Tuesday 25 October 2016

"Festival of Readers" derek beaulieu

Last week Flat Singles printed a visual poem by derek beaulieu in an edition of 10, all made on old envelopes commemorating this year’s “Festival of Readers,” a three-day literary festival in St. Catharines which ran from 13-15 October 2016. The festival partnered with “The Concept of Vancouver” Two Days of Canada academic conference series, Niagara Artists Centre and the St. Catharines Public Library. According to beaulieu, the poem was “written @ the table, scanned in Calgary, printed in Toronto from introductions made @ the fest.”

Link to Flat Singles on derek beaulieu blog here:

photo credit: derek beaulieu | Calgary  AB |  2016

Another McCarthy Review (Flat Singles)

Review of VANCAL by Christopher McCarthy, Flat Singles Press, 2016.
By Brittni Brinn


We may think the cover of a book is a promise. In the case of Flat Singles’ Leddy Library series, however, you never know what you’re going to find inside. The recent chapbook in this series, VANCAL by Christopher McCarthy, is no different. “Everything you ever wanted to know about UWindsor’s main library,” the cover reads, accompanied by a full colour image of students enjoying a study break outside the Leddy Library. It’s a brochure you would expect to find at an information desk or in a campus Welcome Week package. It blends into the mundane comings and goings, it promises practical information. It shows us that poetry is an expert at camouflage, hiding in the everyday, just waiting to be discovered. It breaks our expectations and laughs with us as we realize our assumptions were incorrect. We may not get what the cover promised, but after the initial confusion we do experience a sense of satisfaction from sharing in this artistic joke.
VANCAL is concerned with language, specifically language having to do with city transit. McCarthy juxtaposes this everyday set of terms with traumatic wartime images. In the first poem, McCarthy compares a tattered bus transfer to a soldier who survived the war, clearly setting up this parallel that continues throughout the rest of the poems. Transit terms like at the front, report, and service migrate with startling ease to wartime. We learn in “Vice” that the poem is set in WWI, where Tom matter-of-factly dies over and over again.  Through this fresh approach, McCarthy startles us into thought about the implications of war by using everyday language usually associated with transit.
“90 minutes” especially evokes the experience of riding transit. Flashes of houses outside the window, things people are wearing, the printing on the thin paper bus transfer are impressions we can expect from an hour and a half bus ride. The speaker transitions into wordplay, breaking up “Calgary Transit” into character names “Cal” and “Gary.” The repetition of “Red” not only refers to Calgary Transit’s “Red Line” route, but also evokes bloody wartime scenes. Underneath the mundane yet intimate details of a Calgary bus ride is a societal memory of violence, tying the present to a past war. McCarthy combines two separate columns on the transfer to create “700 conditions… 600 Route schedules/ 500 Route maps/ 400 Service announcements.” These read as an overview of a soldier’s wartime experience: a numerical collection of drills, journeys, and rules that once added up are overwhelming. All of these numbers represent potential traumas experienced by a soldier, whether physical, emotional, or psychological.
In the last poem, the term alive & well appears. Not clearly associated with transit, we can assume that this term breaks through language to the other side of an experience, whether it’s riding a bus or going through a war. After their transfer runs out and they fail to find an alternate form of transportation, the speaker, not a usual transit taker, finds themselves a survivor of the Red Line, faced with another scene connected to war:
The workers lying in the shade evoke soldiers side by side in a trench; it also reminds us of corpses laid out after a battle, or rows of graves. The intimacy of these bodies contrasts the loneliness of the speaker, who has been on a long journey and has not yet reached their goal. The depth reached by this simple scene demonstrates McCarthy’s ability to use the everyday to encapsulate complex personal responses to trauma.

McCarthy represents wartime experience through his breakdown of everyday language associated with transit. He effectively parallels elements of transit with the details of a soldier’s experience and by doing so presents a unique perspective on what it means to survive. Just like the misleading cover of the chapbook houses a work of poetry, McCarthy uses language associated with transit to consider the deeper implications of wartime experience and survival.

