Commentaries - April 2014


Royet-Journoud reads," ‘Le drap maternel’ ou la restitution” in Buffalo 10/18/95: (5:06): MP3
Bernstein reads his translation: (7:22): MP3 

released in honor of
Contemporary French Poetry in the U.S.: Translating, Publishing, Adapting at NYU
Friday, April 25th, 2:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

with Pierre Alferi, Anne Portugal, Charles Bernstein, Cole Swensen, Pierre Joris, Tracy Grinnell, Richard Sieburth and Jean-Jacques Poucel; organized by Vincent Broqua and Emmanuelle Ertel

Gizzi's poems push against both abstraction and lyric voicing, ensnaring the close listener in an intensifying cascade of dissociative rhythms and discursive constellations. Songs also say, saying also sings. And what at first seems to resist song becomes song. These enthralling, sometime soaring, poems approach, without dwelling in, elegy. They are the soundtrack of a political and cultural moment whose echoic presence Gizzi makes as viscous as the “dark blooming surfs of winter ice."

This Trip Around the Sun Is Expensive

Shipboard is
what winter is

what isinglass
moonlit wave
winter is

Winter surf
all time booming

all time viscous air
not black, night
winter dark blooming

surfs of winter ice

No time away
from igloo ice

hubba hubba like

This trip
around the sun
is expensive

To work
the proud flesh

Wound bright

Shipboard is
what winter is

what isinglass
moonlit wave
winter is

Winter surf
all time booming

all time viscous air
not black, night
winter dark blooming

surfs of winter ice

from Wesleyan University Pres
40% discount on all WUP poetry titles, this one too, in April.

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Joanne Arnott defines herself as a Métis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist living in Salish territories, based on an island in the mouth of the Sto:lo River (Richmond, BC). A founding member of Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast, Joanne has facilitated Unlearning Racism workshops for many years, and continues to apply peer counselling and storytelling strategies in her work in the literary arts. She has published seven books that are important contributions to the literary landscape, with her first poetry collection Wiles of Girlhood winning the Gerald Lampert award.

ABCBookworld had the following to say about A Night for the Lady, her latest poetry collection:

Once again focussed on the "brown feminine," A Night for the Lady is a rich tapestry of poems inspired by Joanne Arnott's personal relations with other writers and her wide-reaching influences from foreign literature. Both playful and mournful, Arnott celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit and her own hard-won dignity as a Métis mother.

At the First Nations University in Regina, Saskatchewan, at an event facilitated by poet and instructor Randy Lundy (a member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation, in northwestern Manitoba), Arnott recently read to many attentive students from this collection, and I felt compelled to share part of my personal favourite, “the poet thugs of Saskatoon”, a bold comic exposition that transcends intertribal feints and really gets at the nib of what the life of a writer can be like when touring on the (short) circuit.

A Night for the Lady by Joanne Arnott (Ronsdale Press, 2013, Page 17)


every single person

at the table knows


it is time for him to go

before he does


he clings to a woman

who shirks him off


the poet thugs escort him

to the hotel doors


the feminist-lesbians call

leave it to the men


our men

will handle it


the Dene flies

into a taxi


a Cree poet

tugs on the locked door


a Cree professor

reflects on his youth


and the movie



we are not Cree

he cries aloud


we are Spartans



Geomantic Riposte: Prometheus


Beneath these fancy linens we all slash and dash and quake in this

'culture of silence' but that’s just the poets          have you ever put

your life in another space case’s hands        red-crossed a word out

or photoshopped a head onto another person’s dancing body only

to fix the body later when the poster somehow shrank around that

aforementioned head        or ran weeping into the warehouse when

a blurb became a backrub and then what is that?     then a swanky

conference on impoverishment with the cleaning staff in the back-

ground waiting to go home already but Courtney Bates-Hardy will

surely concur it’s more like Prometheus sometimes you gotta leap

out of that shower scene and torch that sucker who’s endangering

the entire crew but mostly because you’ve seen a faint glimmer of

that thing inside of him   {not words}   or sometimes you gotta use

that right to choose and self-terminate that     non-kosher thing in-

side your own pretty innards because it will only take you with it

Clea Roberts lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, on the Takhini River. Her first book of poetry, Here Is Where We Disembark was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award, the ReLit Award and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award. Roberts is recognizable for her many efforts to encourage Canada’s poetry scene, and particularly for those she has concentrated on the Whitehorse Poetry Festival. Here Is Where We Disembark is divided into two sections, with the first comprising lyrics on life in the Yukon and northern British Columbia and the second focussing on the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century. As Barbara Colebrook indicates in The Malahat Review, “The ethos of Roberts’ writing is ecological, taking only what is needful, retrieving more from less. Survival is a major theme, but there is a transcending joy and beauty in these poems. Throughout the work, the poet holds the tension between the small edge of human settlements ... and the vastness of the terrain.

Here Is Where We Disembark by Clea Roberts (Freehand Books, 2010, Page 55)


And the stand of poplar

fenced against the beaver—

its leaves shimmer and click

as if in applause.


At solstice we clomp onto the deck

drink retsina and watch the sky

like a dog doing improbable tricks.


The backwards flip, the tap dance,

the spontaneous operatic, all more believable

than the myth of night.


