Monday, May 7, 2018

CONTENTS

Galatea Resurrects is accepting engagements with poetry projects such as reviews, book introductions (or forewords prefaces or afterwords) not currently online, coverage of poetry events, and other engagements in any form (e.g. letters, poems, art, etc. in response to poetry).

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Eileen Tabios
Editor, Galatea Resurrects

CONTENTS

Click on title-links to be directed to the review or article


MAY
FEATURED ESSAY: Martha King on Frank O'Hara
(5/7)

Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming From Several Houses Down? by Noah Eli Gordon
Reviewed by rob mclennan (5/6)

COMPENDIUM: a collection of thoughts on prosody by Donald Justice, edited by David Koehn and Alan Soldofsky
Reviewed by Patrick James Dunagan (5/5)

HOY / TODAY by Juan Gelman, Translated by Lisa Rose Bradford
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (5/4)

The Sweating Lake by John M. Bennett
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (5/3)

INVISIBLE FISH by Susan F. Glassmeyer
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (5/2)

Publications by Jim Leftwich, Thomas Lowe Taylor, Joseph Carries, McKenzie Wark and John Milton
Engaged by Scott MacLeod (5/1)


APRIL
succubus in my pocket by kari edwards
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (4/30)

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr
Reviewed by Kylan Rice (4/23)

A DOG LOST IN THE BRICK CITY OF OUTLAWED TREES by Geoffrey Gatza
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (4/22)

"The Curse of Akkad"
Engaged by Aileen Cassinetto and C. Sophia Ibardaloza (4/21)

Olas Cursis by John M. Bennett
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (4/20)

women: poetry: migration [an anthology], Editor Jane Joritz-Nakagawa
Reviewed by Judy Roitman (4/19)

Masterplan by Eric Greinke and Alison Stone
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (4/18)

UNMARK by Montreux Rotholtz
Reviewed by Brian Burmeister (4/17)

Swedish Poetry Nowadays: An Anthology of 6 Poets in the 21st Century, Editor Kristian Carlsson
Reviewed by William Allegrezza (4/16)

Long Day, Counting Tomorrow by Jim Feast
Engaged by Steve Dalachinsky (4/15)

Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties by Lev Rubinstein, Trans. by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky; It's No Good: Poems / Essays / Actions by Kirill Medvedev, Trans. by Keith Gessen with Mark Krotov, Cory Merrill and Bela Shayevich; and I Live I See: Selected Poems by Vsevolod Nekrasov, Trans. by Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (4/14)

THE CRITIC WRITES POEMS: Aloysiusi Polintan
(4/13)

The Spirit of the Staircase, poems by Tiana Nobile & paintings by Brigid Conroy
Engaged by Cristina Querrer (4/12)

Dark Pastures: Selected Songs and Poems by John Lunar Richey, WORKS by Danny Shot, and Hope Cries for Justice by Patricia Nicholson and William Parker
Reviewed by Steve Dalachinsky (4/11)

FEATURE: "Lesser Lights: More Adventures From A Hamptons Apprenticeship" 
By Sandy McIntosh (4/10)

Mirrors Mascaras by John M. Bennett
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (4/9)

Publications by Clark Coolidge, Jim Leftwich, John M. Bennet, Michel Roly, Leslie Scalapino, Keith Shein, Scott MacLeod, Lyn Hejinian, Brandon Brown, and Ron Silliman
Engaged by Scott MacLeod (4/8)


MARCH
You Envelop Me by Laynie Browne
Reviewed by Kylan Rice (3/22)

Poems and Fragments by Elise Cowen, edited by Tony Trigilio
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (3/21)

Pantoums by Dennis Daly
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (3/20)

MEAT by Sophie Seita, Sublunar by Tom Jenks, and In Accident & Emergence by Rosa van Hensbergen
Reviewed (viz "revicules") by Colin Lee Marshall (3/19)

Old Ballerina Club by Sharon Olinka
Reviewed by Sheila Black (3/18)

