- ADRIAN BELEW TRIO / SAUL ZONANA, The Mod Club, Toronto ON, 2017-05-16, Photos © Eric Fefferman
- Brenda Clews: TIDAL FURY–a review by Sharon Goodier
- TERRA INCOGNITA: poems of Adebe DeRango-Adem: a synoptic introduction by Stanley Fefferman
- Introducing APPARATUS: Inspiritus Press, Feb. 2017. by Stanley Fefferman
- Laurence Hutchman TWO MAPS OF EMERY: reviewed by Stanley Fefferman
- May 2017
- March 2017
- November 2016
- October 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- November 2014
- October 2014
- June 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
Brenda Clews, Tidal Fury, Guernica Editions 2017.
Tidal Fury is a ground-breaking book both in content and form. Presented in the poet’s voice as a series of conversations with and about imaginary figures, her lover/animus, ‘Monsieur’, and her shadow/alter ego/Muse, the poetry is a sumptuous ode to the creative process, its passions and its pain, a seashell echoing the depths of the ocean, words that sometimes drown the poet and on which, at other times, the poet surfs, like Shiva and Shakti, dancing her struggles into life. In one place she asks “Are we forever approaching what we can never give ourselves to?”
The wave rises high “surging into Sunlight/milky green underside/proud. She interacts with “Monsieur” and her alter- ego /shadow muse whose energy is at times abusive, confining, critiquing, demoralizing, the dark muse every writer knows and must endure as her heart breaks and remakes. This old woman walking the sea-wall in black and red conquers competition by derision, a trap we often fall into attempting to shore up self-esteem and which ends up severing our connection to the comradeship we need for support.
From the first page, we see that writing is “continually closing over itself…a sea of Turbulent Words”. Like Clews, we want to be a tidal wave but we withdraw. At other times, like the woman in an indigenous story, we hold the tide-line until our hands bleed. The poet “gluttonizes on words, gorged.”
Words float under my cage…a discourse of signifiers referring to each other [identified only by] their relations to other signifiers, an entire system mediating reality. [Clews sees] veils of words and images drifting over the world.
The sea is everywhere — tidal, storming, spewing up onto the beach flotsam and jetsam which become Clews’ manna and ours, too, as we walk with her on the sand. Like her, we can constrain or release the tides of creativity. The effort causes hands to bleed: some poems are written in blood. No wonder she says “What terrifies me is my source”. She obsesses about writing “the way I do a lover…words that flow in the symbolic between the imaginal and the real in nights of intense love-making.”
Like Teresa of Avila, whose creativity could only be expressed in spiritual terms, Clews animus/god, ‘Monsieur’, is a literary device known intimately, intimate in closeness and absence, challenging her faith in her own writing. ‘Monsieur’ is a god for all poets, all people , luring, ravishing, abandoning like the god of the mystics. Passion and sensuality are both real and symbolic. C.G. Jung’s female followers have written about the ghostly lover appearing in dreams and disappearing, a quantum phenomena both here and there at once, present in absence, absent when present:
Your writing draws me in, Monsieur, you breathe words into me. I slip under the covers of those words… where poetry is born…only your words massage my breasts, my throat…I toast you, Monsieur, ( you engulf me)…I disappeared into your vastness…lost in you…lost I…two sighs enfolded in each other.
The Muse, on the other hand, is Gorgon, is Medusa.
…she tars my words. Dead eyes watch us. That dead fish at the end of La Dolce Vita. She sent it to silence us…My unbidden, holy muse…a lady of serpents…behind me, cursing…I move quickly…she implodes…I am free.
From Graeco-Roman mythology to the Tarot Deck to Derrida, to meditation leading to nowhere and nothing, the self unravels deep in the grammar of the self, defies coherency, “laws of linguistic construction”. Clews’ poetic form mirrors this, becomes the experience. With her, we are not sure who we are. The poet invites us to break out of time, leave history, dive into silence. “The Ground of Being is no ground at all.” Clews’ brilliant mysticism has found a key: the chasm itself is the arms of God.
