Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ryan Pratt reviews Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016)

Our pal Ryan Pratt was good enough to provide the first review for Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016) over at the ottawa poetry newsletter. Thanks much! You can see Pratt's post here. As he writes:
Vesper Vigil by Bronwen Tate
Published by above/ground press, 2016.

"You sleep, I sigh, we mingle breath like lovers –
I reach a stealthy hand, adjust the sheet.
Somewhere between sentiment and complaint
are words to name the child sleeping here"

So begins Vesper Vigil, a collection of sonnets which chronicle the last weeks of Bronwen Tate’s pregnancy with this perfectly succinct ambiguity – how it feels to be pinned down by what we love most. True to her intent, Tate records both the daily parenting of her young son and the approaching birth of her daughter without getting precious or irate. Instead, she employs a tenderness that seesaws between love and pain, gentle yet sore to touch.

“Will this lumpy baby ever come out?”
Owen considers, replies “I don’t know”.
So we measure days in peaches, bruises,
bruised peaches, it’s the body that chooses."

Tate explores the fragile limits of our bodies – how we feed, grow and injure them – within the framework of domesticated routines that gauge her excruciating wait. Every seemingly casual digression probes one of two spectres, the impending pain or joy. They’re a package deal, of course, and her bittersweet tone acknowledges it. Like the development of a fetus, these sonnets mature in nerves that feel deeply rooted thanks to the sing-song rhyme scheme. Each page can encapsulate hours or weeks. Her choice of form allows that compression rate without sacrificing a fluid rhythm, though – as is common with the sonnet – rhymes occasionally raise an eyebrow. (Did she really play disco, or does it just rhyme with San Francisco, etc.?) In any case, by the time she’s admitted to her hospital room, the anxiety and loneliness of third-trimester pregnancy is palpable:

"I’ve taken Misoprostol, Cervidil,
now sitting, watch contraction numbers rise,
one hand to hold the heart monitor still,
slight lag between the pain and peaking highs.
We left with early fog but found no bed,
paced corridors and watched the shifting crane,
took Owen to a playground, sat and read,
called only to be postponed again.
At two at last they showed me to my room,
this prison of uncertain duration,
can’t leave these walls till baby quits the womb,
perch on window bench, await dilation.
Alone now, I breathe through pains, try to sleep.
The road to you be gentle, dark, and steep."

Reading the above selection, I realize how little I’ve contemplated the psychological effects of pregnancy and childbirth. (Just analyzing Tate's thought that, once admitted, she cannot leave the hospital without first enduring an unknown pain gives my pulse a race.) As someone who looks in on parenthood from the outside, that’s my biggest takeaway from this chapbook. Tate manages to imbue archetypal family dynamics with a memorable dose of personal details, creating an unguarded glance at motherhood in transition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Peter F. Yacht Club regatta/reading/christmas party!

lovingly co-hosted by Stephen Brockwell 
+ rob mclennan;

The Peter F. Yacht Club annual regatta/christmas party/reading

at The Carleton Tavern (upstairs)
233 Armstrong Avenue (at Parkdale Market)
Thursday, December 29, 2016
doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm

with readings from yacht club regulars and irregulars alike, including Claire Farley, Amanda Earl, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie, rob mclennan, Roland Prevost, Marilyn Irwin, Chris Turnbull, etc.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cary Fagan reviews Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016)

Toronto writer Cary Fagan was good enough to provide the first review for Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016) over at his new Bodies and Words. Thanks much! You can see Fagan's post here. As he writes:
Carrie Olivia Adams, Grapple.  Ottawa: above/ground press, 2016.
It is notoriously difficult to capture one art form in another; can one do more than search for clumsy equivalents, fractured reflections?  And yet when I read Carrie Olivia Adams’ Grapple for the first time, it was if I could see the movement and struggle of bodies in my mind.  Not only the words themselves but the placement of the lines, fragments across a wide page, evoked extension and constriction, stillness and action.
My first reading was without benefit of the “Notes on the Composition” which comes after the eight-page poem.  I did have the image on the cover, and two inside, to know this was a dance in words.  And the epigraph by Nawal El Saadawi told me that the poem was about movement and passivity, surrender and resistance.  But it was only upon reading the notes that I understood the poem to actually be a text that had accompanied a dance performance–a performance inspired (if that’s the right term) by the arrest of “a young African American man during a protest as part of Moral Mondays Illinois in Chicago in November 2015.”
The poem begins with two definitions of the title–“to stop the progress or movement of / (something)” and “to attract and hold the attention of / (someone or something).”  This apparent contradiction, or mirror-imaging, is carried on throughout, with “strength” linked to “vulnerability” and going “limp” being an “act of resistance / …an act of / strength”.  There is a particularly telling moment when
We cannot see your face                              you cannot see ours                                                                                                              pressed

                                                      But we are so close
These words seem to me both powerful, frightening, and almost beautiful.  On the poem’s next page, however, the poet becomes somewhat less nimble, writing in true, if sloganeering fashion, of a city that “forgets / the backs on which it is built”.  But then the poet becomes more suggestive again:
Tell us again how you know
how you submerged us
how we re-wrote the movement of sidewalk and street
how it bent up to meet us
These words were spoken to a dance created by Chicago choreographers Jamie Corliss and Lydia Feuerhelm, who were also the performers.  According to the “Notes,” the dance and the words were intended to “work with and against each other,” echoing the tension within the poem itself.  I certainly would have liked to see this performance in which “intimacy and aggression overlap” but the poem works well on its own, especially with the accompanying photographs.  It is a work that, while for the most part not allowing its political purpose to diminish its artistry, never forgets that purpose.

Friday, November 25, 2016

above/ground press contributes to the filling Station fundraiser

above/ground press has donated a whole MOUND of chapbooks to the filling Station magazine fundraiser! [there have been a number of fundraisers lately; did you see this one for Canthius?] Check the link here to bid on this magnificent collection (some of which are extremely rare), or even here for other items in their fabulous auction! The nineteen titles included in the above/ground press package are by Calgary poets, both former and current, produced by above/ground press over the past two decades. Most of these items are still available through the press, but a couple of them only through the recent "backlist/rarities" list.

The Appetites of Tiny Hands
Natalee Caple

Julia Williams

[Dear Fred]
derek beaulieu

A, You're Adorable
George Bowering as "Ellen Field"

"Calcite Gours 1-19," STANZAS #38
derek beaulieu

ryan fitzpatrick

The writing that should enter into conversation
Natalie Simpson

& look there goes a sparrow transplanting soul [3 eclogues]
Emily Carr

Further to Our Conversation
Robert Kroetsch

@BillMurray in Purgatorio
nathan dueck

Cursed Objects
Jason Christie

Braking and Blather
Emily Ursuliak

transcend transcribe transfigure transform transgress
derek beaulieu

ryan fitzpatrick

The Charm
Jason Christie

Ins & Outs
Nicole Markotić

10 Poems
Christian Bök

ERASURE: a short story
Braydon Beaulieu

John Barton