by David O' Meara
Held inside here, wait a while—
What do you hear?
(Hardly anything, hardly anything…)
Silence is not tonelessness; listen.
Untie yourself from straight lines
There is another pace of us;
a time to burn
and a time to cool
and sometimes the cooling
Each thought be an hourglass,
each whisky tumbler a murky crystal
that predicts you will sleep tonight
with all your heartbreak.
There is the sky, three daubs of cloud,
a bit of gossip among the leaves.
The long afternoon a bicycle you can sleepily pedal.
So what if you could've done… should've said…
The persons you never were
can't hurt you.
(from The Vicinity, Brick Books, 2003 -- formatting not exactly as shown).
Okay, that's it. No one else is allowed to leave Ottawa. I mean it. Especially you, Mr O'Meara.
When I heard that David Emery was moving to Toronto (Emery being one of the central figures of the young writer's scene at Carleton which revolves around In/Words, a set that includes Peter Gibbon, Mark Sokolowski, Jeff Blackman and Nick Culhane), I thought, fuck, who next? In addition to his own publishing credits and work with In/Words, Emery is also the organizer of several mixed-media evenings, including the Synestesias and the recent three-day Ottawa Art Bazaar and a fixture of the Avante Garde bar's open mic night.
As you likely know, rob mclennan is taking a temporary leave from Ottawa (Emery's departure for Toronto is also, I gather, only for eight months). As well, both my collaborators on Basement Tapes — Everything is Movies author Nicholas Lea and Ottawa Art Review editor Andrew Faulkner — have evaporated to greener pastures.
Last year around this time, we had to contend with the departures of two former Yawp editors, Sarah Ruffolo (Toronto) and Jen Leap (Vancouver), as well as saying farewell to the prolific Jesse Ferguson (Fredericton). With the exception of rob, all seven of these poets and poetry agitators (Emery, Lea, Faulkner, Ruffolo, Leap and Ferguson) are roughly my age, leaving me feeling, well, lonely.
This is not an exodus. This is not an exodus. I have to remind myself of that, rather than dwell on the departure of Lea in particular, who has pushed me so much in my own writing over the course of our friendship. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I shipped off a hardcopy manuscript to him to edit in Fredericton, since he's been my best sounding board in working through previous things, in particular Heteroskeptical, which has now seen the cold light of day. Thanks to him. And rob. Fuck.
Think happy thoughts, Marcus. Think happy thoughts.
So that got me tracking down work from the sizable pool of authors and poetry organizers still in the city, poets whose work I deeply admire. It got me thinking about the well of talent in the city. The first place I turned, instinctively, was to O'Meara's “Idleness” (above), a poem I have tacked to my corkboard at work, ready for an extra read during, you know, one of those days. Yes, Dave O'Meara hasn't left Ottawa yet. (Okay, I realize this begs a canary-in-the-mineshaft analogy but I refuse to make the comparison. Other than, evidently, obliquely.)
See O'Meara at Sasquatch (Royal Oak II across from the University of Ottawa) Sunday, September 23 at 2 pm.
I was thinking again recently of the Tree Reading Series open set which preceded Don MacKay's appearance at the National Archives (March 27). I can't remember everyone who read, but O'Meara did, as did Rhonda Douglas, recent Trillium finalist Anita Lahey, rob mclennan, Michelle Desbarats (whose reading at Rasputin's in July turned me into such a kitten, by the way) and a handful of others. It was like a whole bonus mixed CD of local, totally awesome poets. Yeah, I thought. Go Ottawa!
Stewing on all this, a poem by Shane Rhodes bubbled to the surface which I'd come across in researching a little essay I did for Capital Xtra about the launch of Seminal, Canada's first historical collection of fiction on gay themes, um, ever (let me know when you're tired of me mentioning Seminal). “Fucking” has embedded itself in me (is that a pun?) over the last four months. Gradually. Sneakily. Now if this is a game of red rover, Rhodes is someone Ottawa has actually won, since he's only lived here a few years.
by Shane Rhodes
How it was really our need we were decorating
and nothing else. The condom in my hand
everything physical and comedic an oddity.
Twice it leapt from my hands gliding
through the air in perfect jellyfish oscillations.
My hands, covered with lube and bed lint,
scrambled for it as if it were, just then,
the very edge of both our lives.
And then it was on and we clunked
against each other's hard edges
in our closest approximation of sex.
The thing between us for we believed it
the truest point of passion and everything else
preparation. Pure lubricated fulcrum
of our rocking--holding us back and pushing
us forward. It was probably a Trojan
and I imagine poor Troy in its unbreachable walls
wooden horse covered with a sheet of latex
("ultra sensitive") ("for your pleasure")
thirty Greeks beating the foor trying to get out
lungs full of nonoxynol-9 or astroglide.
The horse rocking through the night
to their blue deaththroes.
This technology of withholding
our selves, what stops us from going too far
into each other. And then both of us
ridged as something outside us
wrenched the last juices out--
The walls of Troy unfallen
and unburned. Another piece
of the future slipped by
(from Seminal, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007)
Yeah, Mr Rhodes. You though you could get away with lines like “what stops us from going too far/ into each other” and we wouldn't notice? You're not allowed to climb onto a horse — Trojan or not — and ride out of this town, no matter what province you're from. Can I get an injunction? I mean, seriously, if the courts can keep Conrad Black in Chicago, maybe they can keep O'Meara and Rhodes in Ottawa. I say we make an even ten court orders: O'Meara, Rhodes, Lahey, Desbarats, Douglas, Stephen Brockwell, Max Middle, jwcurry, Monty Reid and Oni the Haitian Sensation. Our fricking brain trust.
One of the things I love, love, love about the Ottawa poetry scene is its online presence, with occassional essays and reviews by rob, Amanda Earl, Pearl Pirie and Kathryn Hunt (who was the first person to write something nice about me, I think...after Synestesia last year), plus the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter (which I'm now writing for), the photo blogs of Charles Earl and John MacDonald and the community's recent embrace of Facebook. There are also, I understand, a number of blogging Ottawa poets on livejournal, although it doesn't fit my snobby web 2.0 aesthetic (I used to be on lj, way back). And the bywords.ca event listings, holy shit.
I feel like I need some reassurance here. I wonder of Amanda, rob, Pearl or Kate might be interested in picking out a couple of poems by contemporary Ottawans that make them happy they live in Ottawa.
* * *
To anyone using blogger: how come I can't get non breaking spaces, indent and preserve spaces to work with my blogspot? It's super annoying to fuck up Dave O'Meara's formatting. What do I have to do? Scan a picture of the page? Never talk about anything that isn't totally aligned left? WTF?