Inakayal heard
in the basement of this museum of the horrors
of the holocaust

o how the memory goes to its affections
rises like the dew that chills the ankles
rises to the banks of these rivers
and stops us a moment on this route

we go out into air that bends us
that combs our hair as if scrub brush
and we take a photo of this image
for which we need no reminder.


kiñe azentu futa wariarupu 40 mo

Senguer leufü püle ka Genoa pule
alünmaiñ iñ akun
fentre mate ka fentre ngutram
kuchalleliñ rume

rupaliñ futa wariarupu mo
pu lamngen
kiñe rupa amufuiñ Kopawe ñi pu trufken püle
ka rupa  plang kürüf kangeitueiñ mew
tufachi rupa wiñoiñ  ti chiway nülakünuiñ

rumel kintuleiñ ti pukintuwe
ñamümlafilu pünon

memoria ñi pu napa
kangeltuy mapu mew
tufa mew  pu dinosaurios kurüyiwiñ mo

tufa mew  kütral ñi pu trufken
fey, choikenamun, üiyümefi
fey lantufi ñi chau
fey amutuy, kimeleiñ mew:
 ti  kizulen, petu ünümafiñ

tufa mew  pu neyün Orkeke engu Kasimiro yu kawel
kiñe amukan mo
Manshana Mapu püle

tufa mew puche  memorianokechi
pu che witrapramlayngun pu lipang
kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe

tufa mew chi pu wentru yafükünuwn
zewman lashu ñi pu trülke mo
nüniefin ka rupa chupey toro mo
füchañma mo
tremo
koatun chum pu kona
muleyngun tralkan mo

pu tralkan allkutuyngun iñ che
nürüftükuwn
iñ lonko Inakayal
pu sótano mo yañ museo
ñi holokausto

ay chum amuy ti memoria ayün mew
wenupray trürngey ti mülum firkümfiüy pu palipali
pranüy inal yu leufü

katrütunieiñ mew alumna tufa fucha wariarupu mo

tripaiñ neyen mapu mo müchameiñ mew
runkaeiñ mew trürngey pu neneo
zeumiñ kiñe azentu tufa azentun
recuerdo molaiñ

una foto en la ruta 40

desde el río Senguerr al Genoa
no se llega más
por más mate y conversación
que vayamos lavando

si habremos andado por esta ruta
pu lamngen
una vez nos dirigíamos a las cenizas marrones del Copawe
otra, nos desconoció el viento blanco
esta vez, volvimos abriendo la neblina

siempre esforzando la vista
para no perder la huella

las napas de la memoria
se distinguen en la tierra
acá los dinosaurios ennegrecidos en su propio aceite

acá las cenizas de los fuegos que encendió
el de las patas de choike,
el que tuvo que matar a su padre,
el que se fue, enseñándonos la soledad de esperarlo
aún

acá el resoplido de los caballos de Orkeke y Casimiro
en uno de sus viajes
al Manzana Mapu

y acá los sin memoria
los que no levantaban más los brazos a
kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe

acá los hombres curtidos
como para hacer lazos con sus tientos
y sujetar otra vez al chupey toro
al tremendo
al hermoso
bramando como los konas
que se quedaron en los truenos

los truenos que escuchaba nuestra gente
encerrada
y nuestro lonko Inakayal
en los sótanos de ese museo del horror
del holocausto

ay cómo se va la memoria a la querencia
asciende como el rocío que enfría los tobillos
sube hasta las orillas de estos ríos
y nos detiene un rato en esta ruta

salimos al aire que nos dobla
nos peina como a neneos.
y sacamos una foto de esta imagen
para la que no necesitamos el recuerdo.

Glossary
Pu lamngen: my brothers and sisters

Copawe: Copawe, or Copahue, is a stratovolcano in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile

Choike: ostrich

Orkeke and Casimiro: Orkeke (c.1810-1884) was a Tehuelche cacique in territorial Argentina who led his people up and down Route 40 before being captured by the Argentine army for resisting the state’s authority and transferred to Buenos Aires, where he died. Of note he also willingly guided the British explorer George Chaworth Musters on his journey through Patagonia in the 1850s. Casimiro Biguá (1819-1874) was a Tehuelche cacique in territorial Argentina who on 3 November 1869 raised the Argentine flag. Of note, for his effort to recognize Argentine sovereignty over Tehuelche and Mapuche land, he had been named a Lieutenant Colonel of the Argentine Army by Argentine President Bartolomé Mitre on 5 July 1865.

Manzana Mapu: This refers to the swath of Patagonia containing vast apple orchards, which featured prominently in the Mapuche diet of the region and were termed manzanache or manzaneros by the Mapuche.

Kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe: this is Liliana’s Mapuche divine invocation, and it literally translates as Elders of the Blue Above

Konas: warriors

Women of the Big Sky (Word Works, 2020; in Mapuzungun, Spanish, and English) was to debut at AWP 2020. That event was cancelled. Copies may be ordered through the press.