what could be more fitting to mark National Poetry Month than to examine and celebrate what will soon be (June, 2003) five years of blogging on poetry and poetics (& many other things, but i’m focussing on poetry) by rob mclennan.
as a newcomer to the study of contemporary poetry, i am always searching for a key and a way in to it, for mentors and influences, for references to poetry and technique, to works that might help me understand and poetry that might inspire me to write myself.
this is where rob comes in and most notably his blog. over the years his blog has jumpstarted my own investigations into poetry and added to my body of knowledge.
one of my favourite things about rob’s blog is the way he describes how reading of other’s inspires and influences his own writing, the way he provides information about his own poetic. it’s not surprising that rob also gives workshops; even here in his blog, like a good math student, he shows his work, the steps he takes, the questions that he has
another of my favourite things...his attention to writers who are publishing “below the radar” as he refers to it, people who have had poetry published in chapbooks or in journals, or first trade collections, but are not Atwood or Ondaatje.
poets i’ve discovered through reading rob’s blog include Lisa Jarnot, Nathalie Stephens, Lisa Robertson, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Nicole Brossard, Dennis Cooley, Artie Gold, Juliana Spahr, Fred Wah, Joshua Marie Wilkinson...to name only a few.
i like the way rob revisits writers’ works when a new publication comes out, compares and contrasts, traces the evolution and influences.
here’s a puddle hop thru his blog. no links included...go and discover.
musings on the work of George Bowering, the role of the familiar and the unfamiliar, calling Bowering a troublemaker and a trickster
a self interview in response to those who critique him for “publishing too much”, the reminder that he is not the first to publish at this rate
place and geography in poetry, particularly prairie poetry
the concrete poetry of Derek Beaulieu, Gary Barwin, Jesse Ferguson
a here and there history of former small presses, such as ga press out of Montreal in the 90s
the careers of writers with reviews not only of books, but of chapbooks, such as Karen Solie’s The Shooter’s Bible (Junction Books, 2004), Monty Reid--from “Fridays” (Sidereal, 1979) to the upcoming Luskville Reductions (Brick Books, 2008), first collections such as Mark Truscott’s “Said Like Reeds or Things” (Coach House, 2004), the return of Ottawa poet William Hawkins to publishing with Dancing Alone, Selected Poems (Broken Jaw Press / cauldron books, 2005)
the role of accident in poems, a mention of Fred Wah’s thinking of poetry as a drunken tai chi
descriptions and mentions of the activities of various reading series, such as Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series or the Olive Reading Series in Edmonton, the Belladonna /Chapbook reading series in New York
various poetic techniques such as the use of fragments as in American poet Lisa Samuels’ work, the North American version of the ghazal by John Thompson and others, including Cole Swensen, discussions of line lengths and spacing in poetry by Margaret Christakos, Sylva Legris, Rachel Zucker, new or rejuvenated techniques such as Gregory Bett’s Plunderverse, Victor Coleman’s Oulipo Lipograms, ecopoetics, the contemporary sonnet by Ted Berrigan, Geoffrey Young, the prose poem as something that seems to be more prevalent in the US than in Canada, the accumulation and the fragment
musings and considerations of his own poetics, the book vs the individual poem as a unit
discussions of the work of poets who’ve died such as Robert Allen, Margaret Avison, Robert Creely, Irving Layton, Riley Tench and Diana Brebner
discussions of both the birth, history and death of journals and presses, such as Queen Street Quarterly, the rebirth of imprints such as blewointment press, Matrix Magazine, which was founded in 1975, Brick, a literary journal, the Capilano Review, Conundrum Press’ 10th anniversary in 2006, greenboathouse books, which has become greenboathouse press, Raymond Souster’s Contact Press, the twenty fifth anniversary of Véhicule Press, the founding of Turnstone Press, the re-invigoration of Nightwood Editions, West Coast Line, Arc Magazine
various descriptions of rob’s tours & the hijinks he gets up to, the absence of info sometimes as intriguing or more of what he writes about...in Canada, the US, Britain, his sojourn in Edmonton, the various people he meets, their writing, the readings he attends, the books and chapbooks and broadsheets they hand him and those he reciprocates with or vice versa (that reference years ago in the paper of rob as a poetic version of Johnny Appleseed, now he’s also the online version of such)
reviews and discussions of books about poetry, such as “poets’ talk conversations with Robert Kroetsch, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Mouré, Dionne Brand, Marie Annharte Baker, Jeff Derksen and Fred Wah by Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy” and books of essays, such as the Guernica Writers Series, biographies and essays such as Richard Brautigan: Essays on the Writings and Life, edited by John F. Barber and Don McKay: Essays on His Works (Toronto ON: Guernica Editions, 2006), edited by Brian Bartlett, A Ragged Pen: Essays on Poetry & Memory (Gaspereau Press, 2006), Robert Bringhurst's The Tree of Meaning: Thirteen Talks, the Laurier Press Poetry Series, The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser (2006), Phyllis Webb and the Common Good: Poetry / Anarchy / Abstraction by Stephen Collis
all kinds of interviews, especially lately with his excellent 12 or 20 questions series. it’s interesting to look for instance at his interview with Jay MillAr back in March, 2005 and then look at his 12 or 20 questions interview in November, 2007
an overview of the various cities that allow poetry to be posted on their public transporation, such as poetry in motion in Montreal, Ottawa’s own Transpoetry # 1 and #2
the various writing communities and schools, such as Calgary, BC’s Kootenay School of Writing, the second generation of New York poets, such as Alice Notely
discussion of the works of local poets such as Stephen Brockwell, sound and visual poet, and publisher jwcurry, Nicholas Lea, Sandra Ridley, Rhonda Douglas, Shane Rhodes
anthologies such as Sina Queyras, ed., Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets
(2005, Persea Books), Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2005), and the history of anthologies of Canadian poetry, including such works as Al Purdy's Storm Warning: The New Canadian Poets (1971), Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier's Breathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets (1996) and Breathing Fire 2: Canada's New Poets (2004), Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets, eds. John Barton and Billeh Nickerson (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007), A/Cross Sections: New Manitoba Writing, eds. Katherine Bitney and Andris Taskans
the poetic genealogies of writers, the works of others influencing their works
events such as the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Ottawa Small Press Fair, bill bisset at jwcurry’s hit n run lecture series, the Wave Books poetry bus tour in 2006
upcoming readings, book signings, contests, new publishers
the blogs of other writers and great websites like ubuweb, great online magazines like Jacket.
the tracing of themes thru the works of various poetry, like the theme of sleep in the work of Anne Carson, a. rawlings
the notion of poetry translation from one language to another or within one language
collaborations between poets, such as Douglas Barbour and Sheila E. Murphy
the untitled poem
poetry books that still linger long after they are published, such as The Night the Dog Smiled, John Newlove, 1986, ECW Press: Toronto ON
the notion of the edit or even the poem as a lie
open letters encouraging the support and promotion of the arts in Ottawa
musings on why to write
rob has written so much in five years of blogging and that’s not even looking at other blogs like the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter. it’s been an impressive, informative and inspiring almost five years. what i’ve talked about doesn’t in any way do justice to this massive body of work which contributes to our interest and learning about contemporary poetry...i’m very much looking forward to more.