Tidal Fury presents profound and perplexing questions about the nature of relationships. “In what ways do we keep each other in check, clipped, chained, trapped.” So many of us have experienced this:
My enunciations formed an uncomfortable anomaly in the grammar of the group. I was not struggling in the way I was meant to meant to…I was ignored. An absent presence. Silence was wielded by those who formed the inner circle, carefully, so my diminishing welcome would not be evident to the others. What happened, Monsieur. Exile.
There is no moon, here, no dolce vita. Unfinished sentences allow us to write the endings, the poet’s monologue to her animus, her muse, us. Like ‘Monsieur,’ we meet her at the edge of the text, its syntax is his absence. We are “bound by a grammar” that shapes our relationship to him. The poet, the text, our inner selves and “when we create a hole in the grammar of connection to others, a speaking voice is silenced”.
This book demands several readings. It is not only Clews’ story but ours whether we are poets or not. We surf the tides, falling and rising. And we are the absent moon.
Weaves of words flow over the world…shoals of words, tides, of words, flowing through our consciousnesses…The language that shapes us…inseparable from time…organizes us into communal cohesion.
Sharon Goodier, Toronto, March 29, 2017
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Adebe DeRango-Adem’s poems are ‘brilliant, cryptic, telegraphic.”* As I read Terra Incognita, the brilliance of her lines is, like what Bob Dylan sings: “She wears an Egyptian ring that sparkles before she speaks.”
Whether there was light before language
what we need are not the words
to describe the broken
glass but how the light dances
off the shards.
Adebe’s lines sparkle”before she speaks,” and after she speaks, because they are cryptic–her language is always two, and not-two, images are multi-aspected poetic optical illusions, each hiding/revealing the other: black/white, lover/activist, poet/person, woman/child.
I will not comment on how she manages the dialectic of her personae: she just does. About her engagement with the black/white struggle, or that of the mulatto, or the marron, all the shades of her people, I say that she stands up for them in poems such as “blues for Baraka, in memoriam,” “everyone wants to be DuBois,” or “blood root”(after George Elliott Clarke), a poem that takes its refrain from from “Strange Fruit,” the 1939 anti-lynching song made famous by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, but was written by a White New York Jewish Communist School-teacher and poet, Abel Meeropol.
Adebe embraces the irony of dialectic:
I suspect all angels
of history are also half-caste,
phantoms that they are, and that history is
Adebe’s poetry is telegraphic because it comes down lines from far away:
All the immense images in me
or of the me I had been,
far-off, in another kind of kinship,
I was once a powerful landscape,
pulsing with the life of the gods.
It is telegraphic because Adebe writes her lines in code, her own poetic Morse:
poise your song into a set of words
that no one knows, musical lines
like blood lines that oppose
that cancel to reveal
that mystify to expose
Her telegraphic fist is recognizeable by it’s playful love of form. Here is a list of titles where she taps out forms: couplets (“what they call paradise”); triplets (“everyone wants to be DuBois,”); quatrains (“dragging sea chests around the bend”); serial-patterned isorhytmic proems (“Oltremare); slightly off internal rhymes (“a faint/shade of smoke”); alliterations (“that our roots are rhizomes”); puns (“I await, unmoored,”); and multi-level wordplay (“multiplicity is what borne the city/ is what borne us, we are still being /birthed again, and up, and away”).
Another sense of the word ‘telegraphic’ that comes from the world of sports applies to her work. I am going to end with a riff or two on that because it’s the coolest aspect of Adebe’s very cool style. In sports, they say that you ‘telegraph’ when you unintentionally alert your opponent to your next move–your pitch or your punch or your shot. Bad idea. However, it’s avery good idea ( if you can do it), to fake a telegram, to set your ‘other’ up to expect you to do a thing, but you shift and pop in something else. Adebe does that a lot. She sets you up for anger, but gives you love, and more.
