Review of Christine Leclerc’s Oilywood on the Town Crier

It was a damn pleasure to review Christine Leclerc’s bpNichol award-winning Oilywood for the Town Crier as part of its Feb.-long look at politics in/and/of literature, “Different Ways of Seeing.”

Oilywood… operates like a cut-up filmstrip of biographical and autobiographical reflections on coastal life in BC’s Burrard Inlet. The action is prompted by increasingly public and dubiously legal tar sand/oil industry incursions into the region. Spliced into this film strip’s em-dash cuts are a ticker tape of oil giant Kinder Morgan’s news releases and a scattering of terse, italic interjections—“hear something,” “fish on rocks,” “who gets to belong here,” “shifting baseline.”

Over sixteen sections, a modest 1–3 pages each, the focus oscillates between reflection and news release, suggesting a tug-of-war between community and corporate discourse.

OilywoodBW

Read the full review at the Town Crier, but first, if you will, a few notes that didn’t make it into the review:

Partially based on interviews and workshops with Burrard Inlet residents, Oilywood salmon-leaps out of the overtly communal Canadian documentary poetry tradition (inaugurated by Dorothy Livesay’s Call My People Home) rather than an Anglo-American Romantic biographical docupoetics (Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Crane’s The Bridge).

Leclerc also comments slyly on an avant-garde digital docupoetics, exemplified by Kenneth Goldsmith’s manifesto Uncreative Writing. In positioning the writer as selector/collagist/curator of the sublime quantity of extant texts, Goldsmith and other digital docupoets aren’t so much reinventing writing as they are adding yet another entry in a long line of uncreative poetics: Classical furor poeticus, Romantic madness (and the Aoelian Harp plucked by wind), Modernist automatic writing (and the mechanistic unconscious plucked by trauma).

Here’s one of Leclerc’s comments on documentary automatism. In the spirit of my review, I’ll leave it unpacked.

I wanted a picture. So I took one
with my phone and moved closer. No
one stopped me and no one cared.

I went closer, and the pipeline was
white. It jutted out beyond the edge
of the dock and it didn’t make a sound.
I wanted to take another shot as my
shorts wicked wave water.
[…]
And my phone was gone.

It was stupid to have dropped it. It fell
out of my pocket.

But the water crashed harder. My feet
went cloven and my eyes went like a
dog’s nose.
[…]
There was an orange light in the
shallows, by the woods, as the waves
tossed my phone in the sand, my
phone still taking pictures.

Sonneteering: Billy Collins’s “Sonnet”

Billy Collins

Billy Collins. How you gonna say ‘no’ to that face?

“I’m going to post about Billy Collins today. And I had written out a post, and that took some time, and so I hope you’re going to read it. But I’m going to interrupt your reading to talk about Collins a little bit. And before you actually read the post, I wanted to say a couple of less premeditated things about Collins.”

That’s how Billy Collins might write a post about Billy Collins. But you can be damn sure if he did people would laugh uproariously. Apparently, I don’t particularly care for him or his sonnet “Sonnet.” It’s probably jealousy.

Read the poem below and my grouching on The Town Crier.

Sonnet
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love’s storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.

Sonneteering: Mark Haddon’s “A Rough Guide”

Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon

The Town Crier has officially relaunched with a renewed focus on regular content, and I’ve sneaked in the door with a biweekly (or thereabouts) series on sonnets. I may never amble around to writing on why Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan” is the best sonnet in English, but I’ve started with sweeping claims anyway: popular criticism on poetry, especially in Canada, has an acute case of ‘kitchensinkism.’

Read my slightly more specific thoughts on Mark Haddon’s “A Rough Guide” (from his exceptional collection The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea) over at The Town Crier. But first, catch up on the plot:

A Rough Guide
Be polite at the reception desk.
Not all the knives are in the museum.
The waitresses know that a nice boy
is formed in the same way as a deckchair.
Pay for the beer and send flowers.
Introduce yourself as Richard.
Do not refer to what somebody did
at a particular time in the past.
Remember, every Friday we used to go
for a walk. I walked. You walked.
Everything in the past is irregular.
This steak is very good. Sit down.
There is no wine, but there is ice-cream.
Eat slowly. I have many matches.

Meatfruit: all the other combinations of food

MeatfruitI’m so very fond of starting projects because new projects give me the opportunity not to follow through on them.

So I’ve started a recipe-and-review blog lovingly dedicated to the supposedly weird (though in fact hyperdelicious) combinations in which I ingest food. It is ominously entitled Meatfruit. Today’s special (invented on-the-spot as I stood in my kitchen with begrowled belly) is Haferflocken kitschig. I think the German name sets the right tone for the dish, something “cheesy oatmeal with walnuts and mixed berries” just can’t pull off.

If you have your own disgusting dish that no one else in your life believes is actually tasty, send me a vague recipe I can ignore and I’ll happily feature said dish on the site.

Bone appetite.