JAKE KENNEDY, HAZARD

Hazard (2006) won the bp Nichol chapbook award, and for good reason. As with Jay Millar and Kate Hall, this is a beautiful artifact. Not quite the same technical quality as a Greenboathouse chapbook, which can be a year in the physical making, but it is mindful of its materiality, a distinction that I suspect will make it impossible for the book (or chapbook) to actually die out (as the fear mongers are wont to propose). Those of us who love books, love books, and while we might appreciate the access to them online as etexts etc., I highly doubt we’ll want to let go of physical libraries and pages and editions and covers. In fact, it may be that we become more concerned with the object itself.

Kennedy’s chapbook reveals an engaged reader and lover of books. One who interacts directly with others: Balzac, Rossetti, Mandelstam, Cahun, Beckett, Lowry, Acker to be precise. The poems range from visual cheekiness to narrative biographical interventions, dramatic structures to prose poems. Here from a three part response to Beckett:

In this space the words do not meet their
destinations. The words start out alright
but they end up turning into other things.

or from another variation:

My art is for shit. This really
hurts. I am hurt. Do you like this? It seems
there is no division between I-can-speak-
to-you and I-can-kill-you. I can’t say I like
it.

Having only recently met Kennedy and discovered the chapbook I wonder how I missed it? But as this line-up of mini-reviews suggests, there is more compelling work out there than one can reasonably comment on. And when commenting on, one begins to see strands that are of larger interest than the immediate text one is faced with. This new avant-lyric mode that both Christie and Fitzpatrick point out. What makes this avant-lyric mode work? What makes it distinct from flarf? If I compare a Degentesh poem, or a Fitzpatrick poem to a poem from Hall or Millar for example, or this one from Kennedy? Tonally? My musing undercurrent is twigged here, but in a good way. Very curious to see what is next from Monsieur Kennedy.

SAWAKO NAKAYASU, INSECT COUNTRY (B)

Insect Country (2007) is a tiny chapbook from Dusie, a small press based in Switzerland that has been publishing fabulous projects, many of which are available for download as pdfs. While I constantly bemoan the state of the Canadian online literary presence (or lack of), one is reminded of the prevalence of the gift economy in the avant-garde writing community where so much is made available at no cost. Perhaps because unlike the SoQ stream, there is an understanding that poetry isn’t about money, or isn’t *so* much about money, or about single careers.

The prose pieces in Insect Country feel more prose-like than other pieces I’ve read from Nakayasu involving ants. The two that were included in a recent Filling Station section on American poets, for example:

Box with arms and butterflies

A large box with many arms reaching out of just as many holes in the box. The arms reach out and grab butterflies, deposit them back in the box. The butterflies go out the holes, some go so far as to fly away forever, while some get grabbed and returned to the box. The arms look like they just might try to leave the box as well, if they only had bodies to take along.

There is something so visually surprising in this one: the butterflies go out holes, the chaos of entrapment and dispersal, the many arms that remind me of Lydia Davis’ “Cockroaches in Autumn”( which you can hear, Davis read here). (“The forest of moving legs…” What a line.)

You can read more poems from Sawako here in Coconut, and check out her blog, Insect Tutelage, here. Nakayasu has been working on the Ants for several years now, and when they surprise, it’s so satisfying.

AMANDA EARL, ELEANOR

I discovered Earl’s chapbook in an envelope filled with chapbooks and broadsides in a mail-out from rob mclennan out of Ottawa. Receiving such a pile of texts can be daunting; difficult to know how to handle so much. derek beaulieu, who like mclennan, publishes others constantly, has a great system: he has files for friends and students and publications that don’t necessarily speak to him are quickly passed on to someone who will appreciate it. My own desk is often laden with piles of read, half-read, want to comment on, when will this be commented on, piles.

Earl’s chapbook has been in the “want to comment on,” for some time. The fragments of this narrative concern Eleanor of Aquitaine, referenced in the title and in the epigram at the beginning: “They left me word, these men and their ties, but they did not level me.” After years of resisting this impulse in poetry now I can’t get enough of it. But not all fragmented poetry works, or is satisfying. What is it about one text that seems to be at a level of interrupting itself that shakes the very idea of its being on a page, but holds together enough to offer a willing reader a way in and through? From the beginning of this text I am quite taken: “all night on a curb is this where you expect to find me/music and tin cans rattle.” There is something musical here. Something that, like Jeanette Armstrong’s “Winds,” operates like wind chimes, notes hitting and resounding. Earl’s text jousts images and expectations, mundane glasses emptying, histories, feuds, mostly self-referential, domestic images, but still enough surprise here to keep me grasping through. Visually the text reminds me not of Armstrong, but of Rachel Zolf’s earlier work, as well as parts of Zong! the brilliant new book from M. Nourbese Philip.

The fragments of this woman’s life come together even as “Yesterday fused glass shatters.” The gaps are effective:

seep ssssssssss like ssssssssssssss october a hurried sssssjune heatwave ended

and

ink runs dry ssssssssssssssmy thraoatmy throat without beer

talk to me you cannot hear

or you choose not to

Earl has a book out from BookThug which I’m now very curious to see. As well, I would like to hear this text read.

And there are a few newcomers–undergraduates to be precise, both published by Kevin McPherson Eckoff.

HEATHER MCINTYRE, TWO HAIKUS

Tiniest chapbook award goes to Kevin McPherson Eckoff for his sweet little production of two haikus from a student reader at a recent literary festival in Kelowna. No bigger than a gift tag with two pages.

HELEN HAJNOCZKY

Hajnoczyky is an undergraduate at the University of Calgary where they have Nod, an excellent undergraduate publication.

A Portrait of Gertrude Stein

I find her incredibly irritating. I’ve read her before in other classes and I just find her so annoying, and I think that if I understood better what she was trying to do or why she writes this way that maybe I would find her less annoying, but she is so irritating because I really just don’t understand what she is doing, and if I just understood her intentionality then I think I would like her more, but I find her really irritating because I don’t understand what she’s doing and so it’s just really annoying, which I think I would not feel as much if I knew what she was doing, but it’s just so irritating.

This is, if I recall correctly, a poem based on fellow classmates’ responses to Stein. That’s okay. If they’re complaining, she has done her job, has gotten in there. And Hajnoczyky has caught the experience of coming to such strange shores brilliantly.

More and more chapbooks to come.