Monday 24 October 2016

Review of McCarthy (Flat Singles)

VANCAL, Christopher McCarthy, flat singles press, TorontoON., 2016. no price, paper.  

What I have here is a twelve page quick chapbook by a postcard writer, who also rides public transit in person and in spirit. No mention of postcards in this double stapled offering, though I know personally of his postal predilection.  This chapbook sounds more akin to automatic writing or stream of consciousness, in which one thought or event leads to another and another, and so forth. Even so, surprisingly it snags reality, or what should be reality, with its motion. The book’s pivot is on a found bus transfer “haggard & torn/ like it had gone through the war.” “Vice – Tom Cusses” begins as a blurry war poem – from the front lines a death – scratches its (the poem’s) head in incredulity (“numbers aren’t substitutes for words”), shifts to hey, “Here’s my bus” and finally transfers as a call and response.

This transfer                                                    You have survived
is valid                                                             your first experience
for the day only                                               survived
                                                                        the deception
                                                                        of bus transfers

Or, to put it another way: “for one day only/ you must live & die.” Once McCarthy gets rolling he becomes rhythmic. In “Calgary transit” he verily sings “Miss the bus/ Miss the cab/ Miss the show/ Miss the internet/ MR Lonely.” After that “062 rant transfer” sounds more like a chant than a rant, and “90 minutes” brings us back onboard: “Red sock/Red house//Red rock/ Red route.” This is fun writing devoid of preciousness and seriousness. It’s exactly what you’d want to read riding any city’s public transit.

Reviewed  bAndrew Vaisius, approximately 260 words. (Pictures below.)



Friday 7 October 2016

A Look 'Round - a/g REVIEW

Rev. of George Bowering’s That Toddlin’ Town / Baby, don’t ya wanna go?

                                                     by Joseph LaBine

     There is a baseball on the cover of George Bowering’s latest chapbook from above / ground press. The baseball is a new Chicago poem in six numbered parts. This little chap is delightful. It complements Bowering’s classic Baseball (1967), nearly fifty years after the fact, “The white sphere / turns, rolls / in dark space” still.

     The new poem, “That Toddlin’ Town / Baby, don’t ya wanna go,” is ‘set’ during May 4–9, 2016, at “Miller’s Pub”; the “Art Institute”; a bathroom in the “Palmer House” Hilton; then, down on “Wabash,” and to a game at “Wrigley,” before finally departing from “O’Hare.” All of these places are key sites in Chicago but they also form a ball’s trajectory, a parabolic sequence, or a long weekend stay. The poem is a trip down to Chicago but Bowering’s poetry emphasizes looking rather than anecdote. (Batters have to have a ‘good eye’.)

      Approached in this way, the language of “That Toddlin’ Town” seems less effervescent than its predecessor Baseball. It’s more perceptive, focused on closer observations, and bleak ones. Number “5.” begins with Bryce Harper in the ballpark before dropping down for closer introspection, line by line:

                        in a home run
                        park saturated
                        with fried onion smell.
                        His shoes
                        were pink for
                        mother’s day
                        against cancer,

                        not the Cubs.

 “That Toddlin’ Town” is also funny and playful, sharing in the humour of Bowering’s original ode to the game, but this time with a wondrous dose of crankiness:

                        What did they
intend in
naming the toilet
paper “Envision”?

We are all looking. This is the unifying theme. Bowering simply connects the act of looking with the imagination. The result is the crack of clean contact between the ball and—

                        Unless it or
                        the sky is
moving it can’t be
a skyscraper.

    Strong stanzas encouraging us to wonder, like this one, are tempered by commentary about “cheerless texters” trapped on Smartphones: “Most people / though are looking / downward at info / they might want.”

     Six small, three-stanza sections, six iconic locations, six days, all looking, making snark-comments, all implicitly dedicated to the start of baseball season, and it is a pleasure to read “That Toddlin’ Town” as a single poem at the end of baseball season.