Like a Fat Gold Watch: Meditations on Sylvia Plath and Living, edited by Christine Hamm
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (3/17)

Three Ariel Poems by Sylvia Plath
Engaged by Tasha Cotter (3/16)

Featured Essay: "Brief Notes on Thomas McEvilley"
By Peter Valente (3/15)

Phaneagrams by Jake Berry
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (3/15)

The Body Ghost by Joseph Lease
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (3/14)

The Critic Writes Poems: Abigail Licad
(3/13)

SELECT POEMS by John M Bennett
Engaged by Ivan Argüelles (3/12)

Answer To An Inquiry by Robert Walser
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (3/11)

Silence by Julie Unruh
Reviewed by Jim McCrary (3/10)

Featured Essay: "Hay(na)ku/Sci(na)ku--Six-Word Poetry"
By Lauren McBride (3/9)

Sound Rituals by Jim Leftwich and Billy Bob Beamer
Engaged by John M. Bennett (3/8)

Debths by Susan Howe
Engaged by Jim McCrary (3/7)

Publications by Cole Swensen, Jean Day, P. Inman, Scott MacLeod, Daniel Davidson and Rae Armentrout
Engaged by Scott MacLeod (3/6)

Editor's Recommendations From Review Copy List
By Eileen Tabios (3/5)


FEBRUARY
Featured Poet: Sheila E. Murphy
(2/20)

The Palace of Flowers by Gerry Grubbs
Reviewed by Joseph P. Tomain (2/19)

The Small Door of Your Death by Sheryl St. Germain
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater (2/18)

Featured Essay: "Karl Kempton and 'The Enigma of the Other': The Originary Structures of Truth and Discovery of Visual Writing"
By Tom Hibbard (2/17)

Stubborn by Sheri Reda
Reviewed by M. Earl Smith (2/16)

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (2/15)

some more strange meteorites by Mark Young
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater (2/14)

Guitar Tech by Mark Sonnenfeld
Reviewed by Jim Leftwich (2/14)

ANNE WITH AN E & ME by Wesley St. Jo
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (2/13)

Girl Gang by Juliet Cook

Reviewed by M. Earl Smith (2/12)

ORPHIC CANTOS by Ivan Argüelles
Engaged by John M. Bennett (2/11)

PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE FERAL by Julia Rose Lewis
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (2/10)

Phaneagrams by Jake Berry
Engaged by Jim Leftwich (2/9)

The Critic Writes Poems: Paul Pines
(2/8)

Featured Essay: "The Nearness of Asemic Writing" 
By Jim Leftwich (2/8)

MARAWI by Albert E. Alejo and Eileen R. Tabios with translations by Aileen Cassinetto
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater (2/7)

farnessity, wordslabs by Randee Silv
Reviewed by Jim Leftwich (2/6)

Interview: William Burroughs
Engaged by jim mccrary (2/5)

Tres tressstrisss trieesss tril trilssss: Transmutations of Cesar Vallejo by Jim Leftwich
Engaged by John M. Bennett (2/4)

From Here by Zoe Skoulding, with illustrations by Simonetta Moro
Reviewed by M. Earl Smith (2/3)

Publications by Scott MacLeod, Michael Palmer, Thomas Lowe Taylor, Ann Lauterbach, Daniel Davidson and Laura Moriarty

Engaged by Scott MacLeod (2/2)

The Critic Writes Poems: Jim McCrary
(2/1)


JANUARY
POEMS & OTHER CREATIONS INSPIRED / INFORMED BY JOSE GARCIA VILLA
(1/23)
Ten Poems by Luis H. Francia
A Rendition of "Lyric 17" in RIGODONa film by Sari Lluch Dalena and Keith Sicat starring Joel Torre, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, and Art Acuna
"Dream" by Marton Koppany
"The Buzzard" and "The Giant in the Dirty Coat" by Jesse Glass
Tattoo by John Bloomberg-Rissman
Two Artworks by Cecilia Ibardaloza
Three Collages by Rupert Loydell
"[There, demons, demagogue]" by Nick Carbó
"The Secret Life of an Angel" by Eileen R. Tabios
Writing-Prompt responses by Rupert Loydell's students at Falmouth University