For example, this volume’s epigraph is by Franz Fanon whose analysis of the psychopathology of racism led him to conclude that violence must have a role in the struggle of decolonization. In the poem “marron inconnu,” Adebe ‘immortalizes’ Louverture, military emancipator of black slaves in Haiti. In the next poem, the aforementioned “everyone wants to be DuBois,” she writes,” but what about the noise? the sound/ of young black boys/ hitting the ground”. The tension in these elements telegraph the reader to expect a forceful reaction. However, Adebe shifts to a more primal ground than the tension she’s feeling: to love, and beyond that, to her inquisitiveness about how she and we who share the ‘star-crossed’ enterprise of cohabiting on this planet connect to each other and to the wholeness of the world:
taut under the moonlight,
and there we are:
cross with stars, looking
for a way to read ourselves
into things, into the face
of all this strange,
Adebe DeRango-Adem, TERRA INCOGNITA, Inanna Publications, Toronto, 2015. 72 pages.
* Chogyam Trungpa, Dharma Poetics, Naropa, 182.
Monday, March 6, 2017.
One January evening, as I was sitting in the Free Times Café listening to Vanessa Shields read at the Art Bar, I was impressed by three boys at a ringside table paying attention in a way that suggested they were a team: one was taking notes, one was getting a photograph, and one was listening. I was in a kind of host role, so at the break I introduced myself. The photographer said, “O wow, what an honour to finally meet you. I am Steven Takatsu, winner of the 2014 York University Stanley Fefferman Prize for Creative Writing.” Nice. After more niceties I said, “So what’s the deal here? Are you guys a team?” Steven introduced me to the note-taker, C.J. Garrett and the listener, Aaron Sheng, and showed me a copy of their anthology–APPARATUS, published by Inspiritus Press. I bought a copy.
Here they are, plus one, a few weeks later, doing a group reading at the Art Bar open mic to promote their book APPARATUS. Since then, Takatsu and his team have been beavering away launching and promoting the book and INSPIRITUS PRESS. The lengthy synopsis of the work in APPARATUS is my way of adding a puff of air to the already billowing sails of this team’s enterprise.
Takatsu’s first contribution (50 words) “Polished Brown Loafers” begins with a head-to-foot scan of a man on an empty train, and surprises with the lines “and twelve toes/ that count the feet.” His second piece, three pages of visionary prose titled “Something Holy,” begins as a starry night-sky hilltop contemplation accompanied by “Paganini violin solos, Clark Terry trumpet calls.” A holy celestial body appears as a voice: ” I feel her hand slip lower and start to unzip my jeans…Her breath catches as she feels how hard I am….” The narrator surrenders to the moment, and feels himself enter her, first his hand, then all of him slides into ‘her’ down the frictionless path along the depths of her uterine canal. At his moment of release, the “I” hears her say “This moment will be gone the next.”
C.J. Garrett has two poems: “Glory be to the sky,” and “Dead Flies,” both blending celestial and terrestrial visions: “veiny appendages, / stretching beyond, / celestial….” Both poems are short. “Dead Flies” posits an electronic aspect to universal energy: “Still the frequency screams/ Of dead flies fucking.”
Aaron Sheng’s “Patchwork Zombie” constructed in more than 10 mostly 4-line stanzas, is a dramatic monologue addressed variously to: a dismembered entity; “Happy patchwork zombie/ Do you miss your (limbs) so/ that much?”; to a sad child; and to an entity known as “Sir.” The argument of the poem concludes regretfully, like the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty”: “There was a girl playing with her doll, /her head was torn off, / and her mother couldn’t put it back on, / not the doctor.”
APPARATUS (if not specific poems), is illustrated passim by grey scale close-up photographs of smooth skin-folds and wrinkled sections of human anatomy that are suggestive of parts, but do not allow the viewer to identify them with any certainty.
