Last night at Arts Court, Ottawa’s literary dynamic duo, Jennifer Mulligan and rob mclennan leaped from a tall funding chasm and battled fiendish foes of culture to bring us Decaloque: ten Ottawa poets, the latest work published by Chaudière Books.
Our capeless crusaders freed ten writers from the fortress of solitude for a provocative and thoughtful evening of some of Ottawa’s finest and oft undiscovered literary talent.
Some of the most memorable bits of the evening for me were …
Shane Rhodes, whose poem “To Elizabeth Bishop” with its repetitions, accumulations and wordplay is just the right thing to entertain a crowd. Rhodes blends wit, humour and precise language adeptly.
Monty Reid, whose writing is brilliant and touching at the same time. His poem “For A New Kitchen” with these lines “There is always a space//where the new world wants/to be made…” His series “Some Little Songs”—how can a poem be so memorable and so minimal at the same time? His voice too…resonant, melifluous and damn sexy. One of the highlights of the reading for me.
Max Middle, first with his meandering opening about whether or not poets are just writing and reading for one another. Yes, Max makes you think and then he bounces off into wondrous wordplay and if you listen carefully, he’ll still make you think…”beauty can be found / b being still.”
rob mclennan whose poems manage to be distant and passionate all at the same time: “the fucker who stole my bicycle.”
Una McDonnell, ah Una McDonnell’s poetry is a find, a discovery, a jewel. I couldn’t believe how beautiful her language was and the movement within those poems she read was just so slidy perfect. The poem “Grieving Knife” is an excellent example of the power of understated language and the strength of a good line break. This poem was so lonely. I felt every movement. Exquisite. Before this, I had read some of the poems in Decalogue in Ottawater 2.0 and another of her poems from Written in the Skin: A Poetic Response to Aids (Insomniac Press, 1998). I'd love to have a collection of her poems to read and linger over.
Michelle Desbarats is always wonderful to listen to. Her writing is more whimsical than any other local writers, makes me think a bit of Robert Priest’s poems. “Saturday Morning Reentry” with the lines “but some wake too soon for / a Saturday morning and find the blue stuff / still below them”…the image lingers. Desbarats has this breathless way with line breaks that quickens the pace of her poems and makes for a compelling read. I’d love to see her try her hand at a book of kids’ poems.
I should say more about the others, who were also wonderful, but you’ll have to buy the book to find out. Stay tuned for another episode of Super-rob and Wonder-Jen as they unleash their publishing superpowers on a world desperate for good writing and good logs. And what will Lex Luthor do?
[A side note: this is my favourite of Chaudière Books' designs so far. I love the bold and comiclike cover artwork by Bhat Boy, the larger print poems (old eyes, alas) and the overall design. I congratulate the publishing house on its hard work. Shows you what talent, hard work and dedication can do.]