Transnational BattleField by Heriberto Yépez and Miximum Ca’ Canny: The Sabotage Manuals by Ida Börjel, Translated by Jennifer Hayashida
Reviewed by T.C. Marshall (1/22)

like a solid to a shadow by Janice Lobo Sapigao
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (1/21)

A Change of Climate edited by Sam Illingworth and Dan Simpson
Engaged by Helen Mort (1/20)

Albedo by Kathleen Jesme
Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater (1/19)

The End of Something by Kate Greenstreet
Reviewed by Judith Roitman (1/18)

upROUTE: The Language of Plates and NOTES ON THE SIGN OF POETRY: ADDENDUM & PRINTS, both by Sacha Archer
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (1/17)

LOSSES OF LIFE by Eric Hoffman
Reviewed by Paul Pines (1/16)

A WIFE IS A HOPE CHEST by Christine Brandel
Engaged by Eileen Tabios (1/15)

Publications by Scott MacLeod, Philip Whalen, Jim Leftwich, Olive Blackburn, Lyn Hejinian, Brandon Brown, and Anonymous
Engaged by Scott MacLeod (1/14)




FEATURED ESSAY: MARTHA KING



[This essay is a chapter in Martha King’s memoir OUTSIDE/INSIDE … JUST OUTSIDE THE ART WORLD’S INSIDE, forthcoming this October 2018 from BlazeVOX Books.]


BEFORE FRANK

Monster is not spelled the same in French as it is in English and it has a Frank meaning in French. Frank O’Hara, art critic, poet. O’Hara monster of prodigious talent, our urban dancer, man about our town, a wreck and a maker. A Fred Astaire. A Toulouse-Lautrec. Even casual acquaintances could feel his “our” about New York City. He lived in the glamorous swirl the gifted lonely can invent in a great city.

One story told says that when his loft was filled with enough people, he could leave the main area, close a door, and concentrate on writing. This could only work for someone who could shape his personal life into a work of art. All divisions. And none. Some painters have worked in a studio salon. Frank could write a poem in a subway car, and remember to hold the twenty-fifth line in his head until he reinvented it.

I never knew Frank as well as I wanted. Baz had known him since his first stays in New York. How could he not? Baz was everywhere then, and so was Frank. Frank knew everyone so Frank knew Baz.

Back when Baz first knew him Frank worked at the Museum of Modern Art as a sales clerk in the little bookstore right by the front entrance. The museum had an apprentice system then: curators-in-waiting had to put in time doing scut work, regardless of how fancy a school they’d attended. Harvard? Fine. You can sell postcards and catalogs. The museum store was a hole in the wall right by the front door and postcards and catalogs were about all they stocked, plus tickets for the movie theater which was down in the museum’s bowels where subway rumbles went right through the soundtrack. Frank used to save movie tickets for Baz, for which you had to pay extra, and even better, he’d smuggle him in to save him the front door admission fee. This was relatively easy to do because MOMA was attached at the back to the Whitney, and the Whitney charged no admission. To go back and forth between the two, you passed though a guarded turnstile paying nothing on the way to the Whitney, but showing your MOMA ticket stub to re- enter MOMA’s sanctuary. Frank kept extra ticket stubs in a drawer and all one had to do was take a walk around the block, enter the Whitney, and voila.

