Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vancouver - The City Series: Number One - Michael Prior, Editor (Frog Hollow Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Vancouver - The City Series: Number One.  Michael Prior, Editor.  Shane Neilson, Series Editor.  Frog Hollow Press.  Victoria, British Columbia.  2015.

Today's book of poetry rarely looks at anthologies but there are exceptions to every rule and anything that comes through our door from the esteemed Frog Hollow Press is going to get a serious look. Good thing.

Vancouver - The City Series: Number One is the start of a very excellent idea.

Here's what Shane Neilson has to say:

     Frog Hollow Press aims to publish a series of chapbooks which are edited
     by an emerging poet from a Canadian city. This poet will curate 10 other
     poets from their hometown. Each of these poets are provided two pages of
     stage. The poets will not have been published in chapbook or trade book
     forms at the time of our selection process, and their poems are meant to
     reflect the city they live in.


The soles of my feet brown and hard from blisters
earned chasing sunlight patches under cedar cathedral

canopies. I squeezed loam and clutched seeds between
my toes to lay roots everywhere I walked and crowned

myself queen with vines and leaves. This was my
kingdom, promises tucked under lichen, my name pressed

into knotholes. Sun-baked blackberries crushed inside my
mouth. I was always careful to avoid thorns but

my fingers still stained red. My lips still stained red. I wore a
yellow dress so in the late afternoons, landscape turned to

gold. Uncle Jack could see me flickering between trees as
he sat on the patio, vanilla pipe smoke calling me back. "You're

lucky," he said, "There used to be bears here. Big ones. They
used to come right up to the house asking to come in. You're

lucky they're gone now. They're all gone." And when the cold air
curled against me I wrapped myself in quilts and cricket

lullabies, sat under a shimmering river, and drew pictures in
the pin-holed darkness. I don't remember going to sleep back

then, only waking up. No one recognized me when I returned
home. I had to relearn how to tie my shoelaces. The freckles on

my shoulders faded but I kept the yellow dress. It doesn't fit
anymore but sometimes I bring it to my face and it smells of smoke

and ivy. Sometimes I grab handfuls of soil, handfuls of sun. I still
catch myself putting clover behind my ears, humming old

songs from far away. Sometimes my reflection looks more bear
than woman and I think: Oh, so that's where they went.



Now that is the way to announce your entry into Canadian letters with authority.  Emily Chou's "Brauron" is a delight.  It is vibrant, clever and full of immense promise.  Marian Engel will love this poem, I think.  We certainly did here at Today's book of poetry.

There are ten interesting reasons to like this chapbook and to feel very hopeful about future editions, Michael Prior has done good work in rounding up these young pros.

Take Megan Jones as another example.  "The Skydiver" is one sublime piece of work.

The Skydiver
              after "untitled" by Chad P Murray

In the unfinished painting,
a man in a red suit
floats above white
clouds, frayed bits
of cotton. The skydiver looks
down onto green-gold fields furrowed
in two by an indigo line.

A bright flame, his body licks
the divide. With arms outstretched
he meets the air--hard, brittle, one million
doors slamming
in a vortex--but the painter hides
in the lee of the easel, making it
look easy. And our bodies
become buoyant, too.

Half the painting is sky, after all.

We look to the diver
for how we should feel:
but his face is all beige
a brushstroke, a question mark.

Green-fields darken where
clouds hunch, still as stunned
rabbits. Will he pull
the cord, releasing the parachute?

The unfinished painting leans
against metal table legs.
The lines of the poem lean
away from the poet: how can language

trick itself out of the plane, and what plummets, there:
the flaming question mark;
the blank sky;
the painter
who pauses to take a photo.
Later, he'll text it to his mother; she will be at Costco.
She will be buying him a bike helmet.