Opening the anthology is a story by Collette Thomas about a girl who gets the idea her elbow is disturbing her sleeping lover, so she wakes him to explain her theory that humans could be designed better if they had “Detachable Limbs.” Evan Hoskins follows with a poem set in a library washroom where he contemplates the emotions of another person looking in the mirror, and wonders “did he berate his mirror self?” In N.J. Greenfield’s three-page prose piece “The Beat,” the ‘I’, enslaved by a ‘Beat’ only he can hear–“I had the beat, and the beat had me,” imagines performing various ‘heroic’ actions: he prevents a knife attack on the stage of a theatre and earns audience applause; saves a boy from being hit by a car, rescues “a girl in a river,” imagines applause from his neighbours for the quick way he showers, cleans, cooks, to ‘The Beat,’ “did everything in one-second bursts,” while outside “passersby…all walked at entirely the same pace.”
Aaron Capelli has two poems uniquein the anthology for the way their language forms precise images that move along formal rhetorical lines: “Unsteady music, unsteady hands/ lay bare the faultwork of our griefs.” and “Hurt, luminous, you cross/ the border while white dust/ inundates the air.” Skyler Clarke wonders whether persons are “Identical ball bearings”. Daven Sharma with two poems, is interested in green, growths, insects, and “faith that grows like grass/ when watered and kissed”. B.J. Powe has a story “Cathode Halo” that depicts a time when “Black-and-white rays bathed our squirming bodies” while “Discovering sex in front of the TV”.
Thomas Arthur Farrell shares a joyful story of car trip with his girl when they pick up a farm-girl hitchhiker in Nebraska and the three of them, “excited as children,” spend ecstatic time together. Nikita Shorikov’s, prose story “For the Sand,” is an elegant fantasy that begins with these graphic lines: “A nude man and woman stand in a white box, a marble bedroom jutting from the fine sand of a desert like the world.” Deniz Sonkan has a short poem that is a vision of “Dead Bodies High on/ soporific Depressants” from whose ‘cum’ “Lowborn Life struggles to its end.” The title is also the last line: “I’m Yours Forever.” Sierra Marilyn Riley has a 6-page poem entitled “Sneakers”, about British Columbia and the”human feet in running shoes [that] have been found washed ashore along the Salish Sea.” I googled this topic: check out for yourself the realities that come up.
Parts of “Sneakers” are found poems–lines from various ‘reports’ and recipes for ‘on the beach’ cocktails. Parts are personal reflections: “feet are oddly intimate to me/feet remind me of my ex lover”, and “I wonder if my ex lover’s feet remind him of me.” Most reflections and found bits trigger reminders of “another drink.” The graphic following Riley’s poem is the only one that totally looks like something–a bare foot with unevenly uncut nails and wiry black hairs on the knuckles.
So there it is: the poems and stories in APPARATUS, each one speaking for itself, as much as possible in my way of writing. Taken together, the works of these 15 writers articulate a vision that Takatsu and his team had as seed when they started the project. My time with this book gave me some things to tease my mind with. Let’s see what happens next.
Apparatus is an 80-page 4.75″x7″ collection of visionary and experimental poetry, prose, photography, curated selections by acclaimed authors and emerging writers from York University, local or international communities.
In this book, the physical body and its relationships are celebrated, examined, distorted, degraded, dissected, exposed, moving from gritty and grotesque to transcendental and surreal.
Contributors: B.W. Powe, Takatsu, Evan J. Hoskins, Nicholas J. Greenfield, Nikita Shorikov, Aaron Capelli, Daven Sharma, Thomas Arthur Farrell, Sierra Marilyn Riley, Skyler Clarke, C.J. Garrett, Deniz Sonkan, Colette Thomas, Aaron L. Sheng, Mae Claudette Costan
Inspiritus Press has three visions:
– Visionary, conscious, aware, purpose-driven & spiritually enlightening work
– Converging art disciplines & digital technology in our publications, events, projects
– Collaborative communities that empower emerging local & international voices
For more information:
Friday, March 3, 2017.
