Three poets and a CD
I've been reading A Tall, Serious Girl - George Stanley's selected poems from 1957 until 2000, published by Qua Books in 2003. This poet was brought to my attention only early last year by Australian poet Michael Farrell. The title of this book is from George Stanley's beautiful poem Veracruz - 'I wish my father had, like Tiresias, changed himself into a woman,/& that he had been impregnated by my uncle, & given birth to me as a girl./I wish that I had grown up in San Francisco as a girl,/a tall, serious girl'. George Stanley was born and raised in San Francisco where, in the sixties, he was part of the San Francisco Renaissance which included Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer. He moved to Vancouver in the seventies where he became associated with New Star Press, and The Grape (an underground newspaper). He has been active in Canadian politics, unions and alternative media. Two other books are Gentle Northern Summer (New Star, 1995) and At Andy's (New Star, 2000). A Tall Serious Girl has an interesting detail - the text of the poems marks his move from the USA to Canada via a change in spelling. His poems are proof that a straightforward approach can accommodate a sense of mystery. George Stanley lives and works as an English teacher in Vancouver.
Here is one of his descriptive poems that I like -
Poem Enclosing Its Dedications
& now I'm looking at someone
in a t-shirt, who comes out of the shade
of his apartment & wags his fingers, briefly,
against the steel frame of his glass door
so they flash white, in the sun.
The sun makes the apartment building opposite
reflect the light, off its paint,
Two trolley poles skim past (the top halves).
The wires sway
for Judith Copithorne & Daniel Ignas
The hemlocks or firs or whatever move slightly
in the breeze
for Renee Rodin
Another man in a t-shirt gets out of a grey car
(I don't know the names of things -
trees, makes of cars).
The blue sky says nothing,
but what would you expect it to say -
do you think that behind it there are wheels ?
A man with a yellow shirt & a
yellow cap. A blue truck. If I don't know
him by name why should I know the truck's
for Barbara Munk
A lyric poem.
A man in a brown vest & a t-shirt
carrying a plastic Safeway bag.
The traffic signal sways.
The blue sky means the sun
is warming Vancouver.
this one going west, to Dunbar or UBC,
so I can see the full length of the poles.
Maroon car. Man in blue jeans & grey
sweatshirt & black helmet on a bike. Another
guy on a bike. Woman with raspberry red coat
walks up old concrete steps with a Safeway
Cherry red. Wild cherry.
Four people, one pushing a bike.
Green sweat, white helmet.
Man sits at desk, looks out window at
cream-coloured apartment building, parked cars,
conifers he doesn't know the name of, only
they're conifers cause he can remember them
greenblack in winter - at trolley wires &
thicker black (hydro?) cable, sometimes birds
sit on, crows, pigeons -
old '20s 2-storey gable-roofed house on
Trafalgar, Avalon milk truck, blue
sign of Westside Ski & pink sign of
& blue sky all behind this. Sky blue.
Sits writing poem. Wowowowow of ambulance.
Stops writing. Poem goes on, world goes on.
Stan Persky writes - 'Sometime around the beginning of the new millenium, the poet George Stanley half-jokingly invented the idea of 'aboutism.' Among other things, aboutism proposes that a poem is or should be, after all, about something, as contrasted to the contemporary poetries of linguistic abstractionism or anecdotal significances framed in verse. In his book At Andy's Stanley's poems are described (in a back cover blurb) as being 'about movies, ballparks, hockey, dogs, sex, aging, trips to Calgary and Veracruz, Ireland and Scotland, his return to Terrace, British Columbia, where he lived for fifteen years...' You can continue reading this piece.
Barry McKinnon interviews George Stanley.
Listen to George Stanley reading.
In the past week I also read a couple of chapbooks on my early morning trips across town to my job. One that has a direct quality similar to George Stanley, is Cassie Lewis's Bridges.
This is a long prose-poem. It was published by Ralph Wessman's Walleah Press in Hobart, Tasmania. Cassie is an Australian poet who has been living in the USA (currently in Rochester, NY) for some years now. The poems in Bridges calmly consider the small wonders of the quotidian that comprise the challenge of relocation - from country to country and from west to east. Here's an extract -
I wake up slowly as I gather the tea things.
A body stirs, a small tin cooking pot on a gas flame. Outline
of an arm against a flickering curtain, yellow linen. Rolling
my body under the curtain's yellow gauze. Is it morning ?
Then I sleep.
Light crawls across the campsite. Is this still my dream ? I
shadow myself like a tree. I crouch down wrapped in
Soft eyes fluttering against cotton. It is beautiful to know
such textures: linen, eiderdown. The luxury of piled up
leaves to pee on.
'If you stay here any longer you'll become a mystic.' Ha ha.
I smoke an imaginary pipe as a witty gesture against this.
No one laughs.
I turn to bake in the sun of my own volition.
* * *
Cassie Lewis has several other publications and she keeps a blog.
Tim Thorne's chapbook Best Bitter was produced by Chris Mansell's PressPress which has published, from Berry, in regional New South Wales, a number of great pocket-sized chapbooks. Tim lives in Launceston, in northern Tasmania. His cover blurb says he is 'a force in Tasmanian poetry and an icon of Australian poetry'. True. For many years Tim Thorne co-ordinated a legendary annual poetry festival in Launcestion that eventually grew into a showcase for contemporary Australian dance as well as poetry. His writing is always gritty, witty and trenchant. He is definitely opposed to the war in Iraq. Here's one of nine poems grouped as Mesopotamian Suite -
Fallujah Face-Off, April 2004
Scared teenagers steal hubcaps
off the war machine and know
only religion and danger.
There hasn't been time to learn
the history of last year's war,
let alone of this year's peace.
They cannot trust their officers
but they can be sure of Allah and of pain.
Across the two-lane blacktop
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears
stand wide-eyed in battle fatigues
on a flat desert page from an atlas
they never opened. The flag and the music
provide the substance of their faith.
Their weapons are heavy but they get
regular e-mails from their pastors.
Alongside the road runs a pipeline
full of thick, black democracy
at $40 a barrel. It is oblivious,
having been dead for millions of years.
While I've been typing up today's blog I've had Model by Ukrainian electropop group fotomoto rocketing along on the CD deck. I love all nine minutes of the pacy track Les Nuits Georgiennes
FOTOMOTO are (from left to right): Sergey Sergeyev instruments; Anton Singurov instruments;Olya Volodina vocals; Alexander Ivanov programming.