Geomantic Riposte: Backwards


The longest day in recorded history did not

belong to us       say, do Phoenicians ever get mal

de débarquement     or was that you there in spirit    Tosca

è un buon falco     the server was a sculptress    a furtive

word with Jane blossomed into abandoned cave stains     petro-

glyphs    hey, maybe I can Google your window on Jarvis

and still see you working      il sole allegramente

batte ai tuoi vetri       that’s how to operate     leaving

operatic traces     moving from town to town     positively

gastropodic    those psychical trails   then  the te deum was

ringing for Puccini in Lucca    busy   dropping into

Miles Canyon would not be the most poetic end

like that time Tosca had a big trampoline

nor in mid-combat with seasonal affect

but we never watched the sun

NOT set together, not once

Translation from Isthmus Zapotec by David Shook



The north wind whips through,

in the streets papers and leaves

are chased with resentment.

Houses moan,

dogs curl into balls.

There is something in the afternoon’s finger,

a catfish spine,

a rusty nail.


Someone unthinkingly

smoked cigarettes in heaven,

left it overcast, listless.

Here, at ground level, no one could

take their shadow for a walk,

sheltered in their houses, people

are surprised to discover their misery.


Someone didn’t show,

their host was insulted.

Today the world

agreed to open her thighs,

suddenly the village comprehends

that it is sometimes necessary to close their doors.


Who can divine

why I meditate on this afternoon?

Why is it birthed in me

to knife the heart

of who uncovered the mouth

of the now whipping wind,

to jam corncobs in the nose

of the ghost that pants outside?


The trees roar with laughter,

they split their sides,

they celebrate

that you haven’t arrived at your appointment.


Now bring me

the birds

that you find in the trees,

so I can tell them

if the devil’s eyelashes are curled. 




From the palm of my hand

the afternoon eats its meal:

lean horse abandoned for being old,

nagging horse, dirty horse.


There is a trail

behind the hill

you see there.

In the open sky

three white tissues distance themselves,

saying goodbye.

Nostalgia has hung

its hammock in my heart

and my grudges

hastily sharpen their weapons.


Here the earth is broken,

land of acacias and stones.

In the sky smoke and clouds are visible,

clouds, smoke, and grief.


The footpath that zigzags

behind that slope

leads to your house.

The long cloud that extends across the horizon—

maybe you are looking at it,

maybe you look at it now.

My love for you is not the size of that cloud,

not that size.





You will not manage to hurt me.

You will not break my existence.

The cathedral of light that you left me is immense,

warm and joyful.


You scented my existence for a long time.

You introduced me to paradise

with your warm and naked body.


My hands still shake at the memory

of your fleshy ass.

My lips still tremble

when I remember the taste of your nipples.


With these memories, how can I feel hurt?

Though you left me, how can I abhor you?

You left me with an ocean of dazzling fish,

an ocean of incessant fish.





I know your body,

entirely I know you.

If you were a city

I could give perfect directions

to wherever they asked me.

I like all of your body,

I like to see you talk, laugh,

move your head. Your two well-rounded hills

are the honey of bees, where my lips celebrate to the gods.

I would have liked to continue storming your forest,

lodgings made deliberately for a nice death.

You were created with love,

your body is worthy of praise. What an honor to have lived,

to have been. I am no longer bothered

when men turn to look at you,

I am no longer impatient when you undress.

You are a stag in the air. A raft of flowers

that snakes across the river by morning.


There is no part of your body that I do not know, there is no

part that I do not like. I want to keep being

the light stunned at the look of your white

roundness of flesh. I want to keep


       in the beautiful city

                             that you are.




                        For Víctor Yodo 




did you kidnap

a man whose word is as true

as a thorn,

who yearns for

my flowered Juchitan?



what grievance did he commit against you?

did he stomp

on your family’s necks?

did he sic his dogs on


flowered dreams?



tell me,

don’t bite the words

that come

to your tongues.



open your mouths.





Moon. Sweet white moon

like the gleam in the eye of an unlucky hunter

who chases a rabbit across the mountain.


Emptied and moldy cachimbo shell moon.

Pregnant belly moon.

Delirious moon

like a colander that dreams of overflowing with water.


Deformed egg moon.

Ripe rubber-fruit moon:

give me a slice of your joy

to refresh life in my town.

Ceremonial huipil moon

that adorns the Zapotec’s head:

give me the fireflies that live in your heart

to light my people’s paths.

Intact moon, full moon.

Moon happy to die laughing

slapping its ass.


[NOTE.  A significant array of stateless languages & cultures, while positioned outside the reach of dominant nation-states, has begun more recently to create new literatures as vehicles for those outsidered by the ruling powers.  In Latin America alone, writers in indigenous or subaltern languages & creoles have appeared from multiple directions – Mapuche, Mayan, Mazatec, Nahutal, Quechua, Zapotec, among others.  Like others so engaged, & perhaps more than most, Víctor Terán begins from a base in the Zapotec spoken – & now written – on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and in Oaxaca, & pushes outward to merge & become a part of the poetry & literature of the world at large.  Writes David Shook as Terán’s translator: “Víctor Terán may live on a small isthmus in Southern Mexico, he may write in a language with a mere 100,000 speakers and even fewer readers, but he is a world poet. His most recent personal project attests to that: an anthology of forty poems by forty world poets, from Basho to Cavafy to Hikmet, Shakespeare to Whitman to Eliot, all translated for the first time into Isthmus Zapotec by Terán himself, who uses Spanish cribs.  The Spines of Love, Terán's first selected poems in any language, and the first ever trilingual Isthmus Zapotec-Spanish-English book that I know of, proves that he belongs in those esteemed poets' company.”  The importance of these poetries for a new poetry & poetics of the Americas is by now irreversible … or should be.  Terán’s forthcoming publication by Restless Books in Brooklyn is but another step in that direction.  (J.R.)]