Laurence Hutchman. Two Maps of Emery. Black Moss Press. 96 pages. 2016.
This is a boots-on-the-ground review. I caught a moment with three people hearing Laurence Hutchman read a poem from his book at the Chapters bookstore in Oakville, Ontario. You can see for yourself that when Hutchman reads, he is wide open. You can also see that the boy seems riveted by the reading, while the girl’s attention is only glancing off the poet. The woman’s mind is someplace else she wants to be and she is tugging at the girl’s sleeve to take her away. As it happened, a moment after I got this image, the woman and the boy turned away, but the girl held her ground until the reading was over.
By calling this part of my review ‘boots-on-the-ground’, I mean I am not writing my opinion of Hutchman’s work. I am reporting what I saw happen at a reading of his work, and what qualities of his work you, gentle reader, can see for yourself in the picture I am sharing. Beyond that, you are invited to join me in wondering what Hutchman’s performance was doing to the mind of that girl, which qualities of his work might be holding her in thrall. Is she looking into her own future.
Hutchman’s features are full of expression, and his position in the venue speaks of boldness. He commands the space. Hutchman did literally command the space. Management had given him a table near the bookstore’s mall entrance on which to display his books, where he could sit, chat with customers and sign the books he sold. He was not set up for a reading. However, when the mood came over him, Hutchman popped out from behind the table into an open space and powered up a reading whose energy rooted a young girl to her spot while her family walked away.
” My thoughts are always polishing my childhood/ Till it’s become like a hard diamond/ Unbreakable, to cut/ Into the cheap glass of my maturity” Yehuda Amichai
My opinions of Two Maps of Emery begin with a reprise of Hutchman’s excellent qualities evident in the photographs: a wide-openness, a boldness of expression, a sense of command, and a fearless determination to say what he has to say.
Hutchman’s poems tell about Emery, the people of the town (now swallowed by suburbs at the northern edge of Greater Toronto) where he grew up. He celebrates the people who named its geography, the cast of his primary and collegiate schooldays, and the history, dwellings and landmarks bequeathed by the town’s founders.
The poems tell stories and details of the decade between 1957-1967, the years Hutchman’s family moved from Northern Ireland to Emery, through the end of high school, a time, he writes, “we read Cohen and listened to the raspy voice of Bob Dylan on the Sea-breeze record player.” The first three sections, rely mostly on the map of his personal memories. In the final group of poems, we see Hutchman, from 1993 to the date of publication, 2016, tramping through the now overgrown vacant lots of his childhood, visiting the abandoned farms and the surviving elders of a town that no longer exists, in order to reconstruct stories of the town’s founding during the War of 1812, through many other wars, through the lives of their damaged survivors, and the stories of those who grew the town, like the set of “a silent film” for the 150 years it took for the Hutchmans to arrive, and for young Laurence to make his run.
Two Maps of Emery is a highly detailed epic narrative. Until you read stanzas aloud you could be forgiven for thinking Hutchman is writing chopped prose; however, when you feel the rhythm of this lines rolling out of your chest past your lips you cannot miss the poetry, and high poetry it is. Some of the best poems, miniature portraits, are dramatic monologues, worthy of respect in the tradition from Browning to Berryman. What sets Hutchman’s work apart from his peers is his love for, his congruence with his ‘townspeople’: Simeon Devins, Robert Grubb, Reaman Castator, or the anonymous Clairvoyant who says:
There are many things that men have to learn,/but they go on earning their living, my living is already learned right here/rocking in my night chair,/seeing the dark side of the moon.
No matter how detailed the flow of information needed by the historical narrative, Hutchman inevitably heightens the tension of drama in the ending lines of a poem:
Grand Trunk is building a railway through Weston
and my father’s company in due course will be bankrupt.
I am Robert, his eccentric son.
I write my poems on the margins of his life.
