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Arc Poetry Magazine – 2015


Number 77

Summer 2015


Valerie Wieland

Now publishing for over 30 years, there is much to behold in Canada’s premier Arc Poetry Magazine: an abundance of poems, plus essays, a conversation, book reviews and dynamic art. Now publishing for over 30 years, there is much to behold in Canada’s premier Arc Poetry Magazine: an abundance of poems, plus essays, a conversation, book reviews and dynamic art.

Among the poets is Pat Lowther, a Canadian writer who went missing in 1975. After her body was found, her husband was convicted of her murder. Lowther’s poem “Hotline to the Gulf” is introduced by Kim Trainor in “How Poems Work.” Trainor journeys through Google and other sources to closely interpret the poem. She asks, “[ . . . ] (where are the points of contact?); between the flash of an idea for a poem, and the inked letters that begin to form on a page; between poet and reader; between two human beings,” and gives readers something to consider in this issue.

Arc’s 2015 Grand Prize Poem of the Year is Kevin Shaw’s “Turing’s Time Machine.” He writes, “The graffiti curates obscenity / in water closets. The toes tap / epistles in a whore’s code.” And “I’m held under suspension / bridges, holding breaths portentous / as gothic fog.” Poetry editor Shane Rhodes remarks about the aptly chosen piece, “‘Turing’s Time Machine’ is less a poem about Alan Turing than about the history of signaling, of hide and seek, of passing and of the deadly consequences of the trick being found out.”

One of two pieces by poet and essayist Zachariah Wells is “Sometimes You Need a Record of Your Life” about how poets view autobiography, perhaps causing readers to think back to Trainor’s piece. He discusses William Wordsworth’s “The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind; An Autobiographical Poem” and modern day experimental poet Lisa Robertson’s works. Wells quotes Robertson as stressing the need to “craft a balance, between solitude and social visibility. [ . . . ] As well as developing social and political critiques, we need to nourish our inner lives.”

The idea of autobiography in poetry seems present in poems throughout this issue, though of course only the poets know for sure. Examples include Robyn Jeffrey’s “In Nice,” about an experience in France. “From the other side of a lowered window, / the stranger says, I find you charming. Could / I take you for a ride?” Todd Robinson asks in “Like A Mooncalf under Plastic Chili Pepper Lights,” “What were you thinking when you asked what I was thinking, under the rotting trellis?” Roxanna Bennett creates a great line in “Ghost Dog”: “I’m always the smartest person in the room depending / on the room which is half of why I never leave the house.”

In “Calling,” by indigenous writer Giles Benaway, he appeals to ancestors “hoping they could give me something / the living have forgotten to give.”

It’s the family reunion we never had,
the Ojibway are pointing with their lips
and making dirty jokes while the whites
praise the lord for his miraculous whiskey.

Poets Nyla Matuk and Evan Jones discuss their own and each other’s works in “On Laws and Logos [ . . . ]” Shane Neilson examines collaboration in his essay titled “A shared text is an act of friendship,” highlighting the Canadian team the Four Horsemen, who made recordings of their poetry; Pain Not Bread, a three-person writing group; and bpNichol and Wayne Clifford’s Theseus: A Collaboration.

London-based artist Andrew Salgado painted the magazine’s cover portrait. Seven more of Salgado portraits span a center section. His beautiful and complicated oils on canvas, with names like “The Trails Of Daphnis II,” “Enjoy the Silence,” and “Youth in Revolt” merit prolonged study.

Two new sections debut in this issue: Translations and Chapbook Reviews. François Luong translates poems by Hector Ruiz, including “The Voice From Outside.” Luong also translates René Gagnon’s piece “YUL-YVP-YPJ,” the title referring to airport codes. She writes:

air flows, it’s cold
feet hands frozen near the door
no stewardess here no heating no rest rooms
but maximum ventilation air won’t be lacking
one of the pilots told you.

Monty Reid prefaces chapbook reviews with “Chapwork” in which he tells us chapbooks originated in the 1500s. “Early on, they were sold by itinerant tradesmen, or chapmen, to an audience that couldn’t afford books, a luxury good at the time, and whose literacy skills were uneven at best.” Pearl Pirie surveys two handfuls of chapbooks with subject matter ranging from dogs to junkies to an examination of “mommy poems.” These are followed by featured book reviews.

Arc Poetry Magazine is rich in both originality and diversity. The language in some of the prose is occasionally overblown, but altogether the volume has something to satisfy everyone’s search for innovative poetry, prose, and art.

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