Vancouver - The City Series: Number One is a great start to what Today's book of poetry hopes will be a series with as many volumes as we have Canadian cities.  If Today's book of poetry has learned anything from this blog - it is that there is a lot more good poetry out there than anyone realizes. Shane Neilson and the good folks at Frog Hollow Press aim to tap from the source with this smart series and we couldn't be more pleased.

The Man Who Took Photos of Windows
           for Fred Herzog

In one, a life is laid out in the form of watches and fishing tackle, a dented trumpet,
a Coleman stove, a trio of medals from World War II. It was taken
in 1957, in a city that isn't there anymore, even if some of the windows are,
like the one where a woman stands in an open aperture of floral drapes,
the words "Bargain Shop" above her, and behind her nothing at all. It's easy to see
why he took them: the windows were already photos, frame and all,
though no one else noticed at the time. There's one

where a cedar box is being torn up for concrete forms, and another
where a fifty cent top has just begun to spin--it later became a Kodachrome tornado
that rolled down Granville Street, sucking up cigarette butts and bits
of bloody tissue paper. When he took a photo of his West End room, it showed
the window, toothbrush and safety razor on the sill, the same
razor as the man in the window of a Main Street diner, whose features
are blurred but whose fear is there as plain as the words on a menu.



That little ditty was one of two excellent poems Shaun Robinson has in this slim little monster. Michael Prior has done some good work in finding these ten unknown, unpublished poets.

Emily Chou  -  Emily Davidson
Ruth Daniell  -  Sugar Le Fae
Megan Jones  -  Darius Kinney
Alessandra Naccarato  -  Shazia Hafiz Ramji
Laura Ritland  -  Shaun Robinson

Sugar Le Fae's "West Coast Winter, a triptych" was a poem I simply adored - but Milo reminded me about our three poem ceiling.

Today's office reading was particularly spirited.  No guests today but the first snow of the season is upon us and I think it has unglued my staff.  I lashed them back to work with my pointed and soul-withering tongue.  They are all off in their corners mumbling mutiny.

I will ply them with sweets later.

Today's book of poetry can only look forward to Number Two, Number Three and so on, of this series.  Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Saint John, St. John's and so on.

Emily Chou is a second-generation Vancouverite who keeps her chin up but still has difficulty seeing over crowds. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper, Room and Lemon Hound. If she's not making comics, writing poems, or attempting a novel (isn't everyone?), she is probably watching dumb cartoons and blathering on about fairy tales.

Megan Jones grew up in small towns on Vancouver Island before moving to Vancouver, where she writes poetry and works in book publishing. Her work has appeared in Lemonhound and Poetry Is Dead Magazine. She is currently working on her first book of poems.

Shaun Robinson was born in 100 Mile House, British Columbia, and currently lives in Vancouver. His poems have appeared in Fugue, lichen and Versal. He will begin his MFA in Creative Writing at UBC this fall.

Michael Prior's poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in publications such as Canadian Notes and Queries, Carousel, DIAGRAM (USA), The Collagist (USA), Cv2, The Fiddlehead, Fjords Review (USA), Geist, Grain,Lemon Hound, Magma (UK), The Malahat Review, Moth Magazine (IRL), Prism International, Ricepaper Magazine, The New Quarterly, This Magazine, Tin House Online (USA) , Qwerty, Vallum, and The Walrus.

Michael was the recipient of Matrix Magazine‘s 2015 Lit POP Award for Poetry, The Walrus‘s 2014 Poetry Prize, Grain Magazine‘s 2014 Short Grain Prize, Vallum Magazine‘s 2013 Poetry Prize, and Magma Poetry‘s 2013 Editors’ Prize. He received runner-up in The Antigonish Review‘s 2014 Great Blue Heron Poetry Prize and The New Quarterly‘s 2014 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest.

Michael’s first chapbook, Swan Dive, was published by Frog Hollow Press in late 2014. His first full-length collection, Model Disciple, will be published by VĂ©hicule Press’s Signal Editions in 2016. Michael holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto and will be starting an MFA in poetry at Cornell University in Fall 2015.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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