By the time I met Frank, we were living on 2nd Avenue and had two kids. Baz was no longer a teenager, and Frank was well beyond clerking in the store. He was a rising MOMA staff member who had curated exhibitions. He was a published poet with a coterie of followers. He was into everything going: painting, poetry, film, performance, theater, dance. He was buoyed by public attention and publicly driven mad by love rejections. He fell in love hard and often and everyone would hear tell about it. He bewailed his big nose and receding chin. He bewailed his appearance, which was certainly skinny, but clearly arresting, hawk-like and piercing. He bewailed but he preened wearing a jacket so it hung in an absolute fit from his shoulders. He was gaga for a blond California beauty, but not for dreamboats with empty heads. He might whine about his own life, but then he’d prod Baz to make intelligent calculations to protect his work and himself. I realized that meant he did so for himself too. What might seem like abandon, his willingness to give sway to his enthusiasms, was actually monitored. Frank wasn’t self-destructive; he was ambitious in the best way. With no sentiment whatsoever he arranged for people to meet simply in pursuit of what might happen. He liked to see things happen. When Frank talked he drove right to the center, where the energy was. He was funny about art-world hangers on too; they were as acceptable as seaweed to him, while Baz was often driven into rages over their uncommitted behavior.

In the early sixties, Frank visited Basil’s studio, at first occasionally and as Baz’s work picked up, more and more often. Now when Baz went up to MOMA, he would pay to get in and Frank would leave his curator’s office upstairs so the two of them could eat lunch together. Two or three times, while I was still working at Random House, I’d take off from my office just over on Madison and come along too. Frank’s favorite place for this was Larre’s, a cheap white-tablecloth French restaurant serving mostly organ meat entrees for just a few dollars. I happen to love kidneys, sweetbreads, brains—legacy of my mother’s cooking. I also liked Frank’s smarts, his agile talk, and I loved his interest in Baz.

But Baz was cautious. We’d get a late-night phone call from Frank, an invitation to come over to his place, to meet these people, to do that thing, and Baz would almost never go. Even before the presence of babies in our household meant I couldn’t respond to impromptu invitations, he’d decline on behalf of us both. He was wary he said of “entanglements.” I was ticked off by his reticence. Frank wasn’t putting moves on him, it wasn’t that at all. It was Baz, fearing exposure.

During Baz’s breakdown, just after our second daughter, Hetty, was born, we saw almost no one. But even then Baz didn’t back all the way away from Frank...he’d phone him. He’d initiate meetings. Then, in the pits of 1964, Max, our Second Avenue landlord, offered us another apartment. We were paying $84 a month for our 8th floor place, and we were two months behind in the rent. Our apartment windows cleared the rooftops of the surrounding six-floor walkups. Out back was a wide stretch of building tops punctuated by water towers, with open air all the way over to Broadway, a landscape that has been elegantly painted by Lois Dodd, who still lives two blocks over. Dramatic sunsets sent long angled shadows across the tarred tops and their water towers. You could watch clouds. The apartment Max offered was the exact duplicate of ours but on the 4th floor. There, every window looked onto brick wall airshafts, except the back ones, which had a view of another building’s windows six or seven feet away. We could have this one for $41 a month. Or, as I saw it, horrified, for lack of $43 bucks a month we would live with no sun.

Because of rent control the empty apartment in the dark could fetch no more than $41—it had been $38—but Max stood to pull in $100 more each year if he could flip us. If we refused, well, we should expect to pay him the $168 we owed on Monday. In cash. Or we’d see the marshal’s notice on our door on Tuesday.

Baz went over to Broadway to see Frank. Could someone float a loan? The next day, Frank called, met Baz downtown, and gave him cash. Not a loan. A gift.
Frank told Basil: “Larry Rivers wrote a check for me. He said you’re not supposed to know where this came from. Larry knows you’re a proud man. Of course I’m telling because I think you should know. But don’t ever let on.”


