Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Greg Bem reviews Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux (2017)

Our pal Greg Bem was good enough to provide the first review for Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux (2017) at Goodreads. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
Lady Lazarus Redux
by Amanda Earl

Occasionally books jab you in the spine and cause you to sit upright, pay attention, know that it will affect yourself as a book should always do, that it is not just noise, not just ambient, but active and effectively present. I found Earl's book to be this way, to be of fantastic import. An above-average selection of the already-fantastic above/ground press, Lady Lazarus Redux seeks rawness, transparency, and a full-on immersion into the struggles of the feminist mind and the feminist text. The book is personal, but collective. Absorptive and incapacitating. It is a serene cry out, though conceptual construction and found language, for better opportunities to know suffering and to know resolution. It will be a marvelous book to return to over time.

Monday, January 22, 2018

new from above/ground press: MOTHER OF ALL, by Anna Gurton-Wachter

Anna Gurton-Wachter

I am standing in the river and, absent any structural changes, I will still be standing in the river. Absent any structural changes I am examining an inky pen I found in the river. This was how I first gained access to Gertrude Stein’s deathbed. Pull the curtain back and Gertrude Stein’s deathbed is there. “Deathbeds are a leisure product,” the voice from above calls out. The voice from above is a rescue pattern, the sincerely possessed dovetail center. I forgot that I had started weeping just for the compensatory elation. When did I get to be outside of being a woman? The woman without qualities. Around the deathbed are many objects and beside each object a moment of private translation. Communications are like whiskers jutting out sideways from the mouth, and we are drinking wine and talking about being born.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
January 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press

a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Anna Gurton-Wachter
is a writer, editor and archivist. Her chapbooks include The Abundance Chamber Works Alone (Essay Press, 2017), Blank Blank Blues (Horse Less Press, 2016) and CYRUS (Portable Press @ Yo Yo Labs, 2014). Other writing has appeared in No, Dear, 6x6, The Brooklyn Rail, Elderly, and PELT. She edits and makes books for DoubleCross Press. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks away from the building in which she was born.

cover image: Christine Shan Shan Hou
consciousness of illumination
collage on paper, 2014

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jill Magi reviews Brenda Iijima's SWAMP SWAMP (2017) at Harriet

Chicago writer, artist and critic Jill Magi was good enough to provide a review for Brenda Iijima's SWAMP SWAMP (2017) via the Harriet blog, alongside reviews of Eléna Rivera's recent Belladonna* Chaplet and A Transpacific Poetics, Edited by Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu. Thanks so much! And we must have similar tastes to Magi, given Rivera's recent above/ground press title, and even Samuels' long ago issue of STANZAS [see the STANZAS bibliography here]. This is the second review of Iijima's chapbook, after Greg Bem reviewed such over at Yellow Rabbit. You can read Magi's full review here. Her review of Iijima is below:
SWAMP SWAMP by Brenda Iijima, above/ground press, 2017.

In the photograph on the cover of this chapbook, Robert Smithson stands behind a woman, Nancy Holt, who is looking through a camera, operating it. Bob Smithson, arms folded, squints to see what she may be seeing. He is directing. As a project of resistance and disruption, Brenda has listened to Holt and what it means to not hear her clearly. And so Brenda doubles the film—hence the title SWAMP SWAMP—inserting an imagined texture, a talk-back session emanating from Holt, from the land itself, and from the forces of history.

I recall the Smithson show at the Whitney that Brenda refers to in her short essay at the end of the chapbook—and I distinctly remember loving the physicality of this film. The audio was disturbing to me as well; as if Holt was being pursued by Smithson’s ever art-forward purpose. I may have given over to the work, in a sense, deciding that the tension between them added to the disturbing rattle of the blindingly tall stalks of marsh grass. All of these memories mean that I was happy to revisit this work with the arrival of Brenda’s chapbook.

SWAMP SWAMP begins with the italicized line “Just walk in a straight line,” evoking obedience, discipline, and the language of poetry itself. It is Smithson’s voice. There’s an air of dismissal in the word “just,” and that word comes up again in the directives, indicating that Holt was taking some risks, displaying hesitancy. The first line is a directive to ignore the poetics of the meander, but Brenda, happily, intervenes by responding to all the directives with a lush interiority, and with historical remembrance.

