Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Free Reality Street PDFs

That essential but now sadly defunct poetry publisher Reality Street Editions has announced that eleven of its out of print titles have been made available as free downloadable PDFs. You can get them from the Reality Street front page (towards the bottom, on the right!)


The eleven happens to include two of my favourite books, Ken Edwards' eight + six and Carol Watts' Wrack -- I've touched on both of them here.




Today, however, I'm more interested in the books I bought but never managed to get into, Fanny Howe's O'Clock and Emergence .

Discovering a new poet is not usually a matter of love at first sight, at least that's my experience. Many arid and bad-tempered hours of reading usually precede the moment when something happens... or rather, when I become aware that something has happened. So it was with Ken and Carol, and with Andrea Brady, and Drew Milne. My initial feeling about all these now-beloved poets was at best sulky, critical, resentful. I positively disliked Drew's poetry (I recall that it was the Australian writer Alison Croggon who first put a different idea in my head). At this early stage of reading I certainly was not on board with the program -- but I kept on reading, and that's the thing. Of course I believe that all books of poems are good, but how long will I have to keep on reading  (and stopping reading, and thinking, and trying again), before I can see it... will I be able to sustain the effort?

And what is it that happens, when it happens? It isn't so simple as re-reading a poem and suddenly liking it or suddenly understanding it.  Not in these sorts of poetry. The thing that clicks is more something about the project as a whole. It's not that I understand the project either. But  there's at any rate something I get, the geography of the page has become meaningful, I have guesses about where the poet is trying to go and the places they keep returning to, my vision of their individuality as a poet is more distinct, perhaps I'm even beginning to move to the music. All of these formulae are analogical. And so is this one: Every poem makes a statement and now I can hear it being made, though I still don't know what it is.

A great deal of serendipity attaches to this matter of getting into a modern poet's work. I gave up on Fanny's two books, but now I've been given a second chance. I look at them and seem to know them, but better than I did; as if after all I've been reading them the whole time.

Two from O'Clock (a sequence of short poems written while in Co. Monaghan and on the road in the UK)


Every task works its way to infinity.
But blue eyes don’t make blue sky.

Outside a grey washed world, snow all diffused into steam
and glaucoma. My vagabondage
is unlonelied by poems.

Floral like the slow-motion coming of spring.

And air gets into everything.
Even nothing.


I f you mess up, run to the west
and hide in its sunset.

P retend invisibility
can be opted for

w hen it’s everywhere
until you want it.

I f you need to get lost, go underground.
T here you grow strong and fertile as a slum.

From "Alsace-Lorraine" (in Emergence):

The fancy they builded had many,
had fancy, many mansions once,
but no room in, each one full
     “All in the head” as celestial
mansions be
Now of that collection only an image stays, dazzle
in a traveling surface
Can also hit their hearts by a ballet or Monet
but never build again, outside the house of art.

She wants to find a really lonely village
     set off, see
in a shade of day lily      this bitter sensation
and early morning dense misting
     White iron where spirits’ll meander, the gone
ones she can’t believe in
leaving her, the way they hang her heavy head,
     as sculpture, still
saying nothing of the truth’s ill tense.

Steven Toussaint's review of Emergence:
Maureen N. McLane on Fanny Howe (considers, among other poems, O'Clock and "Alsace-Lorraine")



At 9:35 am, Anonymous Billy Mills said...

Fanny's work is well worth the effort.


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