By 1966, Hetty was still too young to qualify for the free day care at Church of All Nations—and that made Mallory ineligible too as the program was intended to enable low-paid mothers to work. I’d found a small galaxy of oddballs who looked after little kids one way or another and I had gotten a job. I was working for Mrs. Burl Ives three days a week. Baz was picking up better temporary teaching assignments—a semester here, a six-week session there. The steadiest was a public service project for ghetto kids, a job he got on the recommendation of the sculptor Sylvia Stone (then married to Al Held). Before long, he was a part-time adjunct at Cooper Union and an Adult Ed art instructor for the Board of Education. Life was beginning to look up financially. Artistically too. In the old Anderson Theater Basil’s painting had began expanding. From that weird beginning when he sat on our couch and inked circle after circle on typewriter paper, he’d developed huge visceral shapes: soft abstracted body parts, vegetables, sea creatures. The paintings glowed with face-like forms that melded, dissipated, reshaped. They distorted dimensions and incorporated elements that normally would be separated. There came to be so much momentum in his evolving work that Frank would joke, “Another retrospective, King?”

By 1966 when Baz was excited about a new group of work, he’d call and Frank would be over. Baz was inventing a self that could exist in contradiction. That could marry romance and terror. The works were awkward and sometimes in-your-face aggressive. There was uneasy vigor below his beautiful painterly surfaces. In short, the paintings showed disturbance everywhere. Some gallery dealers Baz invited to look were unnerved, frankly uncomfortable. One woman who was not unnerved told Baz straight out she liked what she saw but since it wasn’t American and it wasn’t European she didn’t know how it should be placed. She stayed to look for a long time and Baz has many times regretted not going to see her again and making her a friend. Her comment gave him his first solid external definition: “mid-Atlantic.” Decades later the poet Nathaniel Tarn would use exactly the same terms, neither American nor European. He would say about himself and Baz, “we Atlanteans.”

For his part, Frank began telling Baz it was going to take him a long time to grow into this new work, and that a long time would also be needed to open a place for it in the art world. He shouldn’t look for a gallery exhibition at this stage. His work needed to be in a back room, somewhere insiders meet. It might be five years —more! —before time would be right for an open show. Time invested in developing an audience as much as time for Baz to develop. Could Baz handle that? After all, this work was an expedition. It needed support, quiet conduction, ripening. Could Baz give himself the necessary patience? Over at the studio, Frank had given him a thorough grilling about that.

Baz and I both grinned as he reported the conversation to me. It had already been hard! Would waiting, with Frank’s interested support, be hard? Frank was a glorious audience. Baz would come home from their encounters glowing.
Finally, one summer weekend we invited Frank for supper at our apartment. He and Joe LeSeur, no longer lovers but close friends, lounged together on our India print day bed. Joe said that I reminded him of Patsy Southgate, a loved and protected figure in their circle.

Then Frank said, “Baz, there are times when a person just needs money. You need to paint and not worry about Martha and the kids. When I get back from Fire Island, give me a call. We’ve got to do something to get you some money.”

I was clearing the dishes away and heard this from Baz after they’d gone. I’d been rankled by the Patsy remark. Was I being asked to follow yet another impossible model? Don’t take an interest in me in order to change me, I thought. But I probably didn’t look as suspicious as I felt. In truth I was also wondering if Frank could help me learn how to write about art. And I had been pleased because I’d made cassoulet—home-cooked white beans, rosemary, chicken, Polish sausage bits. We had a cheap slightly vinegary white wine which set off the sweetness of the beans and I could tell Joe and Frank hadn’t expected to be so well fed.

What Frank had said to Baz meant he saw what I saw. It meant this is not an illusion. Might actual money come from this promise? We held off saying too much. In truth, I had trouble imagining acceptance; I thought this was something that happened to other people. Baz, on the other hand, believed Frank could do exactly what he said. Turn up a patron, a grant, a much better teaching job. To interest people in seeing new work and talking about it was the normal road to becoming a well-known painter back in those days. Perhaps it still is.


