filling station, issues 37 & 38

Issue 37 includes short fiction and poetry from Sachiko Murakami, Jessica Grant, Ryan Bird, and others, as well as an intriguing interview with Sheila Heti by Melanie Little in which we learn about Ticknor, “faux naive” (a term I suspect was coined by what I call the “faux sincere”)
The highlights of Issue 38 are the interviews: Robert Majzels on writing, politics, translation, and oil, Michael Holmes on wrestling, reviewing, and the woes of the slushpile, Gregory Betts on sound, language (of course!), McCaffery, and Jacqueline Turner on the west coast versus Australian poetry scene, her book Seven into Even, and the post-lyric (really, we need to talk about that.). There are also poems from the interviewees.

Why isn’t this magazine online?? I could click click and you would all be introduced. As it is you will have to go here and subscribe and I continue to lament the lack of a decent online Canadian literary presence.

Natalie Walschots, Thumbscrews

toy catalogue

flogger: lammy

luscious each tongue
liquorice all warmth
shakes tail or twelve
quirt ends slap clotted
cream into muscle light

flogger: mactavish

bagpipe leather hails
hectic bellow and wheeze
spit soak astringent
tartan braided handle
uneven falls crave
gut shovelled lung power
holler diaphragm deep

flogger: mortal

spiney acrostic
etch binary
split goatskin baited
bitch ivory
skinny ballistic
bit savoury
lacerate gleeful
stitch blithely

squid whip: therapy

corset stitched doctor
fat knotted tongues
chuckle black neoprene
Jungian dervish swoops
flawless catharsis unclogs
anxiety to glutted scream


Thumbscrews Natalie Zina Walschots
The 2007 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry Winner

Natalie Zina Walschots recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Calgary. She serves as the Managing Editor for filling Station and is the co-organizer of the Flywheel reading series. She has also served as the Managing Editor for dANDelion. Her work has recently appeared in Matrix and The Capilano Review. Sections of Thumbscrews have appeared as the No Press chapbooks Passion Play and Christening. The following conversation occurred over email.

LH: Was this ms. part of your dissertation?

NW: No; this was a project I started in the poetry manuscript course I took with Christian Bok in the first year of my MA (2004-2005). My MA thesis is an entirely different project, called Tonsil Hockey, an imagined extension of bpNichol’s poetry in Arts Facts/Love/Truth/Zygal and The M, in the vein of Darren Wershler-Henry’s Nicholodeon (but textual rather than visual).

LH: Is this found text?

NW: This section: yes and no. A few of the titles are based on the nicknames a Canadian fetish /toy company called Leatherbeaten gave to a few of their pieces. However, most of them are odes to specific implements and the sensations they create. One of my friends asked me, when I first started working on the project, if the subject of pain in particular would get boring after a while. I remember her asking “Isn’t being hit with something a lot like being hit with any other thing?” The answer is, of course, absolutely not, so in Toy catalogue I really made en effort to try and represent the very different and specific sensations the objects implied.

LH: Were you working with a constraint? Can you elaborate on that process?

NW: I worked with a general sound-based constraint in this section: to represent either how each object sounded when it was used (specifically, the percussive sounds against the body), and/or the sounds made by a person either wearing the object or having it used on them. For example, I wanted ‘hobbles’ to sound like the slightly off-balance gait of a shambling, restricted walk. I wanted ‘ballgag’ to sound like the effort of speaking and drooling around a rubber ball.

LH: Your work, like the work of Rachel Zolf, Margaret Christakos, and others–Dennis Lee for example–privileges sound over meaning. i love the word “flogger” and “lammy” and of course their sound suggests meaning to me, but what do you say to readers who are looking for more representative imagery, more meaning?

NW: While I certainly privilege sound over meaning, I would not say that ‘Thumbscrews’ lacks any gesture towards representation. The piece you brought up, “flogger: lammy,” can certainly be read for sound alone, but it can also be read as a descriptive ode to a lambskin flogger, a description of the character and sensation of a specific implement — and, by extension, the how it feels to both wield that implement and how it feels when inflicted on the body.

LH: Yes, I guess what I meant by representation is really more conventional, or more “lyric” meaning. I’m always imagining the uninitiated reader, or the common reader as Woolf says, is a person on the threshold of the poem, looking for a way in… Will you outline your project in the text itself?

