amongst books

amongst books

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Michael e. Casteels – solar-powered light bulb and the lake’s achy tooth (Apt. 9 Press, 2015)

Beautifully designed by Cameron Anstee, this chapbook is a combination of concrete and lexical poems. Form is intrinsic to each of the poems as part of their content. 80 copies were created in a limited and numbered edition. I got number 53. The chapbook contains 30 poems on individual sheets. The poems were typed on a typewriter. I’m presuming a manual typewriter.

William Carlos Williams said that “a poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words.” That’s the first thing I thought of when I read these poems. They are tiny economical machines with nothing redundant or wasted.

What I love about them and what will make me return to them is their elegance and their shape. White space and the shape taken up by each poem is part of the beauty of this chapbook. The poem “night scene” is the word “owl” spread out on the page with the o in the blank sky-like space and the wl crouched in a corner. “night scene 2” adds an h to make the word “howl.”

There is humour and word play, a different way of looking at the world. The poem “full moon,” for example, is “light bulb tulip” and the title is also illustrative of this uniqueness.

The poems are inspired and influenced by Canada’s great minimalist poet, Nelson Ball, with other influences and inspirations, such as Dom Sylvester Houédard--and by association, Basho--and Stuart Mills.

The untitled suite of poems evokes Geof Huth’s one-word poems or pwoermd. As Geof says to Gary Barwin in his Jacket2 interview, “the pwoermd is made for the hyperliterate, for those so deep within the word that they have forgotten the sense of words except abstractly, for those sensitive to the meaning of a serif (and it is there), for those sensitive to not only the sound but also the sight of the word. For those who can smell the size and weight of a word with their eyes closed.”

When I read the poems in this chapbook, that’s exactly what it feels like: being deep within the word. I can still see these poems with my eyes closed. I feel that the author of these poems is a great listener and a watcher of the world, attentive to its small details, the ones that most people generally miss. There is a stillness to the poems and it is reflected in the design.

Michael e. Casteels is doing great things with his own work and with Puddles of Sky Press and Cameron Anstee is doing great things with his own work and with Apt. 9 Press. The pairing of these two poets/publishers in the making of this chapbook is genius and lovely. I hope they collaborate on more work in the future.


I hope Cameron won’t mind that I stole the photo of the chapbook cover from the Apt. 9 Press blog. My photos of same were abysmal.

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