We were back at 57 Second Avenue after one of our beach weekends in Connecticut with Gavin and Athena. Sated as usual. Toasted and sandy. Waiting in our oven-hot hallway, hanging onto beach gear, holding a sleeping child apiece, and listening to that rum-pot elevator slowly clanking its way down the big shaft way. I was, as usual, bracing myself for our apartment—dingy walls, peeling woodwork, crumbly floors. One never knew what even a brief absence would do—would there be a wave of cockroaches? The elevator doors opened on three people. Frank O’Hara’s friend Joe LeSeur, with our downstairs neighbors Frank Lima and tall beautiful Sheila Baikul—she was at the time a sought-after Vogue model. All three of them in tears.

“Frank is dying,” Sheila said.


“Frank was run over on Fire Island.” Was Joe saying that?

They were running somewhere.


What do you mean? There aren’t any cars on Fire Island.
Just little red wagons. Run over? Please, I have a job to get to Monday morning; we have kids to put to bed. This has to be all wrong.

Later that night Frank and Sheila came up to our apartment to tell us it was no mistake. O’Hara was now in a hospital in the city. It was a beach buggy that hit him. A beach buggy is a jeep, a lethally heavy vehicle, not a little red wagon. On Saturday the first hospital, the one in Patchogue, didn’t believe it either. The medical staff there were habitually cynical about homosexual fights on Fire Island and confident in their knowledge of queer life: fags lie and dramatize. So Frank hadn’t been immediately treated for his deep internal injuries. Now he was in intensive care and complaining to Larry Rivers that the multiple tubes and drains in his body were “horribly unaesthetic.”

The next day he was dead.

Frank was gone, dissolving as he vanished, dissolving the connections he had spun all through the downtown world, poetry, art, dance, theaterleaving many people beached, unmoored, disbelieving. Leaving Baz. Leaving me. Dissolving all the futures he didn’t live to do.




*****

Martha King was born Martha Winston Davis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1937. She attended Black Mountain College for three months as a teenager, and married the painter Basil King in 1958. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. Before retiring in 2011, Martha worked day jobs as an editor and science writer. She also edited 2+2 chapbooks with Susan Sherman in the late 1970s and published 31 issues of Giants Play Well in the Drizzle, a free zine, 1983-1992. Currently she co-curates a long- running prose reading series with Elinor Nauen at the SideWalk Café on the Lower East Side. See basilking.net.

Her books are:

POETRY

Women and Children First, 2+2 Press, 1975

Weather, New Rivers Press, 1978

Islamic Miniature, Lee/Lucas Press 1979

Monday Through Friday, Zelot Press, 1982

Seventeen Walking Sticks, (with art by Basil King) Stop Press, 1997

Imperfect Fit: Selected Poems, Marsh Hawk, 2004

PROSE FICTION

Little Tales of Family and War, Spuyten Duyvil, 1999
Separate Parts: Six Memory Pieces, Avec, 2002

Seven & More, (with art by Basil King) Spuyten Duyvil, 2006
North & South, Spuyten Duyvil, 2006



Sunday, May 6, 2018

IS THAT THE SOUND OF A PIANO COMING FROM SEVERAL HOUSES DOWN? by NOAH ELI GORDON

ROB MCLENNAN Reviews


(Solid Objects, New York, 2018)


The Problem

Someone tied to a parking meter the dog that barks every time a woman approaches to insert a quarter. This makes her the subject. It is a metaphor for the aristocracy of money. One performer plays both leash and dog. Another stands in for the meter. I play the woman. Someone appears offstage. It is often difficult to tell a king from a queen. The problem is no one plays the difficulty.

Boulder, Colorado poet Noah Eli Gordon’s latest poetry title is Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down? (New York NY: Solid Objects, 2018), a collection I’ve been looking forward to seeing ever since I first saw selections from it in Ugly Ducking Presse’s 6x6 back in 2012. Similar in structure to his collection The Source (New York NY: Futurepoem Books, 2011), the poems in this new work all share the same title, “The Problem,” with the bulk of the collection made up of prose poems, with none longer than a single page. Unlike The Source, made up of poems titled “The Source,” his collection of poems each titled “The Problem” isn’t titled The Problem, or some otherwise clever wordplay, but (obviously) Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down?. With the alternate title, it is as though the collection isn’t overcome by the repetition, and the potential of repeating a structure that had worked in the past. It would be curious to know if his initial thoughts on the final publication of The Source was indeed an influence, as this collection was composed during the period he was most likely seeing The Source through to publication, as he writes as part of the acknowledgments: “These problems were encountered mostly in Brooklyn, NY, in the summer of 2010, lingering on in Denver, CO, until about February of 2011.”