No matter how homely its warp and weft, Hutchman’s canvas is shot through with lines that twinkle into memory:
“…their tractors navigating the warm sea of wheat.”
“…that nameless farmer/like an old god guarding the hilltop.”
“then we headed home/with chestnuts ripening in our pockets.”
“socks hanging on branches like dead birds.”
“a museum with wires, railway ties/ and road stitch the world together.”
“I can imagine flour rising through the moonlight/as the massive Lawder borthers heave/the barrels into the waiting wagon….”
“He was the world’s greatest storyteller./You only believed a quarter of what he told you.”
The ‘storyteller’ in this last quote is one Major ‘Lex’ MacKenzie: his name inspired me to characterize the start of this essay by the military term ‘boots-on-the-ground’ because I travel a highway, named after him, because he was wounded at Vimy Ridge, where he picked up a rifle and shot the sniper who had just killed his friend, and because his name comes up in a conversation between Hutchman and his friend Jean who recalls that his uncle’s brother ‘Lex’ once “delivered goods for the Wallace brothers/driving the wagon early mornings down Albion Road” (another highway I regularly travel). What is personal for Hutchman easily becomes personal for me because I lived for many years up his way. What is mysterious, but somehow easy to understand, is how what is personal about his time in Toronto becomes personal for me about my times around the ‘Main’ in Montreal and in farmland south-east of the Laurentians.
‘Boots on the ground’ is how Hutchman moves through the territory of Emery, past and present, retracing the footsteps of his younger selves, and the footsteps of the women and men who lived in Emery, who moved through hockey and baseball games, followed funeral processions, marched in wars, gave their names to local developments, or like Elizabeth Arden, to the world. Two Maps of Emery, “a poem containing history”, is an epic poem, in which people and places in the minds of children grow to mythical status equal if not higher than the heros of their day: Bobby Curtola, Frank Mahovlich, Gina Lolobrigida, Victor Borge, Bliss Carman, Ian Fleming, Llyod Bridges, Bob Macadory, Doctor Seuss, Mussorgsky, Don Messer, Les Plouffes, Rimbaud, De Gaulle, Valery Brumel, Commader Brock, Roddy McCorley.
The name Roddy McCorley brings to mind Irish song, and that links me to poems with lists of famous names in them that, like Two Maps of Emery, also commemorate what was remarkable in people familiar to the poet, and that link leads to Yeat’s Easter, 1916. I do not compare the ‘terrible beauty’ of Yeats’ short poem etched in acid with the epic canvas of Hutchman’s book made with a softer tool. However, the coincidence of both poems lead me to this speculation: how much does Emery, a very homegrown Canadian book that deserves to be celebrated for being just that, owe to the root of Hutchman’s genius whose seed and early growth was in Northern Ireland? I offer this speculation about the synergy of immigrants and homeland as timely during our present era when voters and, heaven forbid, military forces, are looking to put boots on the ground.
Laurence Hutchman. Two Maps of Emery. Black Moss Press. 96 pages. 2016.
Danforth Music Hall
1. Steppin’ Lightly
2. Inside Outside Woman Blues
3. Lola, Leave Your Light On
4. Child Of The Earth
5. When The World Gets Small
6. Brighter Days >
7. Like Flies
8. Flip Wilson
9. Thorazine Shuffle
1. Slackjaw Jezebel
2. I Think You Know What I Mean > When The Levee Breaks > I Think You Know What I Mean
3. Funny Little Tragedy
4. Scared To Live >
6. Birth Of The Mule
7. Soulshine >
8. Mule > You Need Love > Whole Lotta Love > Mule *
9. 30 Days In The Hole
10. Gonna Send You Back To Georgia
*w/ Superstition & What Is Hip? teases
The NEW DEAL / DrFAMEUS w Clay Parnell and guest Dustin Stern, LEE”S PALACE, Toronto ON, 2016-10-22, Photos © Eric Fefferman