Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Successes and Shortcomings

John McAuliffe praises a new crop of Irish poets, but wonders where the reviewers are:
Such healthy diversity is an impressive turnaround, possibly a consequence of new publishing technologies and cheaper costs, as well as the rise in festival and event nights through which publishers can sell the books. But it also suggests a question about the reception of new poetry: welcome as the emergence of presses with good production values is, is there a review culture which situates and considers these books? How are books’ successes and shortcomings judged, and who is reading them in relation to one another, in relation to poetry’s existing audience in Ireland, as well as to new audiences, and the increasingly international and wired literary culture in which English-language poetry in particular operates? Poetry Ireland Review and its associated publication, Trumpet, do clearly cover critical reviewing, as do other venues, but there are not nearly as many journals as there are publishers of Irish poetry: it would certainly be good to see both more argument and careful reading of the books written by the “Rising Generation” in the “little magazines” and online journals which would match the growth in publication of new poems.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sunday Poem

Look below: the sable-eddied Kelvin
flowing fast, despite the town’s depression;
never angry, only bloody-minded,
rolling on to reach the red horizon. 
Glaswegians put their trust in how it carries:
they toss into its care the things they use:
lolly sticks and condoms, knives and bottles,
babies’ toys, a jilted lover’s shoes. 
A force that churns has somewhere else to be,
especially when spattered with this light.
Someone got it started; it is free.
To go a little closer must be right. 
And sometimes there’s a child from an estate
pulled from games along the muddy edge,
and this is why the branches bend and wait
and why we always pause upon this bridge.
By Alexandra Oliver, from Let the Empire Down (Biblioasis, 2016)

(Photo by Greig Middlemiss)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Is Poetry An Escape From Responsibility?

"Not at all," says D. A. Powell:
It is a place where messages of great value and import can be woven in, like the hidden but not-so-hidden calls to freedom and safety that are found throughout the lyrics of spirituals. When enslaved Americans sang “Wade in the Water,” it wasn’t merely about baptism, it was a call to escape captivity by hiding near the river, to cover one’s tracks by stepping into the current where the scent of the runagate or fugitive could be masked from the pursuing hounds. For me poetry has always been a place to put the most urgent messages of existence, because they can pass through undetected. The urgent message can hide in plain sight.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Catch a Tiger

Adrienne Raphel is on the trail of a famous counting rhyme:
“Eeny meeny miny mo” is one of those rhymes that’s ingrained in our cultural limbic system—once we hear the first two syllables, the rest unspools whether we want it to or not. No one knows what eeny or meeny might mean; everybody knows what “eeny meeny” means. It turns up in strange places: in Pulp Fiction, in the Great Vermont Corn Maze, in Justin Bieber songs. But where did eeny meeny come from? Kipling tells us that “Eenee, Meenee, Mainee, and Mo / Were the First Big Four of the Long Ago,” but that’s not such a good lead. What we do know is that once Eeny Meeny appeared on the scene, it was everywhere.

What is Prose Poetry?

Anthony Howell tries to make sense of it:
There is a “throughness” to conventional prose. With it, we travel on through one sentence to the next, and we are building something by going towards it. The writing may well feel “transparent”—we are simply looking through it at the sense. With prose poetry...each sentence comes at you from its own direction. Each is its own whole, an atomic sentence. That is, it may differ from the previous sentence as much as one atom may differ from another. We don’t experience the same drive to get anywhere. This strategy may be used by “language” poets in a particularly abstract way, dislocated from meaning; but in the case of these intense prose poems, a story is being collaged together, a vivid story that hangs together in a disconcerting way, as one might concoct an image of a cow from many different images of cows.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sunday Poem


How solitary
and resolute you look in the morning.
A stoic in your cotton sleeve.
Do you dream of walking out 
rain or shine
a truffle balanced on your sternum
and passing me on the sidewalk?
Or is that a smile 
because you interpret nothing
and statelessness is where you live?
How calmly you indulge my moods. 
See you tonight, by the sovereign chartreuse
ceramics at the Met.
Let’s hear what you’d do differently.

By Jana Prikryl, from The After Party (Tim Duggan Books, 2016)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Sunday Poem

Trying to escape an insect’s hunger,
the thrum of his gallop is like hail across Nairobi’s tin roofs,
like salsa dancers burning alive on scuffed hardwood,
old women arguing on a corner in Chinatown,
the clatter of sticks in road hockey, breaks in the pool hall,
like rooting around the Tupperware drawer, like when
the girl dropped her polka-dotted laptop in the parking lot,
or when fifteen horses jumped from the Bow River bridge
and plummeted ten metres on their way to the Calgary Stampede,
or when you tripped over the box of Christmas ornaments,
the plosive pop of their shined red glass
or like the sawtoothed corners from the curses that followed,
like your brother learning Teenage Wasteland on electric guitar,
like the kid next door who skateboards down the sidewalk
at midnight while his mother sits on the stoop
and tells the gel-haired bachelors she loves them,
like dropping enough nickels into the pay phone
for a long distance call to Sault Ste. Marie or the braided river
of semis and cars that cascade by without stopping
and the pothole puddles detonate and retreat into form. 
Collapsing into the creek, the bull crumples.
His breath becoming the sound of you
in the kitchen this morning, washing the cutting board;
you come back, lie down, your hair spilling across my pillow,
a glacier melting the sand off its skin.

By Richard Kemick, from Caribou Run (Icehouse, 2016)