NW: Of course. Thumbscrews is, essentially, an extended comparison between constraint-based poetry and S&M. Why would you hobble a poem by employing so many restrictions upon the language? For the same reason that you’d tie someone up in the bedroom. It’s exciting, it makes you have to think much harder about what you’re doing, and the results can be exhilarating. Every poem refers to about what is happening to the poem itself (Thumbscrews is really a self-reflexive work), using the language of sadomasochism to do so. I chose sadomasochism both because the images were appropriate and the vocabulary was extremely exciting. Throughout Thumscrews, I am really using the language of S&M to talk about poetry, to use it as a new vocabulary to discuss what happens to langauge when you place it under constraint.

LH: Who are you influenced by?

NW: You’re absolutely right to mention Rachel Zolf and particularly Margaret Christakos (I love her cheekiness, a kinf of simultaneously winsome and gruesome, use of language) . I’d also add Suszanne Zelazo
— her use of associate leaps in logic, particularly in Parlance, affected the way I wrote Thumbscrews, as did her diction (particularly the impulse to unite words from disparate discursive regiusters). Christian Bok also greatly influenced my work, especially the way I’ve some to work with language under constraint. He also also imparted a sense of how tight and lean good poetry should be.

LH: Parlance is a wonderful book, and those prose poems in particular are stunning in their leaps, Steinian, but original. And yes, the leanness is there, and tightness: the syllabic rumbling. Was this text “bigger”? I mean to say was it built word up, chiseled down, or, or??

NW: I would have to say both. Most often, I started with much larger pieces and distilled them until they were as tight as I needed them to be; a few pieces, however, function as poetic additive scupture. The vast majority, I must say, were winnowed down from larger, wordier texts.

LH: Who do you most want to read your book?

NW: Everyone. =)

I am not sure that I have any one particular audience in mind, though I find myself particularly happy when young women read and enjoy my work. I want to write about things that are dangerous, things I find frightening, subjects that carry associated risks just for engaging with them. I think anyone who found my work a little less than safe should definitely read it.

Fall books and everything in the works

Many books slid across my desk this week, though I’m sure only a small percentage of those due to be published this fall, specifically in Canada, and some I have been carrying around for a while. As usual, I will likely give those that don’t engage me a pass without noting, but I can tell you that a surprising number excited me and thus prolong my engagement with this blog project…First up we have Natalie Walschots, Jason Christie, Donato Mancini, Natalie Simpson, Evie Christie, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, KI Press, Steven Price, George Murray. But wait, who is Rob Winger? Muybridge’s Horse, from Nightwood Editions was the first surprise, then Christopher Patton’s Ox from Signal, Kenneth Sherman’s Black River, from Porcupine’s Quill, and who is David Wevill? A first pass at his book Asterisks is promising (though there may only be one note…). Other unknowns (to me at least) I’ll be looking at include Micheline Maylor and Alexis Kienlen. Oh, and until my wrist is better or I get an assistant I’m only linking essentials. Sorry.

Anne Sexton and Saturday thoughts

I’ve been reading and thinking about Anne Sexton these days–this is part of an ongoing project I’m loath to discuss, but suffice to say, she is the vein of gold in this genre of poetry. And now of course, you can see and hear her thanks to youtube. And Plath! And Bishop! Well, take a listen to Susan Howe interviewing Bishop…very interesting to hear Bishop describe things. So offhand. And dismissive. This a trait in both her letters, which I’ve just re-read, and in her work. She just dismisses… How odd it is that the so-called avant garde, or experimental poets (Howe, Bernstein, Silliman, Moure, Bowering, etc…) seem to have such appreciation for, and understanding of, other approaches to poetry while more formalist poets seem to slam the door on anything remotely other.

Graduating Show at The Nickle

This show is a must. Really, this is an impressive collection of conceptual art. Jennifer Stead’s A Long Story evokes a piece I saw recently by Louise Bourgeois at the Fabric Museum in Philadelphia involving a scroll of text that wrapped around the entire gallery. Stead’s is a scroll of landscape. Brilliant. In particular Martine Audet’s Finding The Seam, stands out with its bold assemblages of wood, both fabricated and raw (although polished and cut…). In the past I’ve argued that the seam has become an obsession in contemporary art, but one that often doesn’t illuminate much (David Altmejd and Jessica Stockholder for example…), but this is a different kind of seam. The fact that Audet’s piece also had the best lighting and did not have to deal with carpet might have contributed to the strength of it–the work just leaps out. Beautiful. All of these works, including Reflections by Patricia Dawkins, Crystal Palace by Jane McQuitty, and Presents from the Invisible by Courtney Chetwynd, are worth seeing. At the Nickle on the U of Calgary Campus until September 15th.