Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2012 | Meredith Quartermain

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Marcel Proust, trans. James Grieve | In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower | Viking | 2002

I once read a book called Remembrance of Things Past and thought well that’s it, I’ve done Proust. How wrong I was! How wonderfully wrong. This second volume in his multi-volume work is a delight and has set me on the course of reading them all, for their priceless excavations of language and perception.

Dionne Brand | Land to Light On | McClelland & Stewart | 1997

This book-length meditation on being an outsider in Canada swells and falls in long lines setting the reader adrift in the waves of a foreign sea. Winner of a Governor General’s Award for poetry. Well deserved.

Erìn Moure | The Unmemntioable | Anansi | 2012

EM is up to her usual tricks in disrupting the title spelling, replacing the title on the cover with a description of the book, and replacing the title page with a cell-phone readable encryption. Where is subjectivity located the text seems to ask—caught in a web of alter egos—EM and Elisa Sampedrin—memories and reflections on Moure’s trip to the Ukraine.

Susan Steudel | New Theatre | Coach House | 2012

I enjoy Steudel for her sharp, discrete observations and great formal ingenuity. Nor is she shy of difficult terrain, as her series here on Lenin shows.

Nicole Markotic | Bent at the Spine | BookThug | 2012

I first tasted Markotic’s inventive, understated poetics in the Nomados edition of “Widows and Orphans” which is included in this collection. She picks up the rug of language, gives it a good shake, then transforms herself into a cat under the rug chasing the wrinkles, and laughing as you, on the other side, become a mouse.

Dodie Bellamy | The Buddhist | Production Studios | 2012

At Embers bar in Portland, Bellamy gave a splendid reading from this blog-book, in between drag shows by Siren impersonating Kylie Minogue. I could not put this book down once I opened its covers.

Phil Hall | Killdeer | BookThug | 2012

Winner of this year’s Governor General’s award for poetry, the book is a series of essay poems, reflecting on Hall’s writing career and on the nature of his poetics, as well as taking issue with over-celebrated predecessors. He’s quite frank about being a confessional poet, but he’s learned a thing or two from procedural and language writers, and he writes acutely from a position outside the privileged and canonical.

Alex Leslie |People Who Disappear | Freehand | 2012

Stories of the highly invisible among us: a young man known only through traces on YouTube, a first nations woman whose skeleton is unearthed by children, a young man suffering from mental illness, scrounging for furniture, communities living in the tops of trees, trying to save the forest. Quirky unusual tellings, insightful and deeply felt, these narratives remind us of our complicity in the tragedies we hear about in the news.

W.G. Sebald, trans. Michael Hulse | The Rings of Saturn | New Directions | 1999

Sebald may blur the boundaries of fact and fiction in his narratives of rambling around East Anglia, but he never blurs the truth about forces of nature and the forces of humanity on the planet. His vision of human interdependence is global, linking a train in an English amusement park to a 19th Century Dowager Empress in China, the fortunes of English manor houses, the destruction of the herring fishery, the economic wars of silk manufacturers and many other marvelous serendipities of human history. What emerges is the melancholy poetry of human destructiveness, particularly in the last two centuries, and the beautiful dream of what humanity could mean.

Sina Queyras | The Autobiography of Childhood| Coach House | 2011

Prose by a poet is often the most poignant, and childhood is the writer’s deepest wellspring. Queyras plunges way into a territory we all share—the dysfunctional family. In the space of a single day in which one of them is dying of cancer, five siblings struggle with the legacy of their parents’ stormy relationship, living out their stubborn individual searches for escape or meaning. Queyras shows us that poetry lives in the pain of their disparate journeys.


Meredith Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking won a BC Book Award for Poetry. The Dalhousie Review describedMatter and Nightmarker as “perhaps the two most noteworthy titles” in recent radical poetry, “prescient, daring,” and “undoing the knot of human understanding.” Recipes from the Red Planet has been shortlisted for a BC Book Award for Fiction and the ReLit prize.

Meredith Quartermain’s contributions to Attention Span for 20112010200920082007200620052004. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

September 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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