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Toronto poets Camille Martin and Mark Goldstein bring lyricism to BIG NIGHT

Camille Martin and Mark Goldstein, two Toronto-based poets who share the unusual circumstance of beginning their artistic lives in music rather than literature, headline tonight's Just Buffalo Literary Center's first BIG NIGHT event beginning at 8 p.m. at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. (near Mohawk).

Martin, an Arkansas native and former New Orleans resident, earned a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Literature degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY in 1980, and also exhibited as a collage artist during that decade, before turning her attention to writing and poetics in the 1990's.  She received a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of New Orleans in 1996 and a PhD in English from Louisiana State University in 2003. Her dissertation, "Radical Dialectics in the Experimental Poetry of Berssenbrugge, Hejinian, Harryman, Weiner, and Scalapino”, received LSU's Lewis P. Simpson Distinguished Dissertation Award.  Since 2006, she has taught literature and 
writing at Ryerson University in Toronto.

She is the author of three collections of poems: “Sesame Kiosk” (Potes & Poets, 2001), “Codes of Public Sleep” (BookThug, 2007), and “Sonnets” (Shearsman Books, 2010).  The latter collection, in particular, has been praised for both its inventiveness and its lyrical qualities.  "In these taut, fast-paced, self-aware poems, the lyric meets 21st century paranoia and sparks fly," wrote Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout.

At their best, Martin's sonnets effect a kind of hybridized syntax and musicality that here encapsulates her physical and psychic migration from the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans to the treeless plains of the north:

 

katrina, tundra

 

i make up paths that end without warning

in the eye of the storm. i know which path to take,

but once i start thinking, deciding becomes

impossible. on the tundra, old juniper bushes were once

juniper berries. i gaze at the news on tv, old enough

to bury childish nostalgia but not too old to cultivate

obsessive watching. a child in the public library,

i gazed at the yellowing pages of sapphire tundra

lakes. i learn of the yellowish waters

of the flood. i learned that ptarmigans

turn white in winter and gazed at an island afloat

in the middle of water shimmering

in the wintry sun. in my neighbourhood,

islands of red ants float in filthy water.

 

Even more impressive is Martin's unravelling of the image repertoire of her new Canadian 
mindset:  

it is the winter of our maudlin logic. logically,

sadness over spilt clouds includes the drained

colour of snow. crying a puddle

of water, the queen reads the sad story

of her voyage through barren woods. weather

reports expire in yesterday’s puddled

footprints. the queen, painting herself

into a corner, instructs her mournful scribe to write

footprints into the plan. scribbling we go, treading

down the wheat. the wheat belongs to the queen,

who banishes us to a land of barren furrows.

our furrowed brows point to winter’s

orion, toward which the blue queen sails

on a sea of spilt milk.

 

Mark Goldstein spent the first 15 years of his creative life drawing and making art.  He spent the next 15 as a professional musician, most notably as the drummer for the Canadian indie rock band By Divine Right, whose members also included Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning and Leslie Feist, from 1989 to 1999.  For the past 10 years, he recently told an interviewer, "I’ve dedicated myself to literature. All [art forms] are one, inseparable. I see myself moving between them. Coming back to art and to music and to the written word, again and again."

When not writing or lecturing on avant-garde poetics, he has been quoted as observing that "Poetry can’t live without a rhythmic throughline. It’s the sounds of words that delight the ear, not their meanings. Meaning is an after effect of the poem. It’s not something in the control of the author."

Goldstein's first book “After Rilke” (BookThug, 2008) is a set of letters written in homage to the late American poet Jack Spicer and a series of homophonic (i.e., having the same sound and/or melodic line, but differing in meaning) translations based on Rainer MariaRilke’s poem “The Voices.”  His 12 week seminar on “Transtransliteration” (a process he describes as "an excavation of sorts: we brush away the layers of meaning deposited onto a text through time, to reveal the poem beneath the poem-– that rift between rising and falling…groundlessness itself”) inaugurated the Toronto New School of Writing in 2010.

For Goldstein, "transtranslation" bridges several methodologies, including homophonic and homolinguistic play, and lexical word-for-word translations, mapping the sound and sense of the languages with which he works. Through this deep engagement with another voice and with his own voice(s), he produces poems that are both translated and written, that are both the other [author]’s breath and his own breath.

These methodologies are systematically explored in Goldstein's most recent book, “Tracelanguage: A Shared Breath” (BookThug, 2011), his “transtranslation” of poet Paul Celan’s seminal work “Atemwende.”  He describes the book as "my reading/re-writing of a work by Paul Celan [that is] neither “Atemwende” itself nor a pure translation." What is it then?  Goldstein invokes the book's subtitle: “A Shared Breath.”

Also on tonight's  BIG NIGHT program is "Going Down," a multichannel installation by  Buffalo-based film-maker and video artist Carl Lee that explores the intersection of cinematic and actual light and space.  Lee was formerly associated with the Termite TV Collective, which he co-directed from 1996 to 2007.

As with all BIG NIGHT events, the popular and tasty food creations of Culinary Institute of America trained chef and BlazeVox Books publisher Geoffrey Gatza will be featured. Admission is $5, $4 for students, Just Buffalo members, and members of its affiliate organizations. 

 

--R.D. Pohl

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