Before the reading, they graciously stopped by my undergraduate course on contemporary poetry and discussed their poetics with the students. The course focuses on British, Irish and Scottish poets, but they each lent a welcome Canadian presence to the class, giving the practice of writing an articulate immediacy that was both inspiring and provocative. Natalie Simpson spoke about the impact of Gertrude Stein and Lisa Robertson on her work, and described her own technique as associative and extemporaneous, building poems from sonic and phonemic echoes within and around text. Jonathan Ball talked about his interest in horror writing, and suggested that poems can act as trauma generators, pushing both readers and himself into new and surprising aesthetic relationships with language and with image. He said that he conceived of poems not as individual lyrics – he confessed to abandoning the lyric some years earlier – but as larger-scale sequences or books.
At the reading, later, Jonathan Ball went first. He read from his collections Clockfire, Ex Machina and The Politics of Knives. “I noticed,” he said between poems, “I tend to use knives a lot.” He likes the idea of a poem as something that should cut you, engage you, to produce some kind of “ontological uncertainty.” He talked about the poem providing source-matter for, and also consisting in, the re-mix. And he suggested that poetry often inheres in moments of the loss of direction.
Natalie Simpson read poems from Thrum, her collection forthcoming in April from Talonbooks. “Language,” she said, “is a likely state,” pointing up an aural and syntactic mesh in her work that seem to consist in sets of strange attractors. “Our form,” one of her poems declares, “is buffeted.” Her poems entangle listeners in a kind of attentively close sidewinding, a careful distraction. We find ourselves, as another of her lines has it, “adrift in plainsong tasked with swim.” At least, that’s how I heard it.
Thanks to both poets for a terrific reading. And thanks to Green College for their ongoing support for this series.
This is an audio capture of a reading last night (Wednesday, 15 January 2014) by Catriona Strang and Christine Stewart at Green College at the University of British Columbia, as part of the Play Chthonics: New Canadian Readingsseries. There were a few minor tech problems with the recorder, so the beginning minutes of their reading were unfortunately lost; the recording fades in with Christine Stewart reading from a collaborative piece written for the Institute for Domestic Research, which presents their shared poetic methodology (I think it’s called “aleatoric alchemy” at one point in the text) for collective, collaborative research practice. The piece finishes with a declaration of openness – “We do not come to terms. We abound.” – that signals a key shared interest in practices of listening. Christine Stewart suggests at one point that listening might be understood as a way of reading, or of being read, and Catriona Strang’s poems consistently inclined toward loving intensifications of attention, toward keeping things open: “Imagine,” she writes to Proust in Corked (her forthcoming book from Talonbooks), “all my conclusions are tentative.” Christine Stewart read from Virtualis, her collaboration with David Dowker published by BookThug in the spring of 2013. She also read from a text on Paul – joined by another collaborator, Ted Byrne, who happened to be in the audience – and she and Catriona Strang traded poems, reading each other’s work, to conclude the reading itself. On the recording, the reading is followed by an extended conversation with members of the audience about their poetics.
Sincere thanks to Green College, UBC for their ongoing and generous support of this reading series. Copyright for the recordings remains with the artists.
|I am keen to introduce the poets: photo by Ryan Fitzpatrick
|Daniel Zomparelli and David McGimpsey read at Green College yesterday, as the third pairing in this year’s series of Play Chthonics: New Canadian Readings at the University of British Columbia. Here is an audio capture of the reading, which includes their responses to questions after the reading. Daniel read new work from his iPad, including a poem about Kimmy Gibbler that he had written that day, dedicated, he said, to David McGimpsey. McGimpsey read from his recent collections: Li’l Bastard (2012), which he describes as a sequence of “chubby sonnets,“ and Sitcom (2007), some of which he noted involved re-casting text from Timon of Athens. Both poets engaged in their own versions of what I think is a kind of pop-culture code-switching, coaxing and inverting lyric from pulverized mass media language and image flows. Zomparelli read a pair of poetic synopses of gay porn films. His poems and McGimpsey’s play with the ways in which, as viewers, we’re alienated from experience by screen or headset and, as participants, we’re thoroughly immersed in and seduced by the variegated and empty textures of spectacle, of hubbub: “That Taylor Swift song is not about you,” McGimpsey writes in sonnet 11, “David McGimpsey likes – then unlikes – this.” The reflexive play, the give and take of mass culture that interpellates us (making us feel as if a song were about you, were calling you) even as it refuses us any shared humanity, informs McGimpsey’s poetics, and lends them something of a pathos of misrecognition: “I tried / to recall lyrics to a pop song once loved.” An “I” – like a dropped syllable – feels as if it’s missing from that last line, which is already metrically slightly ungainly, one syllable over its normal count: a spectre of subjectivity, of a self that wants to call itself into existence amid the tangle and meshes of discourse swirling from phones and pads and pods; but trying is not recalling, and recalling is not reanimating. Words, for both of these poets, seem to act as placeholders, markers of wanting, of what – remaindered and unrealized – might still despite everything get to be called human love.
Sincere thanks to Green College for their ongoing and generous support of this reading series, and to the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice research initiative for helping to sustain the series this year. Copyright for this work remains with the artists.