Friday, February 29, 2008

A feel-good poetry reading review

Just came back from a poetry reading at the Atwater Library featuring Carmine Starnino and Elizabeth Bachinsky. Both are fine poets and excellent readers, so it was a truly pleasurable experience.

Carmine Starnino went out on a limb and read from new material, some of it so recent he himself wasn't entirely sure it was "lame". Well, whatever lameness it may have had on the page, I didn't catch it, and it definitely had something: drawing upon the triggers of an "unaccountable sadness" as homely as a fencepost or a willow, each object was described with such precision it acquired a statuesque quality. A lengthy prose poem building on the conceit of "working class clouds" took its risks, but yielded rewards: a whimsical (yet peculiarly melancholy) tour de force, it will surely feature in a future collection. Curious that none of his books were for sale, as far as I could see; I would have seriously considered picking one up. Also a significant critic, editor and anthologist, here he gives an excellent interview in the Danforth Review.

Elizabeth Bachinsky leavened the reading with lighter entertainment: a palindrome and some mildly flarf-like poems derived from google searches from her first collection, and narrative poems from her second, including a series about pregnant teens from her hometown, about which she drew laughter with the claim that it was the teenage pregnancy capitol of Canada -- or at least, the town with the highest quotient. Her work was conversational, deft, yet penetrating, and certainly did what it wanted to do, and I can't see anything wrong with that. (Boy, I'm nice tonight, but that's how I feel: my evening teaching schedule doesn't allow me to attend many readings, and I certainly have no regrets about coming out to this.)

The Montreal Anglo poetry scene is so closely knit that in the audience I met several habitués I knew, and indeed didn't even have a decent amount of time to chat with them all. Let's see -- Elise Moser, Angela Leuk, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Raphael Bendahan, Peter Dubé (well, I was just introduced to him), David McGimpsey, and Maxianne Berger were all in attendance. I think I just named about thirty percent of the worthy few that braved the extreme Feb. cold to come to this reading...


R. W. Watkins said...

His poetic abilties aside, Carmine Starnino is a hypocrite, line-toer, and cowardly arsehole, and if you ever see him again, you can tell him I said so.

Brian Campbell said...

For a while I was wondering whether to dignify that with a response.

His book of critical essays, a Lover’s Quarrel, has been described as that of a “lonely brave voice in a milquetoast milieu.” I haven’t actually read it yet, but a friend read some provocative passages over the phone. Whatever they are, they’re hardly the voice of a cowardly man. Taking such writers as Atwood, Anne Carson & Christian Bok to task: he has his views, agree with them or disagree with them but there they are. Check out reviews of it online, if you haven’t already, to get the flavour. I generally agree with much of what I've read of his assessment of Canadian poetry (he criticizes its self over-estimation, and overly-earnest Canadianness), however much I may take issue with a number of particulars. I’ve looked through his “New Canon”, and enjoyed quite a few selections. (If I haven’t read it from cover to cover, well, chalk that up to my own un-Canadianness.) I respect his acumen, dedication, and hard work, and at this point, see absolutely no reason to disrespect him.

Baseless slander will get you nowhere, Rob.

Considering that, would you like me to delete the above and this comment as well?

I guarantee you, it will not hurt your karma.

R. W. Watkins said...

Starnino wouldn't get back in touch with me, and my letter regarding a shitty article by John Barton didn't appear in [i]Books In Canada[/i]. I'll give you more details later--things aren't working properly with the internet today, and I don't want to write a long comment that will just get lost when I hit 'publish'....

Brian Campbell said...

Ah! a personal context. Spare me the details though. Takes two to tango, more than two sides to every question, people change, different folks different strokes, etc.

R. W. Watkins said...

Brian, you bastard. I love it when you talk like that--puts this arrogant ol' prick in his place! I can't find my e-mails in relation to dear, dear Starnino and those 'lovely' folks at Books In Canada, otherwise, I'd give you the complete low-down right now.

Given his name and everything, you don't suppose Starnino has connexions with the mob, do you...? Better lock my doors and windows extra tight tonight! Ah! the perils of being a loudmouthed poet....

brian (baj) salchert said...

Well, a comments surprise.
Anyway, thanks for the link to the
Starnino interview. I would say
he is pretty much a mob of one;
but there are those he respects
and has learned from, so I wouldn't
say he is an outlaw.

Also, the Wikipedia Discussion
Board rules.

Wranglings between poets can
sometimes be beneficial, but
I've been trying for months
to cool such interchanges.