amongst books

amongst books

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nathalie Stephens

I've read a bit of Nathalie Stephens' work before, notably in the recent Breathing Fire II. She's been on my list of writers to read for awhile, ever since I read her poetic statement in side/lines (more on that below). I haven't bought any of her full collections yet, but ran across a small pamphlet of her stuff put out by Belladonna, a women's reading series that takes place in New York. "You But For The Body Fell Against" is a selection of Stephens' writing and perhaps not a bad way to be introduced if you've never read her. Just listen to the rhythm of this excerpt:

"Touch what is left of leaving.

Lift the torn edge of sleep and swallow what is missing. The river spills we weaken. The bedsheet tears we are naked. The lines of glass score our soft palms there is little left of meaning. Not the cold ground. Nor this shameless idolatry. We speak. We are spoken. The call hollows the heart stalls the wild summons.

Come for me."

Nathalie Stephens writes in both English and French, which is one of the things that interests me about her writing. She's also known for disregarding genre concerns, something else that is appealing. A couple of things she says in side/lines (not doing it justice to reproduce these small bites, it's a book I recommend for all aspiring poets who want to get some insight into poets' thoughts on the writing process):

"Poetry is inscription. 'I was here.' Blunt knife cutting into wood skin earth and no blood to show for it."

"A poem is a thig of danger. A meeting place. A refusal. A cry. What reaches the reader is the echo. Of words moving through time-space..."

I've recently been on a reading odysey to read a lot of women's writing, especially the more experimental kind. Something about looking for mentors and / or helping me to find my own voice, but I have to go back very far (Livesay, Webb, Marlatt etc) because I wasn't introduced to any of this kind of writing in school and didn't really learn much about it until the past few years, at readings like Poetry 101, now the Factory Reading Series or at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

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