Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part three,

[Elisha May Rubacha of bird, buried press] 

Peterborough ON: I like that Justin Million and Elisha May Rubacha are producing small literary objects through their bird, buried press [see my 2016 Open Book profile on them here], whether events, broadsides or chapbooks, and one of their latest is Ottawa poet Tim Mook Sang’s chapbook A Functional History (2017). Some of the narratives he’s constructed have an interesting flow, and the run-on prose poems/sections are a bit more interesting than the poems constructed in more traditional ways. Still, I wonder why it is he isn’t writing short stories, or at least composing each of these entirely as prose-poems? I am unclear as to why some of the line breaks exist.

the sinking of the BX

it came to nicole’s understanding that the riversteamer ran back when those kinds of boats went up and down the fraser hauling cargo and people and card games with jazz blowing off their decks across the water and into the trees of the surrounding forest that made the city

she came to understand that the vessel sank in 1919 under mysterious circumstances at an infamous rock after which the ship had failed to be salvaged spending the lonely winter weighted by a hundred tons of bagged cement that hardened in the water as it froze

every northern city had a BX pub or hotel that used the sternwheeler for namesake

every place that anyone had ever been had places like these preserving their heritage anything to make them unique

The poems of A Functional History engage with histories that have shifted, have been lost, and require salvage, working the stories of history against the histories themselves. The narrative of “The Great Lakes Storm of 1913” is broken into stanzas for the sake of different voices (again, why is this a poem over, say, a performance work or short fiction?). Where he breaks out of the straightforward narrative is where the poems really seem to come out of themselves and do something a bit further. Either way, I am intrigued by this short work; but I would like to see him push further, keep going.

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