Ext. Montage. A Ride on the Reading RailRoad to Mt. Real
> Scene I: NYC to Montreal (reading Sentence 3 and Eye Against Eye by Forrest Gander)
Scene II: Around Montreal (reading Motorman by David Ohle)
Scene III: Montreal to NYC (reading The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders)
This is the account of a trip J and I took to Montreal over Thanksgiving weekend and some of things we saw, heard, ate or read along the way.
Thanksgiving was actually spent in New York, or Brooklyn rather, at a friends. It was hard to beat the hot x-rated turkey action of last year’s thanksgiving, but this year all we had to worry about was the stuffing. This is the recipe we followed.
Recipe for (jalapeñoless and unstuffed) Jalapeño Cornbread Stuffing:
Whatever it was, we brought it, a lot of it, along with a bottle or two of wine to our friend's in Brooklyn. Somebody took some pictures of that event and posted them here.
Onward. Early next morning we caught a train at Penn Station. The best part about going to Montreal was getting there. As the train trudged along the Hudson, I listened to Cat Power and read Sentence 3.
Sentence : A Journal of Prose Poetics is a literary journal edited by Brian Clements that is dedicated to the art of prose in all its poetic manifestations and glory. Issue 3 proves that the form is alive and well, from the experimental streaming text of Radu Andriescu (conjuring Celine with its ellipsis ... denoting breaks in the thought packets... well-suited for reading on trains: "... the native glyph, the allogeneic glyph... ciric lake... breaking up on the bridge... breaking up on the island... from concept to discept...") to the minimal, enumerated and concise paragraphs of Janet Kaplan's Applicants: "The letter D applied but I had already packed my things." Or "The letter W would like to apply. A wilderness, it says, is uncontrollable." As applied to my personal mobile situation—isn't that always the inevitable natural tendency? Stealing glances out the train window at the stark landscape fresh with ice and snow, between pages, between paragraphs, between sentences. Drifting in and out of sleep. Reading the moving landscape like reading a stream of words. Latching on to the sentences or passages most relevant to my current state of motion or emotion.
Some relevant passages... from Leonard Schwartz' The Eden Exhibit:
From 030405 by Rachel Levitsky:
From there is nothing more real than real real by kari edwards:
Interesting in light of kari edwards recent bio in Shampoo 24, where she claims, evidently, to have up and left us ("amerika") for the ganja-green pastures of Auroville in Southern India. And speaking of "more real than real," as I was reading her piece, I was applying mayonnaise to my sandwich, and the packaging read "REAL Mayonnaise". Is there any other kind? It's not like mayonnaise comes from the gland of an endangered animal. This I observe, on my way to Mt. REAL, which I guess the distinction could be necessary as there are man-made mountains (which are still real, aren't they?). I digress...
Sentence 3 also has a feature on the prose poem form in Great Britain, of which the piece by Alan Halsey from Memory Screen [Dated 15.11.03] was remarkable, though more skirting the text/image boundary (which is a good thing), and interestingly self-referential. In a piece by Rupert M. Loydell, Towards a Definition, he even comes out and gives his interesting (and in my opinion, also accurate) definition of prose-poetry: "It is a key to a house with no doors, to a library full of books you want to read but must use to stoke the fire—".
In Chris Murray's Yao Ming's ABC of Basketball, she gives one definition of beauty as "aptness to purpose. Another is Basketball." My sentiments exactly.
There are also two more Steven Stewart translations of Margarito Cuéllar featured in Sentence 3 (two more appeared in Sleepingfish 0.5).
One thing that strikes me about most of the pieces from Sentence is the elegant encapsulation of bits of (albeit fictional, but interesting) narrative data. From Bob Heman's Information:
Other fragments, captions, scripts, and instructional texts abound, stretching the meaning of prose. And the thing about literary journals that usually grates on me is the often mish-mash of disparate voices and styles—Sentence does a good job of not only sticking to the prose-poetry form (and mostly narrative prose at that), but arranging like-minded pieces together so they gel as a somewhat unified voice. Take the back-to-back pieces by Stephanie Woolley-Larrea and Robin Cunningham—how often do you come across first-hand (or in the latter case second-person) accounts regarding the likes of abnormal fertilization and embryonic development told in a revealing and artful manner? The pieces flow well together like you are reading a single-author collection, followed by a good book review section. Kudos to Brian Clements for bringing us this gem of a collection.
Somewhere along the way, the Hudson river, or what I assumed was the Hudson (we didn't have a map, so were traveling blind) switched sides so it was to our right. And then the river gradually widened into Lake Champlain. There were lakes and bogs everywhere, the smaller ones were frozen, and some had beaver lodges dotting the eyes. Frozen waterfalls and icicles hung from the cliffs. It's beautiful country up there for sure.
Inside the train was unbearably hot. We were a self-contained unit, parcels of people with a common destination, temporarily giving up our free-will to travel on the tracks laid down beneath us. Breathing each other's air. We got so hot we had to switch cars. Somewhere around Albany we had to stop to switch engines. And somewhere "in the middle of nowhere" (as disgruntled people whining on their cell phones put it), we sat motionless for over an hour because the signals or switches were iced over. It was hard not to be annoyed by the annoyed people and their annoying cell phone conversations, "I don't even know where I am?! There's, like, not even any signs of any animals living out here, what am I doing here?!"—annoying one-sided blabber that I don't think meant anything to whoever was on the other end let alone the whole train full of people that had to endure it. If only more people read books instead of talking on cell phones. It's all the same driving force—an intent to communicate, a need for information, engagement of the mind, something to pass the time, but at least reading is far less intrusive to others.
After Sentence 3, I read Eye Against Eye by Forrest Gander. I don't read a lot of "poetry" so I (and eye) am probably not qualified to give a proper review. Especially in contrast to the prose of Sentence, lined poetry feels stilted to me. Not fluid. Line breaks don't feel natural to me. They are gaps or divisions in what otherwise could be continuous flow. Ideally, text would not even wrap but would continue left to right (or whatever direction you're used to reading). But I suppose the direction you are "used to" could be up and down, so I contradict myself. I guess what it is about lined poetry that turns me off is that, before you even read the words, it looks like a "poem," and therefore sets that expectation.
But as far as poetry goes, the poems in Eye Against Eye are classics. There is not a lot of risk-taking, but they conjure nice imagery. The first series, Burning Towers, Standing Wall, despite the ominous 9/11 sounding name, are actually reflections on Mayan Ruins and culture, the kind of reading material that perhaps I should've brought on my recent trip to southern Mexico and Guatemala. They felt a bit out of place in the desolate and cold landscape of upstate New York (or wherever "in the middle of nowhere" we were). But then again, once you get into the rhythm of the poems, they pull you into that world:
Earth-shattering stuff just by the sounds of the words alone, but ground-breaking? In Ligature, he lapses into strong one or two sentence passages that embody the strong images he sets forth:
By Present Tense, Gander ventures into territory more relevant to my surroundings:
The last line presumably in reference to Gander's wife, C.D. Wright, and the depression perhaps symptomatic of her daunting responsibility of assuming the reins of Lost Roads Press in the wake of Frank Standford's suicide?
In Ligature 2, another interlude of strong, insightful prose:
Though perhaps better said without "seeming to" vocalize it? The pieces from the Late Summer Entry series go with some landscape photographs by Sally Mann. The combination works well, Gander's words lending themselves to enhancing the eerie landscapes:
Or more aptly, he extracts meaning from the landscapes:
>>> Onward to Scene 2: Montreal, whilst reading David Ohle's Motorman.
(c) 2005 Derek White