Brenda writes the swamp as place and relationship—even though the site was really a marsh, as she points out. She returns the site to the complex ecosystem that it is, resisting easy access, comprehension, and the view that would call this site “nowhere”: “Some would call this no-man’s land—it is precisely the reverse.” At first I thought the reverse of “no-man’s” might be “everyone’s” but I don’t take Brenda’s project to be a universalizing gesture—so I came up with “yes-woman’s land” as a kind of “reverse,” though Brenda recognizes this land as already-inhabited, not empty, and so the text establishes itself as a North American post-colonial reclamation.

There are also snippets of Holt's autobiography: “My house was Tudoresque—a brick and stucco edifice. And the formative years, carefree—blithely unaware of what privilege consisted of besides the tree lined streets of the neighborhood where I would play unrestrained. How straight a line! How straight can I enter—logic to do with the body often foregrounds mechanistic functions, meanwhile hormonal impulses steer corporeal mass, meter motor control.”

It is glorious to me that Brenda has brought both “privilege” and “hormones” into the work—and in such close proximity! Yes, a body is not just mechanical—it is comprised of the perforating combinations of mechanics, chemistry, feedback loops.

Importantly, though, a woman’s body, as Brenda writes, is variously “unrestrained” according to class, color. And so Brenda moves this work away from a predictable and perhaps tired white feminist reclamation project that would position Holt as only oppressed vis a vis Smithson. Holt, spoken through Brenda’s voice, is, in fact, not without privilege. And so the complications gather.

I have always thought of Brenda’s poetry and editorial work to be pedagogical, an invitation for more voices, more inquiry, and an invitation to leave the traces of inquiry inside the work. And Brenda’s mode of inquiry always involves the body: a sensual epistemology. The chapbook’s culminating statement provides information on the project’s origin and this gesture of disclosure has the potential to inspire other projects. Her statement/essay concludes with this:

“A whispering subtext—an underlying dimensional reading into the triangulation: Robert Duncan’s poem of utopian yearning to return to the meadow of his imagination. The contrast between Duncan’s ideal meadow with a space that can’t hold out against chaos, disturbance, domination and appropriation—that is constantly managed and defined by historical ramification, lives in layer of relation and recognition.”

Reading this work, I would add that “a place of first permission” (Duncan’s line, quoted by Brenda) may also be a site, upon review, of misrecognition. Brenda’s work here takes the slippage of mishearing and misrecognition as the perhaps ideal site for poetry.

Monday, January 15, 2018

the launch of ottawater #14: Ottawa's annual poetry pdf journal

Ottawa’s annual pdf poetry journal
edited by rob mclennan

Come out to the launch of the fourteenth issue of ottawater, featuring new writing by Manahil Bandukwala, Stephanie Bolster, Sara Cassidy, Jason Christie, JM Francheteau, Spencer Gordon, Chris Johnson, N.W. Lea, Leah MacLean-Evans, Christine McNair, Colin Morton, Dani Spinosa, Priscila Uppal, Jean Van Loon, Ian Whistle and Maha Zimmo.


The launch, featuring readings by a number of this issue’s contributors, will be held on Friday, February 2, 2018, upstairs at The Carleton Tavern, Parkdale at Armstrong; doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm.

Lovingly hosted by editor/publisher rob mclennan.

Founded to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the City of Ottawa, Canada's glorious capital city, "ottawater," and its chemical formula/logo "O2(H2O)," is a poetry annual produced exclusively on-line, in both readable and printable pdf formats, and found at http://www.ottawater.com. An anthology focusing on Ottawa poets and poetics, its first issue appeared in January 2005, 150 years after old Bytown became the City of Ottawa.

The issue itself isn't online yet, but all previous issues remain archived on the site. Thanks to designer Tanya Sprowl, the ottawa international writers festival, and Randy Woods at non-linear creations for their continuing support.