The Problem

In order to keep things straight, she tapes a timeline marking the important events of her novel to the bedroom wall. I think this could be the first sentence of my novel. The problem is it’s already written.

The poems are incredibly sharp, and composed as odd narratives, descriptive passages, alternate perspectives and even hesitant wisdoms, a number of which take their time to sink in, as any new perspective or wisdom might. The book is dedicated to American poet Sawako Nakayasu, “in return for the gift of her translation / of Ayane Kawata’s poem ‘Running Posture’ / in Castles in the Air,” a poem and book I’d been previously unaware of (although I’m an admirer of the work I’ve seen of hers). Discovering the poem online on the publisher’s page for the book (a book I now have to order, clearly), it reads:

I am being chased and so I run, though the problem lies not in the fact that someone is chasing me, but in the posture with which I run away.

The problem, Gordon might suggest, is that I haven’t read exactly all the same works he has, nor he me, altering the ways in which I might approach such a book as this. While I might not be aware of that particular translation, my initial take on the collection compared Gordon’s use of the prose poem, composed as a blend of gestural koan and short story, to Sarah Manguso’s short story collection, Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape (McSweeney’s, 2007). Manguso’s is a book that heavily influenced my own debut short story collection, The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014), both of which were composed out of a sequence of untitled and self-contained short, single-paragraph prose fictions that meet somewhere in the blend of essay, short story and musing (and a book, it would seem, I began working on during the same period Gordon composed Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down?). One might argue that all three collections, Gordon’s included, work from the founding premise that something is wrong (or at least amiss, or slightly off), and the awareness that there is always, constantly, something else happening in the poem, just out of view, out of reach and out of focus. What is curious about Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down? is in seeing the accumulation of poems structured around a similar premise, one that allows “the problem” to sometimes be the entire point, and other times, the distraction, and occasionally an idea that steps carefully out of the way of the poem, even while remaining the engine that drives both the individual pieces and the book as a whole.

The Problem

He sends a hurried email to a distant relative detailing the particulars of his upcoming arrival—dates, places, a somewhat transparent formal tone, and immediately regrets not having done so in a more intimate fashion, with a postcard perhaps. Perhaps with this one, the one where the sun is either rising or setting, flanked by high clouds and flecked with pink, like the meat of a flower whose name he’s failed to learn. It’s as though he’s realized there was music playing because there isn’t anymore—the sudden silence of the world as much an indescribable flower as it is the description of one staring directly at it. The sun, rising and setting, setting and rising. But not, as we know, in that exact order.

There is something about the shift of the title that displays the strength of the collection, and what might have allowed this book to be as strong as it is, providing an opportunity for the structure not to overwhelm the work, and the author, perhaps, to himself step out of the way, and allow the work to shine through. I’ve been an admirer of Noah Eli Gordon and his work for some time, but this might easily be his strongest work to date, in part due to the subtlety of the poems, made so much more clear through the deceptive straightfowardness of the premise: Is That the Sound of a Piano Coming from Several Houses Down? is not, in fact, a book about problems or telling you what the problem might be. It is a book that focuses on all the small details that lead up to that point of declaring something, true or otherwise, to be the actual problem. Does that make sense?


*****


Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent titles include the poetry collection A perimeter (New Star Books, 2016), and the forthcoming How the alphabet was made (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) and Household items (Salmon Poetry, 2018). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Christine McNair), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, a former contributor to the Ploughshares blog, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com